The Scottish Football Association have given Hearts permission to keep Sam Nicholson, Jordan McGhee and Jack Hamilton for next week’s match against Falkirk.
All three are supposed to be on Scotland Under-21 duty but the SFA will allow them to stay with their club for the Saturday evening match before joining up with Ricky Sbragia’s squad.
The Scotland Under-21s are due to meet up next Friday, November 14, ahead of a friendly with Switzerland in Thun the following Tuesday.
Hearts asked the SFA if they could keep their players for the 5.30pm kick-off at Falkirk the following day and Sbragia, placed in interim charge of the Under-21s after Billy Stark resigned, has granted permission.
Callum Paterson is also in the Scotland Under-21 squad but is unavailable against Falkirk through suspension. He is still expected to report on the Friday whilst his Tynecastle colleagues stay behind. Nicholson and McGhee would almost certainly be involved for Hearts against Falkirk although Hamilton, the club’s third-choice goalkeeper, is unlikely to feature.
“If they play for us on the Saturday then it gets them another game,” said Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach. “Then they can play for Scotland on the Tuesday. What we don’t want to do is just pull them out the squad totally or have to postpone our game.”
Hearts first face Raith Rovers at Tynecastle tomorrow with striker James Keatings fit and available again after a persistent groin injury. “I’m delighted to get him nearly back in the team,” said Neilson. “Last time we played Raith he scored three times. His fitness is getting there.
“He came back from pre-season out of condition, got himself into condition and was looking really good. Then he picked up an injury and he’s trying to get back up to that level again. IHe’s a real goal threat for us.”
Tomorrow’s match promises to be an emotional occasion as Hearts mark Remembrance weekend on the 100th anniversary of World War I. Seven Hearts players died in the conflict and a special day is planned at Tynecastle in honour of those who gave their lives.
“It’s going to be a massive event and probably a full house,” said Neilson. “Then we have the Remembrance service on Sunday. I’d expect thousands to be there. The centenary is a huge part of the club.
“Although we try and focus on the football, we need to have an eye on that as well, take it in and appreciate it.”