Peter Haring: How Hearts kept him, overcoming personal issues, astute deal and where he fits in next season
There is little point in building something new on foundations that are crumbling.
With their latest bit of contract business, Hearts have demonstrated an understanding of that key construction rule as they look to assemble something robust that is capable of housing their domestic and European ambitions.
Craig Gordon, Michael Smith, Craig Halkett, Stephen Kingsley and Barrie McKay had already agreed new deals and with Peter Haring signing a one-year extension, with the option of another year on top of that, there is not only a strong sense of continuity but, perhaps more importantly, an indication from those working hard on the inside that there is something tangible being built.
“Everyone knows about his quality and what he brings to the table, so to get him back for the new season is very pleasing,” said the Tynecastle manager Robbie Neilson, as he welcomed the Austrian’s decision to stick around in the capital and be part of the plans to improve on last season’s league showing and near miss in the Scottish Cup, as well as their venture into UEFA group stage football, either in the Europa or Conference League.
It was an agreement that seemed in doubt for long spells of last season as the signings of Beni Baningime and Cammy Devlin pushed the 29-year-old down the pecking order when it came to filling the central midfield slots.
Signed from SV Ried in July 2018, initially as a central defender, Haring has become a favourite among Hearts fans who appreciate his composed performances in the middle of the park.
Versatile and classy, he can offer cover at the back and was even utilised as a surprise stand-in centre forward in one Edinburgh derby.
But the majority of his appearances have been in the heart of the midfield.
In his first season he made 37 appearances and scored seven goals as he helped Hearts to the Scottish Cup final but he picked up a persistent and troublesome pelvic injury in that Hampden showdown with Celtic which forced him to sit out the following campaign, which ultimately saw Hearts demoted when the covid curtailed the on-field action. Many believed his absence was a contributing factor in the Gorgie side’s sub-par performances that season and that his quiet assurance could have been a calming factor on the pitch when the panic started to set in.
He returned in time to help Hearts out of the Championship at the first time of asking, playing over 20 games that season. But he was back to some of his best form last season, when spells on the bench only made him hungrier and more driven to prove his worth.
Developing a strong understanding with Baningime at the start of the season, with some highly intelligent and effective performances from the pair, their run was interrupted when Cammy Devlin was brought in to add a bit of dynamism and pace.
As the former Evertonian and the Aussie buzzbomb forged a fresh partnership Haring was forced to be patient. But after missing so much football through injury it was a frustrating time and prompted fears that he may choose to move on.
Those feelings were apparently exacerbated by some personal reasons for wanting to move closer to home.
His partner had joined him in Edinburgh ahead of the pandemic but the lockdown made things difficult. But with travel restrictions lifted, the club made it clear that he remained a pivotal part of Neilson’s plans and it is understood that only the length of the contract being discussed held up an agreement.
“I know what I've got at Hearts,” said Haring, prior to the end of the season. “He [Neilson] doesn't need to sell it to me. I know how big a club this is and how enjoyable it can be. I have to think about what I want in the future and then we will make a decision.”
In the end, what he wanted was to see through the regeneration project which seems to be ongoing at Tynecastle.
Having endured some tough times at the Gorgie club, things are looking up and the lure of European football and the recognition that the club may just be piecing together a shot at sustained success, proved too much, for the midfielder who has spoken of the settled nature of the squad and the camaraderie and understanding that offers them as they push forward.
There will be new additions, with Alan Forrest already signed from Livingston and Australian defender Kye Rowles also expected through the door. And, more will follow.
But Haring knows he will be a part of the action. Back to his best as the season reached its conclusion, he will be needed as the club manages the squad through a busy spell of domestic and European games. They will do so without Baningime, who could be rehabilitating from his knee injury until after the Qatar World Cup at the end of the year.
That makes Haring’s new deal an astute one for the player as well as the club, as it leaves the option of a second season on the table but allows both parties to weigh up his involvement and how integral he will be when everyone is fit and available.
And, his experience and calmness will be an asset in European competition.
Neilson is still looking to strengthen throughout the team, with loanees such as Ellis Simms and Alex Cochrane needing to be lured back for another temporary stay or replaced by players of similar or better quality but that building work will be carried out at a club where, thanks to the retention of key men like Haring, foundations look pretty solid.
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