The key Everton factor as Hearts outline future transfer system and plans for Europe

Tynecastle head coach Steven Naismith is already thinking up to a year in advance

Steven Naismith's future recruitment at Hearts is to mirror Everton's under former manager David Moyes. Naismith played under Moyes during his first season at Goodison Park 12 years ago and admired the exhaustive proactive approach taken by the Scottish coach when signing new players.

Having moved into senior management himself at Tynecastle Park last summer, Naismith wants to implement what he learned from Moyes to ensure Hearts recruit the best talent available within their budget. The Edinburgh club have already agreed pre-contract deals for Ross County midfielder Yan Dhanda, Livingston defender James Penrice and Motherwell midfielder Blair Spittal, who will all report to Riccarton in June.

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That is a portent of things to come as Naismith explained some of the Everton process and how it could work in Gorgie. Building for the future by working in advance is a key factor. "That's something I've been really keen to do. We do a lot of work every day on recruitment," he said. "I've probably taken it from asking a lot of managers about it. The best for me was David Moyes. The research and the homework he did on signings was massive. That's why he did so well.

"Bringing guys like [Leighton] Baines and [Phil] Jagielka from the Championship to then become internationalists, good foreign players as well that helped kick his teams on to the next level. That's all down to hard work and it's about having that as a separate thing to the football club. It's not a case of getting to November and December and starting to think about the January transfer window. It's continuous and it needs to be. It needs to work a year or two ahead and as a club that's what we need to do.

"You have to predict a bit with what's going to happen with certain positions and individuals and how we can improve. For us to get to that next level, you constantly have to improve. For the guys in the squad already, that also drills home the element of competition."

Naismith played the remainder of his three and a half years on Merseyside under the Spanish coach Roberto Martinez but Moyes' recruitment policy stuck in his mind. "I got on well with a lot of the staff with the recruitment," explained Naismith. "The amount of hours they spent watching players was incredible. Some of the coaches told me Moyes would go and watch a player 20 times in a season, but wasn't even looking to sign that player until the following again season.

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"He'd go on midweek trips in Europe to watch players. If you look, his track record of signing players was very good and he doesn't get the credit for that he deserves. For me as a player, the turnover of players [at Hearts] and when players come in has been far too many. It's unsettling. So that's the route we're trying to develop and take and hopefully it pays off."

Hearts are conducting business now with the three players above as they try to assemble a strong squad for season 2024/25. With potential European group-stage ties intertwined with domestic matches, the schedule will be taxing for Naismith and his squad. Having new signings in situ early would help.

"In an ideal world, that's what you do. Football isn't as simple as that and the options available at the start of the window aren't always the same at the end," he admitted. "In the two windows I've dealt with, that's been a big difference. In the summer window, we were late getting players in for one reason or another. In January, we identified what we needed and we went out and got it done early. That makes a difference, 100 per cent.

"The quicker you've got players, they're at ease in their surroundings quicker. We do a good job when we're speaking to players of giving them a full picture of what is coming. I want to paint a clear picture, not a smoke-and-mirrors one that promises the world and then when they get in the door they're trapped. You need to tell them what facilities we've got, what the stadium is like and then ultimately they then make the decision they will.

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"One part of it is that you need to be ready for Europe. We [Scottish football] don't help ourselves with the structure and how we do things going into European competition. But what is in our hands is we need to do as much as we can such as getting new players in quicker. It's important because European football comes much quicker.

"If we get into Europe and we do that, it doesn't mean I want a big squad. We've got youth players here and it gives them an opportunity. It's harder to keep a full squad engaged and motivated when they can't see an opportunity. I don't think the size of our squad will massively change. We might improve it by one or two numbers-wise but we've got some good young players that will get opportunities if we make European football as well."