Scottish core is vital to future of Hearts
Ian Cathro is adamant Hearts will never lose their Scottish identity after securing three native youngsters on long-term contracts.
Goalkeeper Jack Hamilton, defender John Souttar and striker Rory Currie have committed their futures to the Edinburgh club until 2020, with Cathro insisting a Scottish core will always be a priority at Tynecastle.
Development from within remains a key part of Hearts’ agenda despite the arrival of nine non-Scots during the January transfer window.
“It’s essential and it always will be, there should be no sense of misinterpretation or confusion about that,” explained Cathro.
“One of the things we spoke about as we were building into the January window was it’s a complicated market. That’s also one of the reasons we never set out specifically to bring in X number of players. We wanted to manage the market, assess it and try to make improvements.
“I would continue to say that I feel we did make improvements and that it was positive for the squad, the balance and our options and so on.
“But the focus on this club developing primarily its own young players and making sure they have the support and the opportunity to become first- team players and have countless appearances and big moments as well, is always of the utmost importance.
“Second to that is young Scottish players who maybe come from different places but know the history of this club, this league and all the little idiosyncracies of this league and life here. I don’t undervalue that at all.
“We’ve got really good news coming up. I don’t know if it’s the most ever, but there are eight young players joining from the academy to go full-time. There’s a dinner next week where we will mark that.
“It’s quite a significant intake of talent that genuinely deserves it, which is another exciting thing looking further down the line. It’s something that we will look to manage.
“We will plan how our squad develops over time, knowing that we’ve got this talent that we want to develop underneath. It takes time. Sometimes nobody knows about these things, but it is important that it is spoken about. We are working on making sure that the correct blend is here for the club so that the support feel connected.”
Of the most recent clutch of Riccarton academy graduates, Callum Paterson and Sam Nicholson are likely to leave later this year after rejecting new contracts. The lack of immediate replacements from the youth ranks is down to neglect by the previous Tynecastle board under Vladimir Romanov and the subsequent administration forced upon Hearts.
“Yes, they were explaining that to me,” said Cathro. “It was because of the financial situation in previous years, investing in the academy, maybe losing some players because there was uncertainty at the club. That causes a lot of problems.
“You can understand that the families of young players breaking through were seeing daily news reports of whether this club was stable or unstable. You can understand why there is that hit there but I think now everybody sees that this is a perfect place for a young player to become a footballer.”
Development fees for Paterson and Nicholson would be between £350,000 and £450,000 once they join a new club. Hearts would then reinvest some of that cash in the kids at Riccarton.
“One of the things that this club has done significantly in the past few years is invest in the academy,” said Cathro. “A lot of that comes from the biggest chunks of revenue that come in, which are often when a player has made that progress and moves on. There are a number of areas across the club that are being invested heavily in.
“The academy has always been taken care of, looked after and supported.”
Currie outlined his satisfaction at joining Hearts having been released by Rangers last summer. He has made the breakthrough into senior football and scored his first goal, all because of the faith placed in him.
“Hearts have given me a great opportunity and they believed in me. That’s been the changing point in my career,” said the teenager. “The club looks to bring young players through and develop them. It shows they’re trying to bring through talented boys from this country.
“I’m delighted to sign a new deal. Hopefully the hard work keeps going and I can have a bright future here at Hearts.
“I’ve learned quite a lot coming up from the under-20s. It’s a lot more sharp and you need to be switched on and focused at all times. When you’re coming off the bench you’re hoping to make an impact.
“Obviously the manager expects an impact. He puts me on and he believes in me. He expects me to go on and change the game. It’s a big step. Physicality is one thing, that’s something you can work on. As soon as you step up, if you’re not focused, you’re going to make life hard for yourself.”