BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Hearts have tied up one of their brightest prospects on a long-term contract after Liam Smith penned a deal until 2018.
The 19-year-old has already featured for the Jambos’ senior side this season, playing against Forfar in the League Cup before Premiership outings against Dundee United and Ross County.
Following his display at Tannadice in October, in which he helped the Gorgie men grimly hold on to a 1-0 victory, Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson singled Smith out for special praise.
He also spent last season on loan with League Two side East Fife, making 25 appearances and establishing himself as one of Gary Naysmith’s key players on their run to the playoffs.
And Neilson believes the sky is the limit for youngster, who has been capped for Scotland at under-19 level.
Neilson lauded: “I’m delighted to get Liam tied up with a new deal. He’s a highly rated player and has a big future here, as long as he continues to work hard.
“He’s had a taste of first-team action this season so he knows the standard he has to work towards to stake a claim for the jersey.”
With the excellent Callum Paterson immovable in the right-back berth, Hearts are keen to farm Smith out on loan this month, with Dunfermline understood to be leading the chase for his signature.
Full-back Ryan Williamson is a long-term absentee for the Pars, while fellow defenders Lewis Martin, Marc McAusland and Callum Fordyce are all sidelined. Smith could make the short-term switch as early as next week.