JASON Holt last night finalised a loan move to Sheffield United for the rest of the season, with the Yorkshire club having the option of then signing the Hearts midfielder. The 21-year-old has fallen down the pecking order at Tynecastle this season with the arrival of Morgaro Gomis, Prince Buaben and Miguel Pallardo, and head coach Robbie Neilson suggested several weeks ago that a move to find regular first-team football would be to his benefit.
Neilson said earlier this week that he expected no further movement in or out of the club during this transfer window, but he now has almost his entire squad fit and available again for selection. He therefore appears to have decided that there is no point keeping Holt in limbo.
“It’s a great chance for Jason to go to different surroundings and try to impress,” Neilson said. “I’m a big fan of Jason and he wants to play football. He’s found opportunities to do that here limited, so this move should suit all parties. I wish him all the best.”
Holt said that the chance to play more regularly was the key reason for his move to the English League One side. “I’m delighted to be given an opportunity at a club like Sheffield United. The season has gone tremendously well so far at Hearts and I’m proud to have played a part.
“The gaffer has been upfront with me throughout the season about chances in the first team. I’m looking to play more football and hopefully I will be afforded that chance at Bramall Lane.”
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Striker Dale Carrick is also on the move from the Championship leaders, but in his case only for a month-long loan to Raith Rovers. Carrick is also just back from injury, and, with Osman Sow and Soufian El Hassnaoui also fit again, and Genero Zeefuik having joined on loan from Groningen, Hearts are well equipped with strikers.
“Excited to begin my short loan spell at Raith Rovers to get match fit and games under my belt,” Carrick tweeted yesterday. Neilson pointed out that the temporary move to Fife would provide Carrick, also 21, with some very competitive games.
“Raith have got Hibs, Falkirk, Rangers twice and Livingston, so it’s a good chance for him to go and play games and get his fitness up,” he said. “[That] was one of the reasons we put Dale out on loan.
“He’s struggled a little bit with injury. He got injured in pre-season, came back and then got injured again. This gives him a chance to go out and play in five really good games. Then he can get himself back 100 per cent for the run-in for ourselves.”
Under-20s defender Liam Gordon has also left Hearts on loan, moving to Arbroath for the rest of the season.
One defender going nowhere, by contrast, is Jordan McGhee, who has revealed that he opted to sign a new contract with Hearts rather than be tempted by the interest shown in him by clubs such as Sunderland and Stoke. “I always wanted to stay at Hearts and play as many games as I can and develop,” the Scotland Uunder-21 international said.
“I looked at other people that went down and weighed up what my best options were. Hearts was definitely the best option: stay and develop here both physically and mentally and get games under my belt. If I get a move, it will come later on in my career as a first-team player rather than going down as a youngster.”
McGhee is confident that Hearts will bounce back today from the disappointment of losing in the league for the first time this season last week, although he is wary both of Alloa as a team and of the artificial surface at the Indodrill Stadium.
“I played there last time and it’s a very difficult place to go,” he said, referring to Hearts’ 1-0 win, in which the winner came late in the game from Adam Eckersley.
“It’s something we’re not used to with the pitch. We’ve trained on astro most of this week to prepare for it as much as we can, but it’s difficult to go down there and get a result. Adam scored a fluke free-kick last time – it took about three deflections and went in. If the goal comes in the first minute or the 89th minute, that’s all that matters, that you get the three points.”
After losing no more than a single goal in any league match from the start of the season, Hearts conceded three times to Falkirk last week. Their defeat may have offered a glimmer of hope to the teams below them in the table, but McGhee is sure that they have the strength of character to recover swiftly from that 3-2 loss.
“People can think what they want,” he said. “It’s all about how you bounce back. It was tough to take, but we can bounce back.
“There has been pressure on us to maintain the run, so now that it’s come to an end, if we get a poor result – it’s not going to be anything too big, but yeah, it was disappointing.”