HEARTS star Prince Buaben is set to pen a new long-term deal with the Edinburgh club following a sparkling start to the season.
The former Dundee United midfielder signed a one-year contract in the close season but has immediately become a mainstay in the Hearts side, playing 13 games during their surge to the summit of the Championship.
Potential suitors are able to approach the Ghanaian on pre-contract terms in January, meaning the club are keen to secure an extension by the New Year.
Buaben’s agent Ladi Salami, who also represents his Jambos team-mate Morgaro Gomis, attended Saturday’s Championship clash against Rangers and held talks with Tynecastle head coach Robbie Neilson.
Neilson insists the parties have verbally agreed to extend the player’s stay in Gorgie beyond next year, with Buaben expected to put pen to paper in the near future.
“We’ve spoken to him and we both have an agreement that we’ll get something done,” confirmed the Hearts boss. “He is happy and we’re happy so I don’t see there being any problems.
“Prince has been fantastic for us so we’d like to get something done. I don’t think we’re too far away from that.
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“It would be a longer-term contract. Prince is pleased and he’s enjoying it here. It’s a case of just getting things done but it will probably be nearer January time before we get things finalised with him.”
Meanwhile, Neil McCann insists Rangers can overhaul Hearts’ nine-point lead at the summit of the Scottish Championship after claiming the Glasgow giants boast a better squad than their title rivals.
The former Scotland winger, who represented both clubs during his playing days, believes it is “critical” that Ally McCoist guides his side to promotion this term.
Goals by Jason Holt and Jamie Walker handed the Jambos their second win over the Gers this season, extending their unbeaten start to the league campaign. Nevertheless, McCann remains steadfast in his belief that McCoist has more strength in depth and reckons Hearts could succumb to a dip in form as the season drags on.
“Hearts put down a real marker and nine points, even at this early stage, is a lot of points to try and grab back,” said the 40-year-old.
“But I do believe Rangers can catch them. I think Rangers have the stronger squad and Hearts will dip at some point this season.
“Ann Budge, the Hearts owner, mentioned that she didn’t believe Hearts needed to win the league. Well, I think it is critical to Rangers. They are still in a lot of trouble financially, they needed Mike Ashley to bail them out recently. Rangers need to go up.
“So far Ally McCoist has ticked the boxes, he has won the leagues required – and I still believe they are well equipped to win the Championship but they need to step up and get results.”
Former Rangers favourite John Brown launched a withering attack on the club’s senior players Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch this week, branding the trio “a disgrace”. While stopping short of that level of criticism, McCann insists Rangers’ performances have simply not reflected the quality and experience within the squad.
“It is all well having an experienced squad, that’s not enough,” the Dunfermline first-team coach continued.
“You need to match the energy. It isn’t enough to have the ability and the know-how – you need to match the energy, enthusiasm and application of the teams around you.
“The Championship is full of hungry players trying to make a name for themselves. They are throwing down the gauntlet and, at the moment, Rangers are coming up short.”
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