Hearts: Should They Stay or Should They Go? (2021)
With another overhaul expected at Tynecastle this summer, ENRG Sport’s Hearts Correspondent, Jamie McIntosh, takes a look at who the Jambos should be looking to keep and who they should be offloading.
Eleven months ago, I wrote one of these articles anticipating a large overhaul of a squad that finished the 2019/20 season at the foot of the Scottish Premiership. I didn’t anticipate having to write a similar article at the end of the following season…
Following their demotion to the Scottish Championship, Hearts had the opportunity to completely rebuild their squad and started this by replacing Daniel Stendel with former manager and player Robbie Neilson.
Last time around, Neilson led a Hearts side which blitzed a Scottish Championship that included both Hibs and Rangers, before guiding Hearts to a third-place finish in their first season back in the top flight. Neilson left Hearts for MK Dons in December 2016 with Hearts sitting second in the Scottish Premiership after defeating Rangers at Tynecastle in Neilson’s final match in charge.
Every supporter has their own opinion about Neilson, but when Hearts reappointed him in June 2020, the move did make a lot of sense – Neilson had a good record in the Championship and was familiar with the hierarchy at the club from his previous spell.
Hearts are currently ten points clear at the top of the Championship with only five games to go. Robbie Neilson has reminded us all on numerous occasions now that the main aim before the season was to get the club promoted at the first time of asking. That objective is now inevitable, but humiliating defeats in the Scottish Cup and the League Cup to part time sides Brora Rangers and Alloa respectively has resulted in the majority of the fanbase calling for Neilson to be replaced.
Neilson isn’t the only one who may be moved on this summer though – this is my view on who Hearts should hold on to and who should be shown the door.
Craig Gordon – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Hearts’ comfortable lead at the top of the Championship is largely down to their rivals all taking points off each other, however Craig Gordon is also a huge part of their leading position. Hearts have won many games this season by tight margins and in just about all of them, Craig Gordon has made a world class save. Gordon featured in the most recent Scotland squad and probably has a fair chance of being part of Scotland’s Euro’s set up. Definitely one of the easier decisions to make in this article .
Ross Stewart – On loan from Livingston
Verdict: Part ways
Understandably, Stewart has been playing second fiddle to Gordon this season, but has featured a handful of times, including in one of the club’s worst ever results against Brora Rangers. Stewart’s contract at Livingston expires in a few weeks and given that both Colin Doyle and Bobby Zlamal are out of contract this summer, Hearts could move to bring their current back up back as a free agent. However, I would personally rather see Harry Stone come into matchday squads as backup to Gordon.
Colin Doyle – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Part ways
One of three poor goalkeepers on Hearts books last season and one I’m sure at least 95% of Hearts fans would be happy to see the back of this summer.
Bobby Zlamal – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Part ways
Another easy decision. Like Doyle, Zlamal was a bomb-scare at the best of times and, alongside 2019/20 loanee Joel Pereira, is probably a large part of why Hearts are in the Scottish Championship just now.
Harry Stone – Contract expires in Summer 2023
A young goalkeeper who is very highly thought of at the club. Stone is currently on loan at Albion Rovers, but next season, I would like to see more of him and envisage him as being a potential backup for Gordon on a more consistent basis.
Aidy White – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Part ways
Usually deployed as a left winger by Neilson, White has struggled to feature consistently from the start, with most of his appearances coming as a substitute. White has showed glimpses of talent, like when he used a level of skill and pace (which most fans thought wasn’t there) to accelerate away from Kristoffer Ajer in the 2019/20 Scottish Cup final. These moments have been few and far between however and White has struggled with injury niggles – for those reasons, I feel it is best if Hearts don’t offer the full back a new contract.
John Souttar – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: Keep (but be prepared for another injury)
Alongside Raith Rovers’ Lewis Vaughan, Souttar has arguably had some of the worst luck in Scottish football when it comes to serious injuries. Souttar is undoubtedly a talented defender, however he has never been able to take his game to the next level by featuring regularly due to injury. Souttar still has a year left on his deal at Tynecastle, so one feels this is a big year for the defender.
Craig Halkett – Contract expires in Summer 2022
In my opinion, Craig Halkett has been one of the most disappointing players to wear maroon in recent times. Arriving from Livingston in 2019, Halkett seemed the perfect partner for John Souttar, as the Livingston side which he captained had an extremely no-nonsense defence and Halkett, alongside Declan Gallagher and Alan Lithgow, was the core to it. At Tynecastle however, Halkett has been part of a pathetic Hearts backline and seems to be nowhere near the player he was when playing at the Tony Macaroni.
Christophe Berra – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Already signed pre-contract with Raith Rovers
A terrific servant to Hearts, but someone who hasn’t been the same since an injury in August 2018. The correct decision to part ways and a decision that maybe should’ve been made last summer.
Mihai Popescu – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict – Let him go
When the Romanian signed for Hearts in September of last year, the immediate reaction was relatively positive – St. Mirren fans didn’t have a bad word to say on their former defender and they were disappointed that he wasn’t returning to Paisley. Having said all that, the centre back has struggled in maroon and along with Berra and Halkett, I would like to see him depart Tynecastle in the summer.
Stephen Kingsley – Contract expires in Summer 2022
After hitting the ground running in his first few weeks at Tynecastle, Kingsley signed a one-year contract extension. Since then, he hasn’t been as good, but overall, he has been one of Hearts’ better players. That being said, Kingsley is still part of a very leaky Hearts defence, make of that what you will…
Michael Smith – Contract expires in Summer 2022
A consistent player and more often than not, when Smith doesn’t perform, Hearts don’t. Once again though, like Kingsley, he is part of a defence that concedes far too many goals.
Shay Logan – On loan from Aberdeen
Considering he hasn’t played a match for Hearts yet, it’s very difficult to pass judgment on the full back. Taking into account the lack of football he has played recently, I’d probably rather look elsewhere as far as next season is concerned – Logan is now 33, which probably means Hearts will offer him a four-year deal…
Jamie Brandon – Contract expires in Summer 2022
An inconsistent player who, to be fair, is probably still learning, having just turned 23. A player who could sometimes be a bit rash in a tackle, but he did show signs of promise and considering his age, I’d be happy to see him feature more regularly next season, with injuries preventing more consistent playtime this year.
Cameron Logan – Contract expires in Summer 2023
Currently on loan at Cove Rangers, Cameron Logan is a player many Hearts fans would rather have seen brought back to Tynecastle, as opposed to signing Shay Logan, especially if he has often been an unused sub at Cove. Neilson told the Evening News that Logan has a future at Hearts, so hopefully we’ll see more of him next season.
Andy Halliday – Contract expires in Summer 2022
When Hearts signed Halliday in September 2020, it was met with mixed reactions. Halliday hadn’t featured at all since leaving his boyhood club Rangers earlier in the year, so he could be excused for being a little rusty. Many people would tell you that Halliday is a player Hearts didn’t need to sign and to be frank, I’m inclined to agree with that statement. Halliday may be more influential next season when Hearts face tougher tasks in the Scottish Premiership. That remains to be seen however, which means I’m still undecided on the Scot.
Peter Haring – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: On trial next season
This one hurts. Haring was probably my favourite Hearts player in his first season at the club, but since that horrific injury he suffered, much like Berra, he has never got back to the level he was at previously. Neilson doesn’t appear to be his biggest fan going by his lack of involvement this season, however you can hardly blame him going by some of the Austrian’s performances this season. Unless he improves, it’s farewell next summer.
Andy Irving – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Give him what he wants!
Irving has the potential to have a team built around him, but unfortunately for Hearts, he seems to have recognised his potential and is nearing a Tynecastle exit. His contract is up in a matter of weeks and I’d imagine a move down South beckons for the 20-year-old and personally, I think he’ll handle the potential step up with considerable ease.
Loic Damour – Contract expires in Summer 2023
Don’t really have much to say about Damour – Hearts have tried and failed to move the Frenchman on in previous windows, but when he does move on, I’m sure the majority of Hearts fans will welcome his departure.
Aaron McEneff – Contract expires in Summer 2023
One of the more exciting players in the current Hearts squad. Signed from Shamrock Rovers in the January transfer window, McEneff looks like a good prospect when playing in behind a striker, but he often tends to drop deep and becomes less effective from that position. However, he’s still a promising player if Hearts can utilise him correctly.
Connor Smith – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Another youngster who has featured in the first team, but then dropped off the face of the Earth. Smith had a particularly impressive showing at Easter Road alongside Harry Cochrane, showing he can handle playing in big games. Currently on loan at Cove Rangers , he is another player I feel may have been better being at Tynecastle this season considering the poor-quality Hearts have in wide areas just now. Smith still has another year at Tynecastle and only turned 19 in February.
Harry Cochrane – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Maybe try playing him…
Another youngster who impressed under Craig Levein, however, since then, Cochrane has disappeared. The youngster did feature in Betfred Cup matches last summer under Neilson before being loaned out to Montrose for the remainder of the season. It is yet to be seen whether he will be at Tynecastle next season, however, I’m leaning towards no.
Lewis Moore – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Another youngster who has shown promise but hasn’t managed to nail down a spot in the matchday squad, never-mind the starting XI. Moore featured a lot under Stendel, but hardly had any time under Neilson before being loaned out to Arbroath. Another winger who I’d rather have seen get more of a chance as opposed to some of those currently in the matchday squads.
Scott McGill – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: Play him
McGill broke through under Robbie Neilson, making his debut at Bayview against Cowdenbeath and looked promising enough. Still only 19 and another player I’d like to have seen feature more this season. I imagine he may be loaned out next season, however.
Gary Mackay-Steven – Contract expires in Summer 2023
A three-and-a-half-year deal for a 30-year-old winger doesn’t excite many, but Hearts supporters did seem relatively content with the signing of GMS in January. It hasn’t worked out so far however and the former Dundee United, Celtic and Aberdeen midfielder has regularly been pocketed by Championship full backs. Having arrived from the MLS, GMS maybe deserves the benefit of a pre-season to get his fitness up, but I’ve been far from impressed so far. He needs some big performances next season to win supporters over.
Elliott Frear – Contract expires in Summer 2021
Verdict: Part ways
Frear signed on a one-year deal last summer and unlike other players in this Hearts squad, you can’t say the winger hasn’t tried to make a difference. Unfortunately he just doesn’t seem to have the quality in his game to do so. Not one that will be spoken about in Gorgie for years to come.
Jamie Walker – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: Sell if offers are on the table
Walker has struggled to earn starts under Neilson this season, apparently down to issues with his fitness. His introduction off the bench has often swung a game in Hearts’ favour, but he rarely does well when starting. Walker is a player who divides opinions in the Hearts support, for obvious reasons.
Josh Ginnelly – On loan from Preston North End
Verdict: Part ways
A very exciting player on his day and by far Hearts’ best wide player – as usual though there is a catch. Ginnelly seems to struggle with injuries (which is probably why he’s playing in the Scottish Championship). Even though he’s out of contract with Preston in the summer, because of his injury struggles, I’d be reluctant to offer him a contract in Summer.
Gervane Kastaneer – On loan from Coventry City
Verdict: Part ways
Another player who has been really disappointing – hard to put up much of a defence for the winger.
Euan Henderson – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: On trial next season
Another player who featured mostly under Stendel, Henderson has shown glimpses of talent since making his debut in 2017, but I feel the Championship may be his level. With another year on his contract, I’d be happy to utilise him next season and see if the 20-year-old can improve – having said that, if a club comes in for Henderson, I wouldn’t be against offloading him with Hearts likely to be back in the top flight next season.
Steven Naismith – Contract expires in Summer 2023
Having sat beside Naismith in the stands (whilst he’s been injured) you can tell how passionate he is and how much he wants to win. Having spoken about leadership – or rather the lack of it – following the recent defeat to Queen of the South, Naismith certainly has those much-needed leadership attributes. However, he also has injury problems – it is difficult to imagine the 34-year-old playing in the top flight until his contract expires. A coaching role seems probable.
Liam Boyce – Contract expires in Summer 2023
Boyce is Hearts’ top goalscorer this season and is a striker who has more than just goals in his game. He is on a decent wage, but certainly delivers the goals to make him worth the money. It will be interesting to see how the Northern Irishman fairs in the top flight next season.
Jordan Roberts – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict– On trial next season/offload
To say Jordan Roberts has been brutal at Hearts would be an understatement. Despite spending plenty of time on the wing in maroon, the forward has been deployed centrally in Graham Alexander’s Motherwell team while on loan at Fir Park, seeming to have upped his game in the process. I’m happy to sell if Motherwell want to bring him in permanently, but would ultimately be happy to give him a second chance at Tynecastle should no bids be received.
Armand Gnanduillet – Contract expires in Summer 2022
Verdict: Too early to say
Signed on an 18-month deal in January, Gnanduillet has already scored five goals for the Jambos but the jury is still out for the big striker. Needs to improve on other aspects of his game, but I’d imagine he’s still settling into life at Hearts and improvement is probable.
Robbie Neilson – Contract expires in Summer 2023
Verdict: Part ways at the end of the season
Having been brought in to take Hearts back to the Scottish Premiership, Neilson has certainly delivered on that expectation, but performances haven’t been great and supporters have been quick to call for his removal. I think the right decision is to part ways in the summer, but ultimately, it’s not up to me and I imagine he’ll be in charge for the first game of the new season in August.