Robbie Neilson addresses Jamie Walker's Hearts future in wake of winner but expresses concern over Stephen Kingsley
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson will sit down in the coming days with Jamie Walker to discuss the midfielder’s future after he came off the bench to score the winner against Dundee at Dens Park.
The 28-year-old made only his third appearance of the season – and his first since September 18 – by coming on as a 58th-minute substitute and netting the winner a quarter-of-an-hour later to maintain the Jambos’ push for third place in the cinch Premiership.
Walker is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a loan move to Livingston and St Johnstone next month. While delighted with the playmaker’s impact on the game, Neilson admitted that he needs regular first-team football and that a decision will be made before the end of December about his future.
"Jamie has found it hard to get in because the players that have been in those positions have been playing really, really well,” said Neilson. “He's just had to bide his time. I thought him and [Aaron] McEneff did well when they came on.
"We brought Jamie on because he's got that quality in the final moment and, especially in the second half, we pinned them in a bit in really good areas and we need somebody with that wee bit of magic. Thankfully he produced it.
"He's a good player. He's a Hearts man through and through. You know when you put Jamie on, he's going to give you everything, so I'm just delighted for the kid. He's not played for a while and to get the winner in front of the Hearts fans is great.
When asked about whether the plan is still for Walker to go out on loan, Neilson replied: "It's a decision that me and Jamie need to come to. I'd like to keep him, but I have to respect that the age he's at, he needs to go and play. We'll see how it goes in the next couple of weeks. We'll have a chat and see what he wants to do, because it will probably come back to that.”
Neilson was pleased with the victory at Dens Park – “although we controlled a lot of the game, we didn't create many clear-cut chances, but the one we did we took” – but expressed concern about the fitness of defender Stephen Kingsley, who was forced off with a leg injury midway through the first half following a robust challenge from Max Anderson.
"Not great, it was a tough one on him,” Neilson said of Kingsley. “It was a tackle that has come right on his shin. He's in a boot now so we just need to see how it is in the next couple of days.”
The news is better on Liam Boyce, who was sorely missed from Hearts’ front line. "Boyce was more of a precaution,” Neilson added. “He trained Thursday, he felt a bit tight and he came in yesterday and we rested him. This morning it was still a bit tight and we felt we could rest him for next week.”
A message from the Editor: Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.