Craig Levein hints at offer of new Hearts deal for Aaron Hughes
The Northern Ireland defender turns 39 in November and has started 16 club games this season.
But Levein feels Hughes is such a positive influence off the field that he is set to keep him at Tynecastle.
The former Scotland boss said: “I haven’t had that conversation with Aaron yet but my view on it would be, if he is willing to continue...
“He has not just added a solidity on the field, he has been an inspiration off the field with the way he lives his life and behaves as a football player and the professionalism that shines through in everything he does.
“It’s not tangible off-the-field stuff but he has been a huge plus for us, particularly for the young players to have the opportunity to tap into his knowledge.
“I was speaking to the parents of a young lad, talking about having these players who have been through everything that could possibly happen in a football career. To have a player in the building who has that experience and for a young player not to tap into that would be a waste.
“It’s important for the kids to recognise that players like Aaron, Christophe (Berra) and Don (Cowie) are there to help. They all at various times sit down with the kids and help with video analysis and answer questions that kids have always got.
“One of the reasons we can give game time to young players is because we have very solid professionals who have been through everything and seen everything and done everything and are there to help them. These senior players come on the understanding that part of the role is to impart knowledge and help people.”
Levein was already well on with his plans for next season before Hearts’ Ladbrokes Premiership top-six status was confirmed by Motherwell’s defeat by Aberdeen on Tuesday.
With Hearts six points behind fifth-placed Kilmarnock and set for a supporting role in an exciting race for second place and European spots between Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibernian, Levein was not over-enthused about the achievement. The season had been played out on the backdrop of a change of coach, injury problems and a delayed return to a redeveloped Tynecastle.
“It hasn’t been a season I feel hugely excited about but we have had a lot of problems, a lot of things to contend with that aren’t what I would consider normal,” Levein said ahead of Saturday’s visit of Aberdeen.
“We still have time to improve our position but we will have to be very good to do that. Top six is the bare minimum we want, our aspirations are higher than that.”