GARY LOCKE has enlisted Gary Naysmith for Hearts’ pre-season campaign because he needs protection for left-back Kevin McHattie.
Locke revealed today that he considers 20-year-old McHattie a key player as he continues to grow in stature, and having a deputy for him in friendly games reduces the chances of burnout.
Hearts are unable to register any new players after entering administration last month and Locke has been left with one of the youngest squads in Tynecastle history ahead of the new SPFL season.
Naysmith asked to do pre- season at Riccarton and has featured as a trialist in all three of Hearts’ summer matches so far – against Dinamo Bucharest, Dunfermline and Raith Rovers. On each occasion, he has replaced McHattie as a substitute.
The 34-year-old is keen to stay fit after leaving Aberdeen in May and offers Locke an able-bodied replacement to ensure McHattie is not overused during pre-season.
“Gary is looking to get himself fit and we don’t have a lot of cover for McHattie,” said Locke, whose only other option for left-back is 16-year-old Jordan McGhee. “The way Kevin is playing, he’s a very big asset for us so I want to try and protect him.
“I’m giving Gary a run in the games and he’s delighted with that. It’s nothing more than that.
“Gary’s training with us and he’s a great influence about the dressing room. It was a no-brainer for me when he asked to come in and do pre-season. I feel his qualities can rub off on the younger players.
“Christophe Berra has been training with us and he is the same. I think he’s got a move in the pipeline, but he’s looking to keep himself fit as well.”