Hearts looking at four Stoke City players ahead of January transfer window

Jam Tarts eager to revive their squad for relegation battle

Hearts have four Stoke City players on their list of potential January signing targets. Manager Daniel Stendel is keen to recruit goalkeeper Adam Davies and centre-back Liam Lindsay having coached both at former club Barnsley. Midfielder Peter Etebo and striker Mame Diouf are also being looked at by the Edinburgh club.

Loan deals are Hearts’ preferred option but permanent signings have not been ruled out as Stendel tries to revamp his squad and avoid relegation come the end of the season. Hearts face Aberdeen at Tynecastle Park tomorrow sitting three points adrift of Hamilton Academical at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.

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Austin MacPhee, assistant to Stendel’s predecessor Craig Levein, has been tasked with helping the German recruit players and holds a close relationship with the Stoke manager, Michael O’Neill. The pair have worked together for the last five years at international level as part of the Northern Ireland coaching staff.

MacPhee watched City’s 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough last Friday, in which Lindsay and Diouf both featured. Davies was the substitute goalkeeper, with Etebo just returning from injury and illness. Hearts are in talks with Stoke at the moment as they try to get deals in place for next month’s winter transfer window.

Davies, 27, is a Welsh international goalkeeper who was Stendel’s No.1 at Barnsley. Along with Lindsay, he played an integral role in the Yorkshire club’s promotion to England’s Championship last season. He rejected the offer of a new contract to join Stoke but has yet to make a competitive appearance this term.

Lindsay, the former Partick Thistle defender, moved from Barnsley to Stoke in June in a transfer worth £2.5million. The 24-year-old has played 17 times for City so far and been touted for a Scotland call-up.

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Diouf, 32, holds 47 caps for Senegal and spent three years at Manchester United but has only played five times for Stoke this season. He is one of several names being considered as Hearts look to add experience to their attack. Stendel knows the forward from their time at Hannover. Diouf played there between January 2012 and June 2014 whilst Stendel was coaching in the club's youth academy.

Midfielder Etebo, 24, cost Stoke £6m from the Portuguese side Feirense in June 2018. He is a Nigerian internationalist with 33 caps and played in all of his country's matches at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The last of his 14 Stoke outings this term came back in October before injury struck. He was an unused substitute against Sheffield Wednesday on Boxing Day.

Asked about contact with Stoke, Stendel replied: “At the moment I can’t say we will bring in this player or that player. What I can say is I would prefer in this situation that I know the player a little bit more than just knowing they are a good player. Every good player is not the best player for us.

“We need the right mentality and the right attitude – and we need them not to be injured every two weeks. We can have the best player but if he can only play five games....

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“This is the reason I would prefer, if we bring in players, they are ones I know can help us immediately and not in four weeks or six weeks.

“Normally, any player that signs a contract with hearts can be happy. Maybe the Scottish league isn’t the biggest league in the world but this is a really good club with a really good support and is really well organised. But there are also expectations on your performance.

“At the moment we cannot be satisfied with the performance from some players. Is this the quality or the situation or the mentality at the moment? Is there too much pressure? I don’t know. I think it’s both confidence and quality.

“We have to change this. I hope some injured players can help us and also we need some players that we can change. We need some leaders.”

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