Hearts take first steps towards youth focus as trio head to Raith on loan
HEARTS have confirmed that they are sending three of the brightest stars in the club’s under-19 side on loan to Raith Rovers for a month.
Jason Holt, David Smith and Jamie Walker, who all played in a bounce match for the Kirkcaldy side at the weekend, will return to Tynecastle in time to join the first-team squad for the New Year, when Hearts plan to release a number of their senior players.
Other members of the youth squad could also go out on loan shortly as coach Darren Murray continues his policy of preparing as many as possible for promotion to the first team. However, following director Sergejus Fedotovas’s explanation that there will be no headlong rush to sell off large numbers of players when the transfer window opens, there is a feeling at Tynecastle that the present success of the 19s should not be jeopardised if at all avoidable.
Murray’s team beat Kilmarnock at the weekend despite the loss of Holt, Smith and Walker, and the coach explained yesterday that he felt the trio had in any case outgrown his side. “It’s a great vehicle where the players learn the game,” Murrray said of the under-19 league.
“They train all the time and basically learn the game, but there comes a point in time when you have to get them out playing against men.
“It’s part of their development. They are probably guaranteed a starting place at under-19 level but not in a first team right away, so we’re putting them to the right club. [Raith manager] John McGlynn, who I have great admiration for, will look after them. These lads now have to go and fight for their place there, in a team that isn’t picking up a great deal of results – but I’m sure with John’s coaching ability that will change. He now has three of the best young players in Scotland and we’re hopeful for them. When they come back they can maybe push for a place in the first-team squad.”
Holt and Smith have already made their debuts for the senior team, and it is hoped that exposure to the physical challenge of the First Division will equip them for more regular service in the SPL. The three all signed new contracts with Hearts last week before being sent out to Raith.
A number of other Hearts players are already out on loan, including Denis Prychynenko. The top scorer for Hearts’ under-19s last season, Prychynenko was farmed out to Raith after becoming too old for the age-group side.
Like the three who have just joined him at Stark’s Park, Prychynenko has the ability to become a part of Paulo Sergio’s first team, and it is hoped his time at Raith will give him some valuable experience too.
The other players Hearts could recall from loans at the turn of the year come into two categories: those with substantial first-team experience, such as Calum Elliot and Jason Thomson, and those who have yet to make the breakthrough. Elliot is at Dundee, where he hopes to enjoy a spell free from the injuries which have troubled him over recent seasons, while Thomson is at Dunfermline. In more prosperous times both might have found themselves surplus to requirements at Tynecastle, but now could be back in Sergio’s thinking by January.
Goalkeeper Mark Ridgers, midfielder Matthew Park and striker Robert Ogleby are on loan at East Fife. Ogleby was cleared to play in the Scottish Cup at the weekend, meaning he cannot turn out for Hearts in the competition this season. Park was also cleared, but did not play and is therefore still available to Hearts in the competition. But Ridgers was not allowed to take part in the win over East Stirling. With Janos Balogh out of contract and sure to be released in January, and Marian Kello one of the Hearts squad’s most valuable members, Scotland under-21 internationalist Ridgers could be one of the first to be promoted to the first team.