Latest update on Hearts' striker search, Joe Savage's role in transfer window and John Souttar's recovery
Hearts have identified signing targets to fill their striker vacancy but negotiations are not proving easy.
Manager Robbie Neilson and sporting director Joe Savage are in talks several times each day in the search for a physical forward who can lead the attack.
With clubs reluctant to part with players during the January transfer window, it is an ongoing process. Neilson is determined not to make a hasty signing, preferring to wait to get the right candidate.
“We're still working away but it's a difficult window,” he said. “We could get a striker in right now if we wanted but it's not going to be the one we want. It’s about getting the right striker in.
“We've got a couple of targets but it's January so teams don't want to let good players go. The trick is trying to find ones that are good enough to come into this team.
“I speak to Joe four or five times a day so it's a busy period for myself and Joe. We need to recruit properly, whether that be ins or outs and make sure we come out of the window stronger.
“Once we get this window out the way, Joe will focus on the sporting director role, the academy and try and build that up."
Gary Mackay-Steven became Hearts’ first recruit of the new year when he signed a two-and-a-half-year contract on Monday. Luring a Scotland international winger to the Championship is considered a major statement of intent.
“We're delighted to get him in. To get him in in the Championship is a real coup,” said Neilson. “We were in a good position in that Gary wanted to come home and we were in a position to bring someone in.
“He lives in Glasgow so he comes through, he knows the training ground, I know him well and he knows a few of the players here so it's worked out very well. You can see what he's added in training already. He's a top player.
“When you look at the size of the club, the training ground, the facilities and the potential here, we want to be back at the top end of the Premiership. But we have to get there.
“We're a Championship club just now but we have guys who believe we're going to get there. Gary came in and we had a good chat about where we are at the moment and what we want to do in the future and he was very keen.”
A further boost is John Souttar’s ongoing progress from a third Achilles rupture. He is back running at the club’s Riccarton training base but won’t be pressured to finish his rehabilitation.
“It's brilliant to see him back,” said Neilson. “John has been through a tough period but he’s stayed strong. He's been working hard and he’s miles ahead of where he was in the same situation in the summer.
“We're hopeful that he'll continue to progress, which I'm sure he will and we can get him back as soon as we can. We're aiming for pre-season. That's the target because it's been a difficult period for John and we don't want to rush him.”