Hearts will field a strong team for tomorrow’s Youth Cup final with up to nine players carrying first-team experience.
However, head coach Robbie Neilson will not allow centre-back John Souttar to face Motherwell at Hampden.
Under-20 coach Jon Daly asked Neilson to let Souttar play but was told he can’t be risked.
Jordan McGhee, Liam Smith, Dario Zanatta, Robbie Buchanan, Angus Beith, Sean McKirdy, Liam Henderson, Callumn Morrison and Alistair Roy have all featured at senior level. They will all be involved in the glamour climax to the youth campaign.
Souttar, who joined Hearts from Dundee United three months ago, is eligible but is wanted for first-team duty against Celtic on Saturday.
Daly explained how he tried to persuade Neilson without success. “It’s something we’ve spoken to Robbie about. I’ve asked for John Souttar but he won’t give me him,” he smiled.
“We’ll have a fairly strong squad. Most of the young boys who are in and around the first team now have played for the under-20s for most of the season. Robbie has been in this role as well and understands that the players want to play. They’ve taken part in the competition and they want to try and help finish it off. That’s good for us because it means we’ll have a strong squad.”
Hearts’ success at first-team level in recent seasons – they won the Championship title in record time last year and have now qualified for Europe – stems from promoting players through the Riccarton youth academy. Neilson is determined to continue that policy.
“It’s great to have a manager like Robbie who isn’t scared to promote players who’ve done well,” said Daly. “Once players see the manager will promote boys, it makes your job that bit easier because the players are going to give you everything on a daily basis. They know the rewards are there to get in and around the first team.”