Hearts under-20s coach Jon Daly insists the future is looking bright after the Gorgie club signed eight new youth players on professional contracts.
Euan Henderson, Dean Ritchie, Jay Sandison, Anthony McDonald, Connor Smith and Christopher Hamilton will all move up to the full-time ranks from the summer, while Harry Cochrane and Marc Leonard will put pen to paper when they turn 16 in December and February respectively.
All of the players are currently impressing for under-17s side.
The club’s youth academy had been badly neglected during the Vladimir Romanov era but Daly insists the development of these players is encouraging.
He said: “I’m obviously delighted to get these players in on pro contracts. They’re good players and to get eight through from one year, with more to come, and into the under-20s is a fantastic achievement for all involved at the academy.
“It’s a big number and it’s quite rare to see so many from the same group come through. I think it shows the work done by the club over the past few years.
“Before I arrived here there was a lot of work done in the background to develop the academy and there was a lot of hope that a scenario like this would happen.
“A lot of credit has to go to the academy staff, Roger Arnott, Craig Levein and all the coaches that have worked with the boys along the way.
“It’s now that the players’ work really begins. The coaches in the academy have done their part, they’ve got them to this stage where the boys have got full-time contracts, it’s up to myself, and more so the players, to push them and not let them rest on their laurels.
“They can’t think that’s the job done because it isn’t. It’s the first step on the ladder and it’s now about pushing on and developing the talent and ability that we know they have.
“They have to show enough to the head coach to prove that they are going to be first-team players.”