Hearts in talks with Aaron Hickey over new deal
Craig Levein is hopeful of securing Aaron Hickey on a long-term contract, the Hearts manager adamant that the teenage full-back’s development will be accelerated by continuing to play regularly at Tynecastle.
The 17-year-old continued his sensational start in the first team by scoring the winner in Sunday’s derby at Easter Road. Hickey’s current deal expires at the end of next season but, with Manchester City having been monitoring him in recent months, Levein confirmed he is liaising with the player’s father in an effort to agree a new and improved agreement.
“We’re in the middle of that just now,” he said. “It’s been quite difficult, though. He doesn’t have an agent. I’ve been dealing with his dad. It’s been a little bit drawn out but I’m sure we will get there eventually. It’s like any young player who’s playing well, there’s always going to be interest.
“The big thing for him is he is getting game time. For kids his age, getting first-team football is the hardest thing to get coming through the academy. I’ve no qualms about playing them if they are good enough. We’re giving him valuable experience but he’s rewarding me with his performances. So we are getting on quite well.”
Levein explained that Hickey remains unfazed by the hype which has built up around him since his rise to prominence over the past five months. “It’s not bothering the boy,” said Levein. “It’s not something he’s overly concerned about. He just turns up and does his work, then goes home. He’s so low maintenance you wouldn’t know he was in the building. He is the way he plays, you know? Very calm and no bother at all.
“If they were all like him, this job would be a doddle. He’s been good for a period of time now, which is difficult for young players. He’s played pretty much every game since we first put him in and he’s improving, which is the big thing. There’s not an awful lot of competition just now, with Ben Garuccio out injured and Michael Smith’s had problems. In some ways that’s helped him but that’s not to say I would have taken him out, because he’s been so good for us. But there’s not someone breathing down his neck.”
Aidan White, the likeliest player to challenge Hickey for the left-back position, who is working to overcome some minor fitness issues, made four appearances last month after returning to action following two and a half years on the sidelines but hasn’t been in the squad for the last two games and is likely to remain sidelined for tonight’s Betfred Cup quarter-final at home to Aberdeen. “Aidy is not quite up to speed yet,” said Levein. “When someone’s been out for a couple of years then other wee things come in. It’s normal so we’re trying to get more training time in to Aidy. He can do 90 minutes but it takes him a wee while to recover. He’s not battle hardened yet.”
Levein is encouraged by the impact Ryotaro Meshino has made since arriving on loan from Manchester City last month. “He’s a great kid,” said the manager. “He doesn’t speak a lot of English but he’s bubbly and the players have really taken to him. He’s a really good player.
“He’s obviously had a good background and for Manchester City to buy you, it must feel really good, so I think his confidence is really high.
“For someone his size, his power is awesome. His acceleration from 0-60 is explosive and he tries to beat people. The supporters have already taken to him and I’m sure he’ll be a big hit. He tries to beat people, and the more of those you have in the team the better.”
Levein expects to be able to call on the same personnel that defeated Hibs for this evening’s clash with Aberdeen.