Hearts sign Black on pre-contract

HEARTS have reached an agreement to sign the Inverness Caledonian Thistle midfielder Ian Black.

The former Blackburn Rovers trainee, who has been in the Highlands since 2004, held pre-contract discussions with Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo last midweek. The outcome of those talks was positive; Black has in principle accepted a contract which will run until the summer of 2012. The 23-year-old is expected to put pen to paper in Edinburgh on Sunday having also already undergone a medical at Hearts' Riccarton training centre.

Hibernian had earlier held discussions with Black, a former ballboy at Tynecastle whose father, also Ian, played for Hearts between 1977 and 1980. It is thought the terms on offer by Hearts significantly outweighed those put forward by their city rivals, although those close to the player insist his decision was with professional development in mind.

Hearts will now attempt to prise Black from Inverness during next month's transfer window; his current deal expires at the end of the season. It is thought Caley Thistle could demand up to 100,000 for Black's early release, Craig Brewster also mindful that another of his midfielders, Don Cowie, is wanted by Rangers and Dundee United.

Black's imminent arrival will trigger further speculation about the midfielders currently at Laszlo's disposal. In what is the strongest area of the Hungarian's squad, Laryea Kingston, Christos Karipidis and Bruno Aguiar have all been linked with January moves. Kingston is almost certain to depart while Karipidis has been linked with a return to Greece. Aguiar's high salary ensures any overtures for his services are likely to be considered by the Hearts hierarchy.