Robbie Neilson explains recruitment process in striker hunt as Hearts boss reveals January interest in key pair

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson has revealed there was significant interest in Cammy Devlin and Beni Baningime prior to January transfer window.

By Craig Fowler
Thursday, 13th January 2022, 3:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th January 2022, 3:55 pm

The two centre-midfielders have struck up an excellent partnership in the centre of the park and have been an influential factor in Hearts currently sitting third in the cinch Premiership table.

Even though each of the combative grafters were only signed earlier this campaign, that didn’t stop other clubs from having a serious look at both players with a view to a January move.

Neilson told the Scarves Around The Funnel podcast that interest has died down, with both players expected to remain in maroon jerseys until the end of the campaign at the very least, but Hearts had to be ready in case a suitable offer was made.

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Hearts boss Robbie Neilson, right, with midfielder Cammy Devlin. Picture: SNS

“We’re looking at centre-backs for the summer. We always have to be ready,” he said, “we’re looking at the striking position, we’re looking at the left wing-back position.

“We were looking centre-midfield wise as well because there was loads of interest in Cammy Devlin and Beni Baningime prior to the window opening. Beni getting that injury meant there was less interest but we have to look at all these areas.

"It’s just the nature of the beat to be honest. When the team does well, bigger clubs are going to come and try to take your best players.”

Most notably, Hearts are on the search for another striker with Armand Gnanduillet allowed to leave in the January window, leaving Liam Boyce as the sole natural forward at the club.

Neilson explained how the club specifically go about identifying targets and how this ultimately leads to players standing with a grin on the Tynecastle pitch with a maroon-and-white scarf above their head.

“I will go to Joe and Will Lancefield, who is head of recruitment, and say ‘this is what I’m looking for in a player'. So we’re looking for a striker at the moment, so I want someone who will look to go in behind a lot, make a lot of those repetitive runs, a lot running distance, a high top-speed. Will then goes to his sources,” explained the head coach.

“Will is more of a traditional scout. He’ll watch the games. We also have George Brown who does the data recruitments. He’ll put what we’re looking for into his laptop, his algorithm, and that’ll flag up players.

“It’s interesting that Cammy Devlin came through George flagging it up through the stats, whereas Beni Baningime came through Will Lancefield because he had eyes on him and watched him in games. Both of them came from different avenues of the recruitment department and they were both brought into me and Joe.

“I think it’s really good because we’ve got George who can filter through thousands of players when we’re looking at X, Y and Z, and find 50 of them. Then Will will go through them and maybe say ‘this guy plays at a lower level, so he’s not good enough’, so he’s filtering them down as well. They’ll then bring them to me, I’ll pick my first, second and third choice and then I’ll go to Joe who’ll try to do the deal.”

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