DALE CARRICK and Scott Gallacher did not join their Hearts colleagues for this week’s pre-season trip to Ireland as they are considering leaving the club in search of more regular game time.
The pair were notable absentees from the 24-player party that flew to Dublin on Wednesday morning, with both remaining in Scotland to ponder their next move after falling down the pecking order at Tynecastle.
Carrick is understood to be close to joining Kilmarnock, although Falkirk are also keen to sign the striker and are monitoring his situation. The 21-year-old, who was badly hindered by injuries, made only six appearances in total for Hearts last season, with the last of those coming in October.
After discussions with head coach Robbie Neilson, the Riccarton academy graduate knows he is likely to remain a peripheral figure at Tynecastle, with the likes of Juanma Delgado, Gavin Reilly, Osman Sow and Soufian El Hassnaoui providing stiff competition for an attacking place.
Carrick has decided that he is at a stage in his career where he needs to play regularly and it looks only a matter of when and where he moves. With his contract due to expire next summer, Hearts are likely to be willing to come to an agreement similar to that which allowed James Keatings – now at Hibs – to leave when it became apparent he wouldn’t be a regular starter.
“We’re still unsure with what we’re going to do with Dale,” Neilson told the Evening News.
“He’s not had a lot of game time last season, mainly because he was injured, but I’ve had a word with him and it was similar to the chat I had with Keatings as to whether he wanted to stay or go. We’ll see in the next few weeks what he wants to do. It’s up to Dale.”
A reunion with Gary Locke at Kilmarnock appears to be Carrick’s favoured option. The striker produced his best form under the former Hearts manager when he scored six of his eight career goals in the second half of the 2013/14 campaign. He is viewed as the ideal foil for veteran forward Kris Boyd, who this week returned to Rugby Park for a third spell.
Gallacher could also be on his way out of Tynecastle. The former Rangers goalkeeper made only three appearances for Hearts last season, with Neil Alexander commanding the No.1 jersey and Jack Hamilton, who is in Dublin, providing strong competition for the understudy role. At 25 years old, Gallacher knows he needs to play more regularly.
“Scott’s in the same kind of boat as Dale,” Neilson confirmed.
Meanwhile, Alim Ozturk is poised to return to the Hearts side for tomorrow’s friendly against Shelbourne at Tolka Park.
The Turk, a contender to be named as the new club captain, sat out Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Bohemians as he feels his way back to fitness following a minor stomach operation at the end of last season. In his absence, midfielder Prince Buaben filled in at centre-half in the second half of the Dalymount Park friendly, although Neilson explained that this was merely a temporary measure.
“I don’t see Prince playing in defence for us, he’s a central midfielder,” said the head coach. “We just played him there because we were short of defenders. Alim wasn’t quite ready for Wednesday but he’ll come back in against Shelbourne and take that centre-half berth.”
Meanwhile, Hearts’ friendly at home to Everton has been rescheduled for Sunday, 26 July, with a 3pm kick-off. The match against the English Premier League side was initially set for the previous day, but had to be switched on police orders to avoid a clash with the Petrofac Cup tie between Hibs and Rangers, which is also taking place in the Capital.