BY DARREN JOHNSTONE – Capital City Press
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson admits he is hoping the offer of helping Jerome Thomas become a coach will be enough to sign the former Crystal Palace forward as a player.
The 32-year-old one-time Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion, Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth winger has been training with the Gorgie outfit following his release at Selhurst Park in May.
And while Neilson admits there is no chance that Hearts can afford to table the kind of lucrative terms that Thomas was used to in the English top-flight, he hopes the player will be attracted by the offer of progressing his coaching career at Tynecastle.
Speaking ahead of today’s trip to Celtic, Neilson said: “We’re in the process of trying to put something to him because you can see in training he is a top player.
“He’s a guy that’s been in England for 15 years picking up big money and money is not the thing for him.
“He would be a great addition to not only the squad but the coaching department as well because of the experience he brings.
“He’s getting to an age now that he wants to start focussing on himself and his future development, and that’s something we can look at.”
Neilson, whose side ended a run of three straight defeats on Wednesday in a dramatic League Cup victory over Kilmarnock, added: “It won’t be anything financial because we’re not in a position that we can afford to give him real money that he would be interested in.
“It’s more if we can offer him things off the park that would be interesting to him for his future development.
“It’s not a player/coach role as such, it would be as a player but somebody that we can move into that area as time goes on.
“If he does decide to come here, it would be to play but we would then try to help him on that side of it.
“That’s the selling point from our point of view, it’s a development opportunity for him.”
Any announcement on Thomas is not expected until the start of next week at the earliest but Neilson admits the former England Under-21 internationalist is effectively match fit despite missing the start of the season.
He added: “With a player that’s played over 200 games in the English Premier League you wouldn’t have to rely on your fitness to play in Scotland.
“I could probably put him in on Saturday and he would still do well so he’s not got far to go.”
New Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum, meanwhile, admits he is relishing the prospect of making his debut at Celtic up against old friend Dedryck Boyata.
The Belgian joined Robbie Neilson’s side on Wednesday on a deal until January after leaving Polish champions Lech Poznan during the summer.
After being an unused substitute in the dramatic 3-2 League Cup victory over Kilmarnock in midweek, the 32-year-old is keeping his fingers crossed that his introduction to Scottish football will come at Celtic Park today.
Djoum is also looking forward to being reacquainted with Hoops defender and fellow countryman Boyata this afternoon after the pair both began their careers at the now defunct FC Brussels.
Djoum said: “I know Dedryck because we played in the same youth team at FC Brussels.
“He is one year younger than me but I have met him a lot of times and he is a good guy. I know his father well too.
“I didn’t speak to him about Hearts so the first time I see him will be on Saturday, I don’t even know if he knows I signed here but I’m excited to see him.
“I played against him once when I was in Holland and he was on loan at FC Twente although I don’t remember the score.”