Hearts – Should They Stay or Should They Go?

With a summer of change on the cards for every club in Scotland, Jamie Mcintosh takes a look at the current Hearts squad and evaluates which players the club would benefit from keeping a hold of or, alternatively, letting go.

Heart of Midlothian v Rangers - William Hill Scottish Cup - Quarter Final - Tynecastle Park

With the financial implications of both relegation and a global pandemic looming departures are expected at Tynecastle – but who should the Jambos keep a hold of, if they can help it?

Scottish football is in a bit of a strange place at the moment and those involved are beginning to fear the financial implications of the lack of revenue made on matchdays. Some clubs have already announce mass exodus, with it expected that more will follow suit in the coming weeks. For Hearts, the same can be expected.

Even without a global pandemic on their hands, Hearts would be looking to refresh their squad for next season regardless, with loans and contracts expiring and under-performers looking to be moved on. With that in mind, this article will break down the current squad and, from my point of view, make a verdict on the next move for each player.

 

Goalkeepers

Joel Pereira – On loan from Manchester United

Verdict – Loan deal expired

The Manchester United goalkeeper had a torrid time at Tynecastle. He was not highly thought of by supporters, many of whom were in disbelief that he actually had a contract at one of world football’s greatest clubs. 

Fortunately for Hearts fans, he was only on loan and he has left Hearts to return to his parent club. He has been deemed by many Hearts fans as one of the worst goalkeepers to play for the club. Frankly, it is hard to provide a strong case to dispute that statement. 

The only positive that Hearts fans can take from this is the fact that Manchester United have saved Hearts a five figure sum by choosing to waive part of Pereira’s loan fee. This was because some of the Portuguese’s time at Hearts  was spent during the football shutdown.  A fantastic gesture from Manchester United – not such a fantastic goalkeeper however.

Bobby Zlamal – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict – Release/terminate contract

One poor goalkeeper followed by another. Zlamal originally started off the 2018/19 season as the first choice goalkeeper and was largely regarded as a fans’ favourite. 

However, this quickly disappeared after a collection of errors, most notably in the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic. He has only featured a handful of times for Hearts in the 2019/20 season and would be no real loss to the club if he was released or sold this summer.

 

Colin Doyle – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict – Keep until contract expires (unless replacements are signed)

The third and final poor goalkeeper in this current Hearts squad. Personally, out of the three, Doyle would be my first choice. Doyle signed a two-year contract with Hearts in July 2018.

If my memory serves me right, on the day he signed for Hearts, he tweeted saying it has always been his dream to play at Celtic Park… 

This understandably didn’t go down well with many Hearts fans and the few performances he made in a maroon jersey didn’t go any way to improving the already poor relationship. 

In August 2019, Doyle was offered a one year contract extension, much to the bemusement of the Hearts fans. He has featured only once since signing that extension.

Hearts need a new first choice goalkeeper but until we sign one, we can’t get rid of our current goalkeepers. I personally prefer Doyle to Zlamal and that’s why I feel Hearts should hold on to Doyle for one more season, especially seeing as we will be competing in the Championship next season.

 

Defenders

Clevid Dikamona – Contract was due to expire summer 2020 however contract was terminated by the player in order to aid the club during the pandemic

Verdict- If possible, re-sign

dikamona

Dikamona has been a solid presence in a flimsy maroon backline and produced an excellent performance in the latest Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road.

A very loveable guy, has a strong relationship with the Hearts fans, never gives anything less than 100% and certainly a good squad player to have at the club. 

Has adopted the nickname Jambo Soldier and for helping the club out during the pandemic, I’m sure he would be welcomed back with open arms by supporters. 

Jamie Brandon- Contract expires, summer 2020 (has been offered a new deal)

Verdict- Keep 

A young player who has been unfortunate with injuries, has put in some very good performances but also some poor ones. He is only 22 and I would like to think it is likely he will improve in the next year, a player I would like to see remain at Tynecastle beyond the summer. 

Christophe Berra – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep 

A player who was out of form with Hearts and out of favour with new manager Daniel Stendel before being loaned out to Dundee in January. 

Berra seems to have found his level and has hopefully regained some much-needed confidence by steadying the Dundee defence. Considering Hearts will be in the Championship next season, I wouldn’t have too many problems with Berra playing in defence next season. 

This would lead him to the end of his contract and I would then move him on. 

A lot depends on who the Hearts manager will be next season, however Berra is somebody I would hold on to for one more season. 

Bobby Burns – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep

Another youngster who has featured not only for the first team but also in a derby, despite being only 20 years old. He was loaned out to Australian side Newcastle Jets in September 2019. You would think a move of that significance (across the other side of the world) would provide Burns with some decent experience. 

He is a player I was pretty content with anyway when I saw him in maroon and with improvement expected, he is a player I am very keen to keep at Tynecastle. 

Daniel Baur – Contract expires, summer 2020 (not being offered a new contract)

Verdict- Releasing him is the correct decision 

The writing had been on the wall for Baur and his Hearts career for some time. He was a player who featured a handful of times for the first team under Craig Levein but has spent the previous two seasons on loan at Albion Rovers and Bonnyrigg Rose respectively. 

Baur was once highly rated at Hearts – he regularly captained the highly rated Hearts under 20’s side before suffering a serious injury, which saw him sidelined for almost a year. 

He never got back to the same level after his injury although was voted Bonnyrigg Rose’s player of the season this year. He has potential to be a good signing for somebody who is prepared to take a chance on him. 

Ben Garuccio – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep 

An attacking full back with a good delivery on him, has a decent enough engine in him and is pretty dangerous from free kicks. He was starting consistently for Hearts when they were flying high at the top of the league in 2018 however, like so many other Hearts players at that time, he was sidelined by injury. 

He only recently made a return to the squad and is probably yet to get himself back to where his game was before his injury. Has shown potential and with one year left on his contract, I wouldn’t be in any rush to get rid of him. 

Aaron Hickey- Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Cash in if the offer is right, unless a new contract can be agreed

hickey

The young Hickey has attracted a LOT of interest from some of Europe’s top clubs. If Hearts want to try and balance the books, selling the fullback may be in their best interest.

A really tricky one, this. Hickey is a great young prospect for both Scotland and Hearts. He is maturing as a player and I only see him improving. 

That being said, he is out of contract next summer and I don’t want to lose him for free so, unless a new contract can be agreed, I think Hearts should try cash their chips. 

Juventus were one of the main clubs strongly linked with the youngster, as were Manchester City. I believe Hickey would prefer the latter of the two. There is definitely money to be made here for Hearts and I just hope we don’t see him leave for free in a year’s time. 

Michael Smith – Contract expires, summer 2021 

Verdict- keep and try negotiate a new contract 

Mr Consistent himself. Michael Smith has been solid for Hearts, especially defensively. He is very good in one on one situations and I think he will stroll through the Championship if he stays at Hearts next season. Smith also falls into the fans favourite category and many at Tynecastle would love to see him sign a new contract to stay in Edinburgh. 

Aidy White – Contract expires, summer 2021 

Verdict- Release/sell 

Nothing wrong with Aidy White, he’d be a decent enough signing for most other clubs in Scotland. However at 28, I would rather Hearts held on to the younger players in Brandon, Garuccio and Hickey at left back. 

White is another player who is injury prone and he couldn’t quite tie down a starting place at Hearts. However, as I say, far from the worst left back I’ve seen at Tynecastle. 

Craig Halkett – Contract expires, summer 2022 

Verdict- Keep

A signing which promised so much and flattered to deceive. Halkett joined Hearts having made a name for himself at Livingston, in a notoriously rock solid back three. 

Since then however, Halkett has been in the centre of a Hearts defence which has leaked goals for fun. Ironically, Halkett has actually been more useful in attack than defence this season. 

That being said, a season in the Championship alongside John Souttar or Christophe Berra should hopefully help Halkett and Souttar improve their centre back pairing for the future. Speaking of Souttar…

John Souttar – Contract expires, summer 2022 

Verdict- Keep 

A defender who’s promising career has been halted by injury. He has not yet been able to get back to where he was before his injury, however I expect a season alongside Halkett in the Championship will aid both players’ confidence and help them form a good partnership together going forward.

 If Souttar is able to stay fit, he will become a big player for Hearts and possibly Scotland too. The fact he is still only 23, and providing he is able to stay fit, he is a player I would like to see remain at Hearts.

Midfielders

Peter Haring – Contract expires, summer 2022

Verdict- Undecided

haring

Haring’s injury troubles have been troubling him for years and if things don’t improve soon, it may be best for Hearts to part company with the midfielder.

The most influential player in the current Hearts team in my eyes, he played such a big part in the middle of the Hearts midfield when we were league leaders. He was so good at breaking up the play and setting up attacks. I’d say he was Levein’s best signing, before he got injured. It has now been over a year since we saw him in a Hearts shirt. 

One hopes that the shutdown has given Haring more time to heal. He was seeing specialists for ages in his home country of Austria but that didn’t seem to be able to help the midfielder. 

Unfortunately, I fear Peter Haring will be unable to play football again and if that is the case then regrettably we have to part ways. 

 

Connor Smith – Contract expires, summer 2022

Verdict – Keep

A youngster who hasn’t featured too regularly. However, Smith was unfazed after starting in a derby in May last year, putting in a decent performance.

With Hearts in the Championship next season, I would like to see youngsters like Smith given more of a chance to show what they can do. 

Considering Smith, like many other youngsters in football, will likely be on low wages, I would have no objections with keeping the 18 year old at Tynecastle for the foreseeable. 

 

Sean Clare – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep and try to negotiate a new contract

A player who has really improved under new manager Daniel Stendel. Originally an attacking midfielder, he has found a new home at right back at Tynecastle. 

He was really disliked by fans under Levein but has developed into a fans’ favourite under Stendel, a comeback that is on par with Liverpool in Istanbul. 

In my eyes, Clare has been excellent since Stendel arrived and I would consider offering him a new contract if terms can be agreed. 

 

Harry Cochrane – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep and try to negotiate a new deal

cochrane

Cochrane burst onto the scene in 2017, before promptly disappearing. A season in the Championship could cement his place in the Hearts team for years to come.

For someone who looked so impressive when he broke into the team as a 16 year old in 2017, he disappeared off the face of the Earth without any reasoning from Levein, who was manager at the time. 

Cochrane was on loan at Dunfermline before being recalled by Stendel. There’s a talented player in there somewhere and a consistent run in the team whilst we’re in the Championship should see him improve. A no brainer to keep at Tynecastle.

 

Andrew Irving – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Keep and negotiate a new deal

A very talented young player, is Andy Irving. The 20 year old is very comfortable on the ball and is a good passer, which is crucial for any midfielder. 

While his tackling could do with some improvement, Irving is as player that I can see improving a lot in the future.

Another player I am keen to see remain at Tynecastle and one I would also welcome a contract extension for. 

 

Loic Damour – Contract expires, 2023 

Verdict- Release ASAP

Levein did some terrible business whilst at Hearts. However, the four year deal he handed Loic Damour was definitely the worst of the lot. 

Damour has been pretty hopeless at Hearts, to be perfectly honest. He is more defensively minded but isn’t particularly fit or good at tackling. 

He brings very little to this Hearts squad and is someone I would happily see the back of. 

Anthony McDonald – Contract expires, 2021

Verdict- Keep 

A youngster who broke into the Hearts team around the same time as Harry Cochrane. However, both failed to cement a place and have been loaned out as a result of that. 

As I have said for all the youngsters, I am keen to see them all get their chance next season in the Championship. 

Some have been more impressive than others when they’ve been in the first team and I think McDonald will be a Championship standard player. 

I would like to see him in action next season but I’m not sure I’d rush to offer him a new deal following the end of his current contract next year. 

 

Ryotaro Meshino – On loan from Manchester City

Verdict – Loan expired, wouldn’t try to resign him

An exciting player who showed flashes of brilliance. However, the Scottish game is probably as far away as you could possibly get from the style Meshino would like to play in and, unfortunately, it just didn’t work out. Wasn’t really cut out for a relegation battle either. 

Toby Sibbick- On loan from Barnsley

Verdict – Loan expired, try to re-sign

A player who only made a few appearances before becoming ill with a virus (not that one). Sibbick reminded me a lot of Haring – he broke up play well, was a decent passer, had a good engine in him and considering he was over 6ft, he was a threat at set pieces and just a strong presence in the middle of the park. 

If Haring isn’t able to return to football anytime soon, I think Sibbick has the potential to be a good signing for Hearts. In the few games that he played in maroon the fans took to him fairly well. 

 

Oliver Bozanic – Contract expires, summer 2020

Verdict- No new contract

bozanic

Bozanic has had his moments this season, scoring some important goals, but his time at Tynecastle hasn’t been overly successful and he’ll likely make way for the youngsters in the Championship.

Nothing against Bozanic – he scored a cracking goal against Hibs and a penalty which saw us knock Rangers out the Scottish Cup. That aside, I don’t think he brought too much to the table and considering Hearts are trying to cut down on their squad, Bozanic is somebody we could get by without. 

 

Michel Langer – Contract expires, summer 2020

Verdict – No new deal 

One to forget. A player signed on a short-term deal by Daniel Stendel, he rarely featured and will be remembered for a red card at Celtic Park where he attempted to nail Scott Brown. He missed. 

 

Lewis Moore – Contract expires, summer 2020 (new deal has been offered)

Verdict – Keep 

Another promising hard working youngster who, along with Irving and Hickey, maintained a place under new manager Daniel Stendel. 

I reckon Moore, like McDonald, will find the Championship is his level. However, I feel next season he could become an exciting player for Hearts and one I’d have no problems with keeping, presumably on a relatively low wage. 

Donis Avdijaj – Contract expires, summer 2020

Verdict – No new deal

Like Langer, signed by Stendel on a short-term deal. When signing, he said “There is no city where I don’t score, I score everywhere”. 

Everywhere except Scotland it seems. Another one to forget. 

 

Olly Lee – Contract expires, summer 2021 

Verdict – Sell if there’s offers on the table. 

A player who started his Hearts career off strongly. However, he fell away when injuries hit the squad and form dipped. Due to a cracking derby-winning goal at Easter Road, Hearts fans will remember Lee fondly.

He was loaned out to Gillingham this season and if they want to sign him permanently, I would let him leave. However, if he does stay, I think he could be useful in the Championship. 

 

Callum Morrison – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict- Loan/sell/release

Another young player who has struggled to cement a first team spot at Tynecastle. I haven’t been particularly impressed with the winger so far and with one year remaining on his contract, I wouldn’t be too bothered if Hearts sold him. Morrison spent this season on loan at League One side East Fife and I struggle to see him breaking into the Hearts team next season.

 

Strikers

Steven Maclean – Contract expires, summer 2020 (not believed to have been offered a new deal)

Verdict – Let him go

mclean

A bit-part striker who ended up leading the line without much success. McLean now finds himself much lower down in the pecking order and doesn’t stand to gain much from staying at Tynecastle.

The veteran striker has had a tough time at Hearts. He was initially brought in as a squad player, however the 37 year old found himself starting regularly in the 2018/19 season due to long-term injuries suffered by Steven Naismith and Uche Ikpeazu. 

Maclean was never a goal-scoring striker and received a lot of stick due to the lack of goals he provided. He spent this season on loan at Raith Rovers, which seemed to be a success for both the player and the club. 

Maclean still has something to offer at 37, however League One is probably his level now. 

 

Rory Currie – Contract expires, summer 2020 (no new deal has been offered yet)

Verdict – Let him go

A player I have seen very little of in recent times. He has spent most of his time at Hearts on loan after failing to break into the first team, despite playing regularly for the under 20’s. He spent this season on loan at Linfield. It is unlikely he will play for Hearts again. 

 

Euan Henderson – Contract expires, summer 2020

Verdict – Undecided

I’m very much on the fence about Henderson. I have seen glimpses of quality but also games were he has offered little. A season in the Championship should do him good however with Boyce, Naismith, Washington, Wighton and Ikpeazu all still contracted beyond this summer, it is doubtful whether he will receive much game time. 

If Hearts let him go, I’m sure someone will be quick to pick him up. However, personally, I’d probably rather keep Henderson who’s only 19 and offload Washington and Ikpeazu. 

Craig Wighton – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict – Keep 

Craig Wighton has not had a good time at Hearts, however I personally feel the Championship is his level and for that reason, I’m confident he has the potential to bang them in for Hearts next season.

The striker had a successful loan spell at Arbroath this season and if he is given the chance, I think he could be worth sticking with for one more season. 

 

Connor Washington – Contract expires, summer 2021

Verdict – Move on 

A hard working striker who finds goals hard to come by. However, he does do the dirty work that not all strikers thrive on. Washington will run the channels and is generally good at trying to get a team up the park. 

However next season, I expect Hearts to dominate possession against most teams so personally I don’t think someone like Washington is what Hearts need next season. I’m sure there will be clubs keen on signing the Northern Irishman on a permanent deal and if that is the case, I think Hearts should part ways with Washington.

 

Jamie Walker – Contract expires, summer 2022

Verdict – Undecided 

A player who has had great success at Hearts previously,  but hasn’t since hit the heights during his 2nd spell. Walker was excellent for Hearts in his first spell, however he can be quite lazy and Daniel Stendel was quick to notice that factor. Walker is a talented player, there is no doubt about that. However, if he left Hearts this summer I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. 

 

Uche Ikpeazu – Contract expires, summer 2022 

Verdict – Move on 

uche

Things started off well for the big striker but after suffering a long-term injury, Uche never really recovered and his Hearts career suffered as a result.

The big striker was great in the early months of his Hearts career but after his injury, he struggled to get back to the same level of performance. Nothing against Ikpeazu, he always gives 100%. However, I think as soon as Levein left everybody knew Ikpeazu’s days were numbered.

I think if a club comes in for Uche, it would be best for both the club and player if we went our separate ways. 

 

Liam Boyce – Contract expires, summer 2023

Verdict – Undecided

A striker who is supposedly on upwards of £6k a week, which is a lot of money for a Championship side. Boyce was brought in to try save Hearts from going down but that didn’t work out as planned. Boyce is a great player who should stroll the Championship, however as I say, £6k a week is a lot for the Scottish Championship, especially considering the financial circumstances that clubs currently find themselves in.

If an offer comes in for Boyce that’s reasonable, I think Hearts should sell him. 

 

Steven Naismith – Contract expires, summer 2023

Verdict – Undecided

Again, a striker who is supposedly on upwards of £6k a week. Naismith signed a four-year deal in August 2019 which, considering he turned 33 the following month, raised a few eyebrows. 

When fit, Naismith has been a big player for Hearts and many believe a coaching role is being lined up for the Scottish international after his contract ends.

Personally, I think Hearts are stuck with Naismith. Not many clubs would offer a 32 year old a four year deal – just another Levein masterstroke. 

If an offer comes in, Naismith would be another player that would lift a lot of weight from the wage bill. However, as I say, I think Hearts are stuck with him. 

 

The Manager

Daniel “The Diamond” Stendel – Contract expires, summer 2022

Verdict – Let him go 

A manager on around £9k a week isn’t what Hearts need right now. I’ve got nothing against Stendel but Hearts need to start again and I don’t think Stendel should be the manager of a Scottish Championship team.

There is supposed to be a relegation clause in his contract, which allows Stendel to leave – personally for the good of both parties, I hope he does.

 

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