Hearts have moved to sign up three of their young Scottish stars on longer-term contracts, with Jack Hamilton, John Souttar and Rory Currie all committing themselves to the Tynecastle club until 2020.
But while head coach Ian Cathro has admitted he would love a team comprised wholly of homegrown talent, he says that neither he nor the fans would willingly jeopardise the club’s status among the best in the league to chase that dream.
“If we could, of course [I would want that] and ideally if they all came through the academy that would be even more magnificent,” he said. “But that’s not the reality because what wouldn’t be good and no-one would like was to be a team of 11 Scots who were fighting relegation. So there are a number of factors. But, 100 per cent, this is in the history of the club and the countless number of young players who have come through here are evidence of this. That will always be an important part of this club.”
But while a totally tartan set-up may not be possible nor completely ideal, Cathro does believe they can ensure a core of Scottish players.
“It’s essential and it always will be,” added Cathro, pictured. “There should be no confusion about that. One of the things we spoke about a in the January window was it’s a complicated market, we wanted to manage the market, assess it and try to make improvements.
“I feel we did that and it was positive for the squad balance and our options, but the focus is on this club developing its own young players and making sure they have the support and the opportunity to become first-team players. Second to that is young Scottish players who come from different places but know the history of this club, and all the little idiosyncrasies of this league and life here. I don’t undervalue that, at all.”
While nine new additions were made at the start of the year, Cathro has continued to give Currie game time, saying he has been impressed by his technical ability and on-field maturity. Only 19, the striker signed for the club in the summer after he was released by Rangers and he has made seven appearances and scored one goal. He always backed himself to make it but he says the difference is having a club and a manager who believe in him too.
“Hopefully the hard work keeps going and I can have a bright future here at Hearts,” said Currie. “Obviously the manager expects an impact. He puts me on and he believes in me. He expects me to go on and change the game. It shows they’re trying to bring through talented boys from this country.”
Cathro’s immediate priority is his players giving a performance against Aberdeen today “that doesn’t allow people to raise the same questions and doubts about us. We are probably keeping it as simple as that. I have very strong belief that if we do the things that we want to do, we can win any game in this league.”
Last weekend they arrested their run of disappointing results with an emphatic victory over Hamilton.But the contract extensions show Cathro is also considering the bigger picture and he says the decision to tie up the promising trio was a straightforward one, claiming they each have the prospect of a positive future.
After a period of stunted investment under the former regime, exacerbated by the uncertainty of administration, pickings for advancement have been thinner than the club would like, but a rejuvenated approach means that this season there are eight youngsters stepping up to full-time football from the academy ranks, indicating the move towards homegrown talent is genuine, according to Cathro.
“It’s quite a significant intake of talent which is an exciting thing,” he said. “Looking further down the line we will plan how our squad develops, knowing that we’ve got this talent underneath.
“It takes time. But we are working on making sure that the correct blend is here so that the fans feel connected.”