Youngsters preparing to step into first team

EVEN before news broke yesterday that Hearts had again been unable to pay their senior players on time, at least one member of the Tynecastle staff was showing that he had the foresight to plan ahead.

Referring to the possibility that some of his under-19 squad could be required for first-team duties in the new year, coach Darren Murray said that he thought the time was right for some of his players to go out on loan.

“It’s maybe time to put two or three of the best younger ones out on loan,” Murray said on the Hearts website. “We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in January in terms of players coming in and going out, so we maybe need to get them ready in case they’re going to step in.

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“We believe we’ve got three or four who could go on and play in the first team, so we’ll maybe put some out on loan this week and get them ready for the rigours of first-team football.”

Murray’s team have been outstanding in the league over the past couple of seasons, and players such as Jason Holt have already shown they have the potential to play at senior SPL level. As it is unclear how many senior players may leave Tynecastle during the January transfer window, there is no knowing how many under-19s may have to make the step up, but there is little doubt that some experience of first-team football in the First or Second Division would stand them in good stead.

In addition to those players who are currently with the club and may be sent out on loan, Hearts also have a number of youngsters who are currently gaining experience elsewhere, such as Denis Prychynenko at Raith Rovers, and Robert Ogleby and Mark Ridgers at East Fife.

“I spoke to [East Fife manager] John Robertson the other day and he says Rob Ogleby is doing exceptionally well,” Murray continued.

“We’ve also had really good reports about Jordan Morton. Mark Ridgers is at East Fife as well and he played for Scotland under-21s [in the 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Monday night]. He’s a very good goalkeeper. He’s a good size, uses the ball well and is a good shot stopper so he’s got a fair chance.”

Older players such as Calum Elliot and Jason Thomson, on loan at Dundee and Dunfermline respectively, could also be recalled to Paulo Sergio’s squad in the new year if some big names leave.

PLAYERS OUT ON LOAN

Mark Ridgers (G) at East Fife

Jack Hamilton (G) at Stenhousemuir

Conrad Balatoni (D) at Partick

Jason Thomson (D) at Dunfermline

Jordan Morton (M) at Cowdenbeath

Matthew Park (M) at East Fife

Denis Prychynenko (M) at Raith Rovers

Calum Elliot (F) at Dundee

Robert Ogleby (F) at East Fife

COULD GO ON LOAN

Jason Holt (M) Last season’s SPL U19 Player of the Year.

Kevin McHattie (D) Made first team debut as sub against Aberdeen in August

Callum Paterson (F) Top scorer for Hearts U19s this season

Callum Tapping (M) Signed from Spurs and a member of the Scotland U19 squad

David Smith (F) Another member of the Scotland U19 squad

Gordon Smith (F) Successful spell on loan at Stirling Albion last season but has struggled to break into first-team on return.