Hearts want Aaron Hughes to sign new deal then mentor kids

He's 38 and hasn't played much this season but Aaron Hughes is having a huge influence off the pitch, according to 'Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
He's 38 and hasn't played much this season but Aaron Hughes is having a huge influence off the pitch, according to 'Hearts manager Craig Levein. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
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Hearts manager Craig Levein will sit down with his players next week and inform each of them if they have a place in his plans for next season.

Keen to get to the split without distraction, he will utilise the down time between this Saturday’s match with Aberdeen and the start of the post split fixtures on 21 April to convey his decisions on which personnel are surplus to requirements and which players he believes still have a role to play.

Hopeful of Harry Cochrane, below, signing a new contract that will keep him at the club for at least another year or two, he says the determination to keep promoting their own starlets means holding on to experienced role models is vital.

Christophe Berra and Don Cowie have time on their current deals and Levein has made no secret of his desire to keep hold of on-loan Norwich City attacker Steven Naismith but he suggested that there may also be room for Aaron Hughes to agree an extension.

The 38-year-old Northern Ireland international is out of contract in the summer but despite the fact he made just a dozen appearances for the Gorgie side this term, due to a niggling calf injury, his manager claims his presence is as pivotal off the pitch as it is on it.

“If there is ever a player capable of playing another year at his age then it is him. It is just whether he wants to. I would like him to stay but not just because of what he does on the field. When he has been fit and available he has been steady but it is his lifestyle, the way he treats people, his humility, even after everything he has done in the game. It is great for me to have him and Don and Christophe and Steven in the dressing room as examples to the young players.

“We will continue this model of developing young players and have experienced players coming in, who maybe will only play 20 games a season but have reached a high level in their career. The very nature of who they are and what they have been through is a great example and Aaron and Don and Christophe and Steven are fantastic with the young boys.

“I walked past the video analysis room and Aaron was in there with young Chris Hamilton. The onus is on the kids to ask questions. Chris is 16 and in a dressing room with Aaron, who has played hundreds of games in the Premiership. If it was me I’d be asking every question I could think of.”

Levein has seen that approach benefit fledgling professionals time and again.

“I see Aaron spending time with them, and Don and Naisy doing the same. They’re in the dressing room with these guys who have all that experience. So it would be crazy not to take advantage of that.

“I look back to my time as a player and never stop talking about how grateful I was to Sandy Jardine for helping me on and off the field. Elvis [Steven Pressley] did it with Andy Webster, now Christophe and Aaron are doing it with John Souttar. I lived through it and I understand the benefits.

“We have some really, really
top young players just now. We’re re-negotiating a contract with Harry Cochrane which will hopefully be done soon and underneath the group we have just now we have another nine or ten players who I think are amazing.

“So I am really excited about the future but one thing for sure is we’ll continue to sign players like Aaron and Christophe because I think their 
value on the field is great but off the field is immeasurable.”