Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson admits defender John Souttar’s progression into the first team has been quicker than anticipated.
The Tynecastle outfit shelled out a near six-figure fee to sign the talented 19-year-old from Dundee United at the beginning of the month.
Amid a defensive crisis, Souttar made his debut in the February 10 win at Ross County before making substitute outings in the losses to Hibs and former club United.
But Souttar marked his return to the side with a stand-out display in the weekend’s narrow 1-0 win over Kilmarnock, playing both centre-half and right-back.
Neilson said: “He is a very good player, you can see that. He was coming in as a development player but he has come in and performed, trained brilliantly and worked his way into the team.
“He played centre-half and then right back on Saturday and already you can see that he’s got a lot of quality.
“I think John found it difficult at Dundee United because of the situation the team was in, as opposed to his own form.
“I think any young player who is trying to break through into a team, if a team is at the bottom of the league, it’s going to be tough – especially if you are a young player who wants to go and try to play passing football.
“I thought his form was good, I watched him in several games.
“He plays central midfield against Celtic and set up the goal for United.
“And the really pleasing thing about him in that game was that he kept taking the ball.
“For me, that’s a player. If a player is in a team losing a game, struggling at the bottom of the league, but he still wants the ball – that shows he’s got confidence. We can see that already.”