Steven Naismith lifts lid on the David Moyes Everton inspiration behind Hearts' transfer strategy

Hearts manager explains thinking behind trio of pre-contract signings

Steven Naismith studied how David Moyes operated in the transfer market and is now taking a leaf out of his former Everton manager's book in an attempt to take Hearts to the next level.

The Scottish Premiership campaign still has eight games remaining but the Tynecastle side, who are 11 points clear in third place, have taken significant strides towards buillding for next season with three new signings already secured. While not confirmed officially, it is understood that Ross County winger Yan Dhanda, Motherwell midfielder Blair Spittal and Livingston defender James Penrice have all agreed to become Hearts players when their contracts expire in the summer. Naismith won't yet speak about the trio of incomings – they are, after all, still playing for rival clubs – but he revealed that the recruitment strategy was inspired by his former Goodison Park mentor.

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“That's something I've been really keen to do,” Naismith explained. "We do a lot of work every day on recruitment. I've probably taken it from asking a lot of managers about it. The best for me was David Moyes. The research and the homework he did on signings was massive. That's why he did so well. Bringing guys like Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka in and helping them become internationalists. Good foreign players as well that helped kick his teams on to the next level. That's all down to hard work and it's about having that as a separate thing to the football club. It's not a case of getting to November and December and starting to think about the January transfer window.

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith during a  training session at Oriam on Friday. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)Hearts head coach Steven Naismith during a  training session at Oriam on Friday. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith during a training session at Oriam on Friday. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“It's continuous and it needs to be. It needs to work a year or two ahead and as a club that's what we need to do. You have to predict a bit with what's going to happen with certain positions and individuals and how we can improve. For us to get to that next level, you constantly have to improve. For the guys in the squad already, that also drills home the element of competition."

Naismith himself, who scored 25 goals over a four-year spell at Everton, was one of a number inspired signings made by Moyes, who snapped him up on a free transfer following Rangers' financial meltdown in 2012. While at the Toffees, the current Hearts boss got an insight into the amount of work and forward planning that was put into identifying each new arrival.

“I got on well with a lot of the staff with the recruitment,” he recalled. “The amount of hours they spent watching players was incredible. Some of the coaches told me Moyes would go and watch a player 20 times in a season, but wasn't even looking to sign that player until the following again season. He'd go on midweek trips in Europe to watch players. If you look, his track record of signing players was very good and he doesn't get the credit for that he deserves. For me as a [Hearts] player, the turnover of players and when players come in has been far too many. It's unsettling. So that's the route we're trying to develop and take and hopefully it pays off."

It is notable that Hearts’ pre-contract signings are arriving as experienced Scottish Premiership players – "it gives them an advantage," Naismith explained. Having new recruits in from the first day of pre-season also brings benefits, particularly for a side likely to be playing European qualifiers before the domestic season kicks off.

Steven Naismith played under David Moyes at Everton.Steven Naismith played under David Moyes at Everton.
Steven Naismith played under David Moyes at Everton.

“In an ideal world, that's what you do,” Naismith added. "Football isn't as simple as that and the options available at the start of the window aren't always the same at the end. In the two windows I've dealt with, that's been a big difference. The summer window we were late getting players in for one reason or another.

"In January we identified what we needed and we went out and got it done early. 100 percent that makes a difference. The quicker you've got players, they're at ease in their surroundings quicker. We do a good job when we're speaking to players of giving them a full picture of what is coming. I want to paint a clear picture, not a smoke and mirrors one that promises the world and then when they get in the door they're trapped. You need to tell them what the facilities are that we've got, what the stadium is like and then ultimately they then make the decision they will."

The immediate focus for Naismith, however, is Saturday's match against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle as his side look to cement third place against their nearest – but not particularly close – rivals as they look to bounce back from the 2-1 defeat at Ross County prior to the international break.

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"It's the biggest part of the season," said Naismith, who revealed that Frankie Kent, Barrie McKay and Calem Nieuwenhof will all return to the squad from injury. “I said way back that it's not until now that you start looking at the league and what needs to be done. I think these are the best games because they give a clear picture of what you need to do, the next two weeks we play the two teams below us. It gives us a clear idea of where we are going to be. Killie are a really good team. I said it consistently last season that they recruited well which has given them a foundation. They have a style and wide players who are really dangerous and they have a presence in the box.

“But we didn't get to the position we are now without having a real confidence and belief going into all the games. That's like it is tomorrow. The stage for us, when we lose a game, it's the reaction in the next one, good teams inevitably take points in the next game when they lose. We will be looking to do that, it's Big Hearts Day and we can sum it up with a good performance and a good win.”



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