Dylan McGowan is determined to prove he deserves a long-term future at Hearts after joining midfielder Callum Tapping in being handed a one-year contract extension.
The future of the pair had been uncertain as they approached the expiry of their previous deals but the Gorgie outfit announced yesterday they have taken up an option to keep the youngsters for at least a further season.
McGowan, the younger brother of fellow defender Ryan, who moved to Chinese outfit Shandong Luneng Taishan in January, made his debut for the club at Anfield in the glamorous Europa League encounter with Liverpool back in August.
Saturday’s outing in the 3-0 win against St Mirren was the versatile defender’s 21st appearance for a club he joined three years ago.
With uncertainty over whether the likes of Andy Webster and skipper Marius Zaliukas will survive the financial cutbacks at Tynecastle this summer, manager Gary Locke has chosen to hang on to the promising 21-year-old Australian for another 12 months.
McGowan commented: “I’ll be here next year, which is great. It wasn’t a case of me signing, as such, it’s a contract which rolls on. The uncertainty plays on your mind a little bit but I’m over the moon to be staying here.
“Hopefully, I can have a better season next year and prove that I should be here a little bit longer again. I’m looking forward to pushing on, getting some more games and proving my worth at this football club.”
Tapping also enjoyed a high-profile first-team debut this season, making his first start in the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final success against Inverness Caley Thistle in January.
The 19-year-old former Spurs youth player has featured a total of 12 times for the senior team but is highly rated at Hearts and will also be expected to push for a more regular starting place next term.
One player who will be leaving in the coming weeks, however, is Germany-born Ukrainian midfielder Denis Prychynenko.
The 21-year-old, who has eight first-team appearances to his name and was an unused substitute in last season’s Scottish Cup final hammering of Hibs, has – like Darren Barr and Gordon Smith – been told he is surplus to requirements at Tynecastle and will not be offered fresh terms.
Prychynenko told the club’s website: “Thanks everyone for all the great memories. I fell in love with Scotland, Edinburgh and Hearts. I will never forget.”
Meanwhile, Locke has revealed that Zaliukas could return from injury in time for a possible swansong against Aberdeen on the final weekend of the season.
The Lithuania internationalist was expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the season after tearing ankle ligaments in the 3-1 defeat by Dundee United in February, but has made a speedier-than-expected recovery.
The 29-year-old is out of contract at the end of the campaign and has not yet agreed a new deal, with Locke accepting that his reduced budget may not allow him to hang on to an influential player, who joined from Kaunas seven years ago.
However, the stopper is hopeful of resuming full training next week and could face Aberdeen at Pittodrie on 18 May.
Locke said: “He’s a bit ahead of schedule and he’s working with the physio at the minute.
“Hopefully, he’ll train next week and, if he does that, he has got every possibility of being involved against Aberdeen.”