What Hearts would be getting in Jacob Davenport - and why his signing would be a curious one

Hearts are in the market for another central midfielder to add to their growing squad for the 2022/23 season and have identified ex-Blackburn Rovers midfielder Jacob Davenport as a key target.

By Craig Fowler
Monday, 1st August 2022, 3:57 pm
Updated Monday, 1st August 2022, 3:58 pm

The 23-year-old is also being monitored by Aberdeen and clubs south of the border, though Hearts are looking to speak with the player shortly in order to try and convince him to come to Gorgie.

On the surface it’s a little curious Robbie Neilson is looking to strengthen this area of his side further. Jorge Grant arrived earlier this summer to join Peter Haring, Cammy Devlin and Andy Halliday in three players already at ease in the role, while there’s Michael Smith as a potential fill-in and youngsters Connor Smith and Finlay Pollock, not to mention Beni Baningime who is expected to be back playing around the turn of the year.

However, it was perhaps rather telling Smith started the opening game of the season against County in centre-midfield. There were a couple of factors at play. Devlin was just returning from injury and wasn’t expected to last the full 90, while Grant is still getting used to his new team-mates and Scottish football. Though the appearance of a 33-year-old full-back alongside Haring in the engine room may suggest Neilson isn’t entirely comfortable with the rest of his options.

Jacob Davenport celebrates scoring for Blackburn Rovers against Brentford in an English Championship match in December 2022.

This author assumed Hearts would be looking at adding another central midfielder mainly because there’s no natural deputy for Grant. If not the most attack-minded of the unit, he certainly possesses the biggest threat going forward, both through scoring and creating for others. Last term Devlin, Baningime and Haring occupied the two spots for the majority of the campaign. All three help Hearts dominate opponents in the centre, but none of them carry much menace. If anything, someone in the mould of Connor Ronan, who Hearts have expressed interest in, would be a more obvious target.

If he signs, Davenport will represent the most defensive minded and limited attacking option in midfield. He doesn’t attempt many dribbles, crosses or passes to the final third. His numbers for creativity, such as shot assists or key passes, are low. And while he doesn’t mind getting a shot away, he doesn’t score all too often.

What he does have is great mobility and tenacity. His style is reminiscent of Devlin in how he constantly chases after opposing players with real intensity in his pressing.

Davenport does like to get on the ball and, though he won’t progress play with his legs if he can help it, he does show adventurousness in his passing. He attempts 4.91 long passes per 90 minutes with solid accuracy. And while he doesn’t play it into the penalty box too often, he’s very accurate when he does attempt.

The signings of Devlin and Baningime last year were made with the hope Hearts could bring in a couple of players who, straight away, would be able to handle the defensive side of the game in Scotland, while looking to develop them as attackers so they could become fully-rounded No.8s. That certainly seems to be the plan once more with Davenport. What that means for the rest of the midfield corps remains to be seen.

Message from the editor

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our sports coverage with a digital sports subscription.