Keatings: I’ve joined one of Scotland’s big guns

James Keatings scored 15 times for Hamilton last season. Pic: SNS
James Keatings scored 15 times for Hamilton last season. Pic: SNS
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JAMES KEATINGS believes he has joined one of Scotland’s biggest clubs after signing a two-year contract with Hearts.

The 22-year-old follows Morgaro Gomis as the second of two summer signings by head coach Robbie Neilson since the Tynecastle side emerged from administration.

Keatings scored 15 times in 35 appearances for Hamilton last season but chose to leave New Douglas Park despite their promotion to the Scottish Premiership. Hearts offered a two-year contract to bring the player to Edinburgh, where he will provide competition for young strikers Dale Carrick and Gary Oliver.

Despite his new club suffering relegation to the Championship last season, Keatings has no doubts about their stature.

He is aiming to replicate or better his goals tally from last term.

“I am delighted to have signed for Hearts and was over the moon to have the opportunity to sign for a big club like this after leaving Hamilton,” he told the club’s website.

“Winning promotion with Accies last season was great but everyone knows Hearts is one of the biggest clubs in Scotland and to have the chance to play for them is a big deal for me. Last season, I managed to score 15 goals for Hamilton, and hopefully I can do the same or maybe even a few more for Hearts this season.”

The former Celtic youth player revealed that his previous memories of Gorgie are vivid.

“When I was on loan at St Johnstone, I made my debut for them at Tynecastle and before that the first time I was on the bench for Celtic came at Tynecastle, too. I recall the atmosphere being amazing and I’m looking forward to the fans being on my side rather than against me.”

Neilson explained that his admiration for Keatings stretches back several years. “I’ve known him for a number of years and watched him at Celtic where he scored a lot of goals in the youth teams and under-20s,” he told the club website.

“The pleasing thing with James is that he had the opportunity to stay at Celtic a year ago, but because he didn’t see a pathway for himself he decided to take the opportunity to leave and go to Hamilton.

“He dropped down to try to forge a career and to see that desire is great. He had the ambition to go out and take a chance and try to prove himself in a first-team environment. He did fantastically well for Hamilton at the start of last season but then picked up a wee injury.

“He could have stayed and played in the Premiership with Hamilton but he recognises that there’s an opportunity here for him to progress. I’m pleased to get him. He’s a good character and a top development prospect for us.”

Gomis and Keatings will report for pre-season training at Riccarton on Thursday, June 26, along with the rest of Hearts’ senior squad. Neilson will now turn his attention to recruiting a goalkeeper having already held talks with the former Scotland internationalist Neil Alexander, who recently left Crystal Palace.