BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Robbie Neilson admits Hearts will be fighting a losing battle if their top stars are targeted by English clubs during the transfer window.
However, the Jambos head coach insists he has top talent waiting in the wings to fill any void.
Star striker Osman Sow, who has bagged 11 goals this season and is out of contract in the summer, is reportedly attracting interest from both sides of the Old Firm as well as clubs south of the border.
The likes of Sam Nicholson, Callum Paterson and Billy King are among the brightest talents in Scotland, while Jordan McGhee and Jamie Walker have been subject of enquiries from elsewhere in the past.
However, Neilson is typically calm as Hearts navigate the choppy waters of the January window.
He said: “We’ve got a lot of key players we would like to keep a hold of but in Scottish football it’s difficult to do that.
“Big clubs from down south come looking and if they pay the money they get their player.
“But we have other guys in the background, like [Dario] Zanatta, who came on on Saturday. He’s 18-years-old and I think he’s done fantastic.
“I was looking to put him out on loan but his performances in the last weeks, he’ll be staying with us now and really pushing for a first team start.”
Neilson also reserved special praise for Gavin Reilly, who, following a dip in his form, is starting to hit his stride with the capital club.
A summer arrival from Queen of the South, Reilly has scored three goals in his last four matches following his successful spot-kick in the Jambos’ scintillating 6-0 rout of Motherwell on Saturday.
As well as his goals, he has won over fans with his bright movement and boundless energy. None of that comes as a surprise to Neilson.
He continued: “Gavin’s doing exactly what we brought him here to do, he works really hard first and foremost, which gets him the respect of his team-mates.
“Every day in training he is the same, 100 per cent which then carries him through in games.
“He’s a goal scorer. He came in at the start of the season and hit the ground running, he had a little bit of a lull but he’s come back in and showed exactly why we spent money on him.”