Robbie Muirhead was today urged to seize the moment at Hearts and resurrect his career after signing a one-year deal.
The 20-year-old forward was released by relegated Dundee United in April but received a lifeline with the offer of a contract at Tynecastle.
He put pen to paper yesterday after meeting head coach Robbie Neilson, who instantly implored the player to take his chance.
Hearts view Muirhead, a former Scotland youth internationalist, as a project worth working on given he is available for free, will not command a vast salary and should still have his best years ahead of him.
He cost United £150,000 from Kilmarnock 18 months ago but, after failing to establish himself on Tayside, has fallen into Hearts’ lap.
“He’s got good potential. People forget he is still young,” said Neilson. “There is still a lot of development in him. I watched him at Kilmarnock and knew he was a very good player. I looked at him and thought we would maybe try to do something then but Dundee United came in and bought him for a big fee.
“He went there and it didn’t quite work out for him. With the way things happened at United, he got out of his contract and it was an opportunity for us to get a good player for free. For me, it was one I was desperate to do.
“We want to get young players in who can develop, whether it is through our own academy or going to other clubs to bring them in.
“When you get an opportunity to bring in someone like Robbie, then it’s one you take because those are the kind of players we are looking for – young, hungry, Scottish. Ones we think can go on to bigger and better things.
“It’s an opportunity for Robbie. He’s still got a long way to go. He’s got to come here and work hard. There are other good players here who will be ahead of him, so he has to fight to try and get himself in the team. It’s an opportunity I hope he takes.
“He wants to get back playing again. It didn’t quite work out for him at United. It was similar for John Souttar. It can be quite difficult for young players at a club struggling in the league.
“He didn’t play, then he went on loan to Partick Thistle, then back to United. At that point ,they were in a relegation dogfight.
“So, when you look at the whole picture, you understand he didn’t really have a great crack of the whip up there. He had to bide his time and didn’t get opportunities. He will get it here, he will get a chance to develop.”
Neilson stressed the need for Muirhead to show the required endeavour to work his way into the team at Hearts. His case was helped yesterday afternoon when it was confirmed that Gavin Reilly had left the Edinburgh club on a season-long loan to Dunfermline.
Muirhead now finds himself in the relatively unusual position of being released by a relegated club but being taken on by one which finished third in the same division.
“He’s signed on for a year. It’s an opportunity for him. I want him to come for a year and work hard,” insisted Neilson.
“It’s not often you don’t play with a team that gets relegated and then you come to a team that finished third in the league. It’s an opportunity for him to come and show us what he can do. Then we’ll assess it over the season.”
Muirhead is expected to be joined by the Belgian-born full-back Faycal Rherras today. He has agreed a three-year contract with Hearts officials and was due to land at Edinburgh airport last night.
Conor Sammon, the Irish forward, is also due to put pen to paper as Neilson slots in the final few pieces of his squad jigsaw for the 2016/17 campaign.
Asked about Sammon and Rherras, he replied: “We hope to get things tied up tomorrow and go from there.
“I don’t need a lot more now. I’d like to get a goalkeeper sorted out and, after that, we’ll just wait. We’ve seen in the last couple of years that, if you wait a bit longer in the window, and even after the window shuts, good players come up. So we’re sitting at the moment with a squad I’m comfortable with.
“There’s a little bit of money to go and get something else if we need to. The European deadline is on the 20th so, outwith the goalkeeping situation, everything else is really in place. I’m happy with what we’ve got.”
After allowing Reilly to move across the River Forth to East End Park, Neilson admitted the striker needed to play more often.
“I think Gav needs to go and score some goals. He’ll go and get his confidence, get that enjoyment back and get playing. He’s at an age where he has to develop.
“With Conor coming in, Juanma here and possibly another one later in the window, it would take his game time down a little bit.
“Allan Johnston was desperate to get Gavin. He had him at Queen of the South so it will be a good environment for him there.”