Hearts' January window state of play: Incoming signings, player departures, transfer rumours

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Hearts' January window state of play: Incoming signings, player departures, transfer rumours
© Sporting director Joe Savage and head coach Robbie Neilson have brought in two players in the Januar…

Confirmed arrivals

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Nathaniel Atkinson (Melbourne City), Ellis Simms (Everton, loan), Toby Sibbick (Barnsley)

Hearts addressed the two most pressing positions of need with still plenty of time left in the window to make further manoeuvres. Though not as high up the list of priorities as a striker, an attacking right-sided defender was required to challenge Michael Smith for a place at wing-back and this was secured within days of the window opening with the purchase of Atkinson from Melbourne City. He’s noted for his attacking qualities, while he also showed in Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat to Celtic that he’s no slouch on the defensive side either.

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Simms made quite an impression off the bench against the Glasgow giants despite it being only his second competitive first-team appearance this season (the other was at Stamford Bridge in a Premier League game). With size, strength, speed and a good goalscoring record, he looks to be a promising addition for the second-half of the season.

Sibbick was a surprise addition on Thursday evening, returning to the club on a three-and-a-half-year deal. Though he was used as a midfielder, for the most part, in his two-game loan spell a couple of years ago, he’s operated exclusively in defence for Barnsley since then and will likely be a long-term successor for John Souttar.

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Confirmed departures

Armand Gnanduillet (Le Mans), Jordan Roberts (Motherwell, loan made permanent), Jamie Brandon (Greenock Morton, loan), Cammy Logan (Edinburgh City, loan), Jamie Walker (Bradford City, loan)

Both Walker and Brandon’s contracts expire at the end of the season so their exit from the club is as good as confirmed with these loan deals taking them away from Tynecastle for the latter half of this campaign. Many fans wanted Walker to stick around, given his match-winning capabilities, but the player decided his future lay elsewhere as he sought regular first-team football.

Gnanduillet didn’t produce consistently enough in the top flight and wasn’t even trusted by Neilson to play in matches where Hearts didn’t have a recognised striker by the end of his spell. Roberts finally made his switch to Motherwell permanent. He’s been a useful attacker at Fir Park after never looking comfortable in a Hearts jersey.

Logan still has 18 months left on his contract. He was supposed to have a role in the early part of this campaign but injuries put paid to that.

Still looking for

Robbie Neilson has said himself the club are in the market for another forward. Even though the manager typically prefers a one-up-front system, in case of injury or severe loss of form, which is what occurred with Boyce and Gnanduillet, respectively, in the run up to the Christmas period, it makes perfect sense to have the additional option and not rely on midfielders like Ben Woodburn or Josh Ginnelly at the tip of the attack.

Could depart

Souttar is the obvious answer here. Rangers remain keen on bringing the player to Ibrox before the end of the transfer window and are sure to test Hearts’ resolve with another bid after their initial £300,000 offer was rejected out of hand.

Nobody else is expected to be sold so any other movements out of the club would likely to be younger players. Robbie Neilson has already said there are plans in place to send Euan Henderson and Finlay Pollock out on short-term deals in February. The former excelled in a spell at Alloa Athletic earlier in the season but the head coach wants to keep him around until he’s satisfied they have enough options in the attacking areas.

Rumour has it

The club have largely kept things quiet with the Simms deal being completed just hours after his name was first linked. Chesterfield striker Kabongo Tshimanga was a rumoured target but, as the Evening News reported, there is no interest from Hearts in the National League hitman.

They were keen to sign Japanese ace Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa but his price-tag could be a stumbling block with the diminutive, versatile attacker still under contract at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo through 2024.

Neilson is also said to be keeping tabs on Scotland international striker Lawrence Shankland. The two worked successfully together at Dundee United and Shankland could be looking for a route back to his homeland after failing to establish himself at Belgium side Beerschot. No deal would be done to bring the player in this January, though, as he’s already played for two clubs this season and would ineligible to appear for another.

Contract situation

Four first-team regulars were signed up to new deals in the early days of January, though there remain two players with an interesting and uncertain few months ahead.

Peter Haring has rebounded from an inauspicious Championship campaign to look something approaching his pre-injury best and has been an important cog in a number of impressive Hearts victorious this term. If he can keep his place in the starting XI after Beni Baningime’s return from injury then surely a new deal will be in the offing. The lack of movement to this point did raise some questions though.

The other player is Andy Halliday. The former Rangers player has his doubters within the support, but his ability to fill in at various positions – left-back, left wing-back, centre midfield and, as evidenced by his impressive performance against Auchinleck Talbot last weekend, on the left of the front three – could see him signed up for at least another year. He’s already said he’d be happy to stay at a club going places even if not guaranteed a spot in the starting XI.

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