Hearts plan to have at least one new player for Motherwell trip

Craig Levein
Craig Levein
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Hearts plan to have at least one more new signing in their team for Friday’s Betfred Cup tie at Motherwell. The Edinburgh club are tracking a new goalkeeper as talks with the Irish midfielder Glenn Whelan continue, with manager Craig Levein ready to make changes at Fir Park.

French midfielder Loic Damour and English left-back Aidy White made their debuts in Saturday’s goalless draw with Ross County. Tynecastle Park’s first Premiership game of the new campaign brought an uninspiring performance, leaving Hearts with just four league victories in 2019. Fans were unhappy at full-time and Levein acknowledged the discontent but said he is focused on making changes at Motherwell.

“For me, it’s about making sure we are well organised on Friday. There might be a change of personnel. By the time the game comes round we might have some bodies in the building. That could result in us playing a different team with different players available,” he said.

“I understand the unrest. I was frustrated watching us on Saturday. I felt things didn’t go particularly well, our passing was off and we ended up with things which don’t normally happen. We didn’t win our defensive headers which, for me, is normally a given.

“Quite a lot of things weren’t going well and that didn’t help us on the ball. We ended up just punting the ball long because it’s safe. If it’s up the other end of the park, we can’t make a mistake. The game became not about who had the better quality, but about who could fight and scrap the best. I thought Ross County were better at that than us on Saturday.”

Hearts hope negotiations to bring free-agent Whelan to Edinburgh will be concluded next week. “I’m still working away on that,” said Levein. “I will pick it up again at the beginning of the week. There is a possibility it might be done for Friday and I’m working on another couple of things as well. I don’t want to share that with you at the moment.”

Steven Naismith was substituted at half-time against Ross County as a precaution. “His hamstring was feeling a bit tight so I didn’t want to take any risks,” explained Levein. “I don’t know if he will be okay for next week but, certainly, he came off before there were any major problems.”

White came through a competitive 90 minutes for the first time in two and a half years, hence the afternoon was something of a milestone for the 27-year-old. “It’s been tough for him because he couldn’t find out what the injury problem was and that went on and on. When you try to come back and keep breaking down, it does wear you down,” said Levein.

“At some point, you wonder whether you will ever get back to just playing football. He has been through all that. He has been very patient and we’ve been very patient with him since he joined us earlier this year. I didn’t plan on playing him for 90 minutes on Saturday but other things happened in the game. For Aidy, it was quite a significant day.”

Damour only signed on Friday from Cardiff City and will take time to get up to speed. “Loic only played 60 minutes during pre-season so he is not 100 per cent yet. That will come in time.”

Levein said he did not read his squad the riot act at full-time as some players are already short of confidence. “I often will have harsh words for the players if I feel the work rate isn’t there. That’s something I think everybody has to show. If they are lacking a bit of confidence then it’s not quite the same. We need to get a victory to help with that and then we will be off and running.”