Hearts are hoping to engineer the arrival of an under-21 signing in time for Sunday’s crucial League Cup semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The Edinburgh club, who have been in administration all season and are subject to a league-imposed transfer ban, plan to cancel 39-year-old goalkeeping coach Alan Combe’s registration as a player to make way for a new face under the SPFL’s one-out, one-in guidelines.
However, with the SFA’s signing embargo of players aged 21 and over running until Saturday, the club would only be able to bolster their squad with a recruit under that age to replace Combe.
Midfielder Adam King’s seemingly imminent switch to Swansea would also open up the chance of Hearts adding a second player next month.
The 18-year-old was yesterday undergoing a medical ahead of his proposed £150,000 move to the Welsh club, and veteran Rudi Skacel, who is back training with Gary Locke’s side, is reported to be ready to sign on the dotted line at Hearts for a third time in his career once the SFA’s separate signing ban expires at the start of February. Any new arrivals at the Premiership basement side, however, would have to be ratified by the SPFL.
The prospect of bolstering a paper-thin squad is doubtless a welcome boost to Locke, who has expressed fears that the young players available to him will be overstretched by playing too many games.
While Hearts sit a hefty 19 points adrift at the foot of the table, a first win since November at Ross County on Saturday has at least boosted confidence ahead of the cup clash.
Locke was further cheered yesterday by the news that his assistant Billy Brown will be alongside him in the dugout for a further 28 days after his contract was extended.
Brown was initially expected to depart after the 18 January due to what was described as essential financial cut-backs.
Following subsequent talks between Locke, senior players and BDO administrator Bryan Jackson, it was decided that Brown would see out his contract. However, with the terms of that agreement due to expire just two days before Sunday’s semi-final showdown at Easter Road, Jackson has handed the 63-year-old a new short-term deal.
Any further reprieve for Brown is likely to depend on the outcome of the Foundation of Hearts’ long-running efforts to take control of the club.
Jackson is still awaiting a draft agreement from Ubig, the collapsed Lithuanian investment company who are owed £8.2 million by Hearts.
Persuading Ubig to finally hand over their 50 per cent shareholding in the club is regarded as one of the last major obstacles blocking the Foundation’s hoped-for takeover.