Why Hearts fans can expect a younger and smaller squad next season
This summer is primed to be an important and key moment for Hearts and boss Robbie Neilson.
The head coach led the team out of the Championship and back into the top-flight but there is an acceptance that changes are required for the team to be competitive at the top end of the Premiership.
Hearts had the oldest team in the league last season with an average age of 28.75. According to London Hearts it is the second oldest since their records began.
Neilson is eager to not only get the average age of the squad down but also the size of the squad.
“When I came in last summer I knew the way the squad was, first of all we had to really get the numbers down,” he told Hearts podcast Scarves Around the Funnel.
"We came into a first-team squad which was 30 senior players which is miles too big for any football club.
"I think we got it down to 24 but we’re trying to get it down lower again.
“The main objective was to win the league but to get to this summer when we knew more of the squad was coming out of contract and we’ve got a bit more movement within the squad to try and go and get us up the top end of the Premiership.”
Refresh, move forward
There were different reasons for the age of the squad being what it was but Neilson was keen for experience to guide the team from the league.
Now the aim is for a better blend with the coaching staff wanting a “young, energetic team”, something the manager admits was missing at points last season.
“We were the oldest team in the Championship last season which for any Hearts team shouldn’t be the case,” Neilson said. “We know coming into this season, the way the contracts were falling, allows us to refresh the squad and try to move things forward.
“The squad we inherited was an older squad, a more experienced squad, which at times has its benefits but you want youth and energy in the team. You want guys who want to progress with the club, move forward.
"We had to try and get that but we also had to win every single game last season. At the start of the season that was the objective, that was the pressure on us. We knew we had to win the league. We couldn't not get promoted.
"When we recruited we looked at guys who can get us out the league then the following season they might not be the starters, they might be the No.3s and No.4s within that which allows you to get some of the younger ones in.
“We want a young, energetic team. But you also want to have the stability and experience of senior players within that. I think Hearts last season, it was the flipside. We probably had too much experience, too many senior players and didn’t have that energetic player we needed.
"Hopefully in the summer the idea is to recruit below a certain age, to give us that usefulness. But it also gives you assets within the team. You have to develop these young ones because they become assets for the club.”