When it comes to the summer transfer window for Hearts there are so many questions that require an answer or a simple caveat, noting it depends on certain scenarios.
Whether the club is in the Championship or Premiership will somewhat determine the market the club will shopping in. As will Daniel Stendel’s future and which players depart.
The club already have a large squad heading into the 2020/21 season with the likes of Olly Lee, Christophe Berra and Craig Wighton returning from productive loan spells, while there could be a switch in focus to youth players.
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On the face of it, there doesn’t seem much work that can or likely will take place.
The most obvious position which requires a solution and should be the club’s priority. Joel Pereira, Colin Doyle and Zdenek Zlamal all had spells between the sticks during the last term with the Manchester United loanee playing the most minutes. His stint at the club could well go down as the most disappointing, or simply worst, certainly in recent times.
Over the last two campaigns, no one goalkeeper has stepped up and truly put together a run of games which has won the trust of the Hearts support and made them the true No.1.
There are a number of goalkeepers available on a free contract this summer, something we noted in a look at the free agents searching for a new club following their departure from other SPFL sides, while former Tynecastle ace Craig Gordon also weighs up his future.
Bringing in a reputable goalkeeper will provide the Tynecastle faithful with an abundance of confidence going into next season.
What is required: Goalkeeper, stat.
Right-back is an area fans don’t need to worry about with Michael Smith at the club. In addition, Sean Clare has proven himself in the role, especially if required to play wing-back.
There has been plenty of speculation surrounding Aaron Hickey, and understandably so. One of the best talents in the country, he is in the final year of his contract and clubs spot a potential opportunity to get a bargain. If he were to depart, Hearts would still have Ben Garuccio and Aidy White, making it less of a priority.
The departure of Clevid Dikamona and John Souttar still recovering from a serious injury means a centre-back will likely be needed. Craig Halkett had a decent if unspectacular first season, while Berra returns and there is Chris Hamilton to consider after he impressed at Cowdenbeath. It is an area where the club have been unable to form a consistent partnership for a sustained period due to injury and form.
What is required: Not urgent but potentially a centre-back
Without exaggerating the matter, if Peter Haring returns ahead of or around the start of the new campaign, it will provide a gargantuan boost. The Austrian adds so much to the side, in terms of defensive protection, build-up from deep and set-piece threat. But it would be wrong to put so much responsibility on a player who will not have played in well over a year.
There is plenty of fan interest in the futures of Olly Lee and Loic Damour but both have more than enough to contribute no matter the level, even the latter who has faced plenty of doubt.
In Haring’s absence, Andy Irving should be given the keys to the midfield, while Harry Cochrane will get the chance to make his case for inclusion after a difficult couple of seasons.
The aspect of the centre of midfield which has been largely missing is someone with plenty of dynamism and aggression, in and out of the possession. An ability to cover ground and take the ball from A to B quickly and directly. If they are able to pick a pass at the end of it, then it’s a player who could be transfomative.
In Anthony McDonald, Jamie Walker and Steven Naismith there are central creative options.
What is required: Box-to-box midfielder
Callumn Morrison, Lewis Moore, Euan Henderson (potentially) and Sean Clare, plus McDonald and Walker, there are certainly players who can play wide and hurt teams albeit no one has quite done so consistently for the team.
What is missing is someone with blistering pace. It’s a quality Hearts have been lacking, especially in wide areas, for a while with the exception of Jake Mulraney, who at times seemed reluctant to utilise it.
Hearts have players more than able playing from wide and moving inwards, but not so much at stretching teams on a regular basis.
What is required: Someone rapid.
No matter the division, Hearts should score goals. They have invested heavily in Steven Naismith and Liam Boyce. The duo showed signs of a fruitful partnership, even more so when they are both played centrally.
If that is allowed to blossom and develop there should be no issues.
In Conor Washington and Uche Ikpeazu you have forwards with pace, strength, power and chaos factor who can threaten teams in different ways.
What is required: Nothing