Sporting director Joe Savage and manager Robbie Neilson want a new centre-back, another forward and a goalkeeper if possible. What they don’t want is a chaotic last few hours before Scotland’s summer registration window shuts at midnight on the 31st.
A deal for Bristol City’s Taylor Moore is edging closer and, if agreed, then he could travel north over the weekend. “He’s one that’s been put into us,” confirmed Neilson.
“There are a couple of other centre-halves as well that we need to recruit in that area and we’ve been trying to get the right one in for a while. There’s a couple of opportunities that might come up in the next day or two.”
Moore is the preferred option ahead of Hamburg’s Scotland internationalist David Bates. “He’s another one who has been put in. I’m sure there are a lot of clubs looking for centre-halves at the moment and it’s getting the right one in.”
Neilson explained that he is not keen to let negotiations drag on and lead to a busy deadline day. “I hope not, I’d like to try and get something in over the weekend. On the last day it can become frantic.
“We’ve been pretty patient with what we’ve done and touch wood we’ve got the right ones in so far. We don’t need much more now, we’re looking for another attacking player, a centre half and a back-up goalie to help us out.”
Players going on loan
There are also deals to discuss for players leaving Riccarton. Most of them will likely be loans. “We had a meeting on Wednesday and a lot of the younger ones will go out and play – Connor Smith, Euan Henderson, Aidan Denholm, Leo Watson. There might be some more senior ones that potentially go out as well.”
One deal was completed earlier this week when Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn arrived on a season-long loan. He is primed for a debut at Dundee United tomorrow.
“It’s good to get him in,” admitted Neilson. “It’s been a while to be honest – probably been a month trying to get him in the door. I thought I had him about a week to ten days ago then it stalled a bit. It’s good to finally get him here and you can see already in training he brings real quality to us.
“I think there was a lot of interest in him down south but we spoke to him a while ago about trying to sell the club to him. We sent him a video of this place [Riccarton], the stadium, the fan base and the city and we think it’s a good fit.
“We had hoped to get him in and then we saw he was on the [Liverpool] bench and you think that it might hinder our chances. I think the following week he was in the squad and then we managed to get him. He’s here and hopefully he does well.
“He had a lot of options, he’s a Welsh internationalist. We’ve got great facilities here and a good platform to play. From Liverpool’s pespective they were just wanting him to play week in, week out and I would expect him to do that.”
Woodburn followed Beni Baningime, the former Everton midfielder, to Gorgie from Merseyside. Both arrived harbouring ambitions to rejuvenate their careers after previous disappointing loan spells.
“It’s the market we’re in,” explained Neilson. “It was the same with Beni, he came on to the scene at Everton and had a couple of loans that didn’t work out for him. Ben was the same and we hope to get him into an environment where he can kick on like Beni has and give him that platform.
“If they burst into the first-team, then go on two loans to the Championship and are unbelievable then they might not be here. We have to look at ones we can who have quality, but we can develop them here.”
The Hearts manager returns to his former club tomorrow just over year since making a sharp exit to rejoin Hearts. Micky Mellon was his original successor but Tam Courts is now in charge having initially coached United’s under-18 side while Neilson was there.
“The plan up there was to promote from within like they're trying to do with the young players, so I wasn't overly surprised at that,” said Neilson, adding that he was happy seeing United retain their Premiership place last season after getting them promoted in 2020.
“I'm pleased for the players we brought in. I still have a good relationship with a number of them – Ben Siegrist, Mark Connolly, Liam Smith, Calum Butcher, Jamie Robson, Ian Harkes.
“The majority of the team there is the team we brought in. Gordon [Forrest] and Lee [McCulloch] are still in contact with a number of them but hopefully we get a good result on Saturday.”
To do so, they must negotiate a way past the second-choice United goalkeeper. Trevor Carson is deputising for the injured Siegrist, who could be missing for a while with a knee injury.
“I'm gutted for Siegrist,” said Neilson. “When I came in he was No.2 and we put him in as No.1 and he flourished from there. I thought he would probably have moved in the summer so I'm gutted he's picked up an injury, but I'm sure he will come back well.”