Craig Levein has explained that every Hearts youngster currently out on loan is being closely monitored by a team of scouts.
The club have farmed out Nikolay Todorov, Marcus Godinho, Liam Smith, Ali Roy, Dario Zanatta, Harry Paton, Andy Irving and Callumn Morrison in order to ensure they get game time against senior professionals as the Tynecastle manager views the development league primarily as an environment for under-17 players.
Levein has assured all of the Hearts players turning out for other Scottish clubs that they are not being forgotten about.
“We’ve got quite a few players out on loan and the idea behind that is to get them game time against men,” Levein told the Evening News. “We’ve actually put together a team of scouts and all they do is watch our loan players. We’re getting reports back every week on every player, so all these boys are very much still in the picture.”
Levein is a big admirer of both Smith, the Scotland Under-21 internationalist, and Godinho, the 20-year-old Canadian, but explained that the level of competition at right-back dictated that they should go out on loan to St Mirren and Berwick Rangers, respectively.
“We have Michael Smith, Jamie Brandon and Connor Randall, who can play right-back and we’ve also got Liam Smith and Marcus Godinho, who are both good players, out on loan,” he said. “They’re out getting experience with a view to coming back and fighting for an opportunity to play.”
In addition to those getting game time on loan, Levein is currently giving a batch of teenagers exposure in the first team. Harry Cochrane, Euan Henderson, Brandon and Rory Currie have all featured in the past three matches.
Levein is excited about the prospect of bringing more into the mix in the near future. Ultimately, he wants all of his young players to flourish in a similar manner to John Souttar, who is now established as a first-team regular despite just turning 21 last month.
“I’d love to fast-forward three years because we’ve got another half-dozen who are excellent and I can’t wait to get them in the team and let people see the quality of youth players at the club.
“We brought eight players in from the academy in the summer and I think they’ve all got a chance of playing for us. We’ve also got those who have played and who I think can still contribute, like Lewis Moore, Jamie Brandon and Rory Currie, who are a bit older. They’re getting some game time. There’s two things to consider – giving young players the opportunity and giving them the opportunity at the right time.
“The best example I can give is John Souttar – he has improved beyond all recognition since Christophe (Berra) arrived at the club. He’s doing things that seem simple but he’s doing them at the right time. He’s clearing his lines, heading the ball away, and doing all the things defenders need to do, and that’s because Christophe is alongside him talking him through the match. Getting experienced players alongside the young ones is a big part of the recipe for getting the young ones to improve.”