Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson confirms interest in potential summer recruits



Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson has confirmed he is hoping to sign Scotland internationalist Matt Gilks and Belgian defender Faycal Rherras.

It was also a busy day concerning the existing squad at the club yesterday after back-up goalkeeper Jack Hamilton signed a new deal that will tie him to the Gorgie outfit until summer 2019.

Hearts, however, have cut their losses on the injury-prone Soufian El Hassnaoui after terminating the striker’s contract a year early.

Both Burnley keeper Gilks, who has won three caps, and Sint-Truiden left-back Rherras were shown around the club’s Heriot-Watt training complex this week and Neilson admits he is keen to sign the out of contract pair.

Hearts will thank their fans for their support in Sunday’s final game against St Johnstone

Neilson, whose side wrap-up an impressive first season back in the Premiership at home to St Johnstone tomorrow, said: “Faycal has been over here and we have spoken to him – but we’ve spoken to loads of players.

“We’ll look to see how things progress over the next few weeks.

“We get linked with players all the time, players get put to us all the time and we’re always looking.

“It’s important for us we try and bring in good players.”

Asked about Gilks, Neilson added: “Again, I always feel before you sign somebody you have to meet them and speak to them eye-to-eye and see what you think about them.

“I have met a lot of players recently but we can’t sign anyone until June 9 anyway.
“So there’s nothing we can do.

“But we can definitely source players out who we think might be able to get us to the next step.”


Neilson handed Hamilton his fourth appearance of the season in Thursday’s 1-0 win at Aberdeen and even though the 22-year-old is set to go out on loan next tern, the Hearts head coach has seen enough to award the goalkeeper a two-year contract extension.

Neilson added: “It’s a great bit of business to get Jack signed up for the next few years.

“He’s an extremely talented young goalkeeper, as everyone would’ve seen in the past two games against Ross County and Aberdeen.

“We’ve got high hopes for him and if continues to develop then there’s no reason why he can’t hold on to the goalkeeper’s jersey in the first team for years to come.”

However, marksman El Hassnaoui, who had a year left on his current deal, has departed the club after two injury-plagued campaigns restricted the 26-year-old to only ten starts.

Neilson said: “It was a difficult period for Soufian, due to the injuries that he picked up. He was very unlucky here and never really got to show what he was capable of.”

Neilson, meanwhile, was thrilled that right-back Callum Paterson was included in Scotland manager Gordon Strachan’s squad for the May 29 and June 4 friendlies against Italy and France.

And Neilson insists he has no reservations over the 21-year-old’s physical wellbeing even though Hearts are due to return for pre-season training on June 15 ahead of their Europa League first qualifying round tie 15 days later.

He said: “I was delighted. I spoke to Gordon about it and he asked about our European games but I think Callum being in the squad and hopefully getting some game time is great for the boy.

“He was out for about six weeks recently when he had his shoulder problem so he’s had a break. Fatigue won’t be a problem for him.

“It gets him in that environment, training against good players, playing against good players and hopefully it will let him see what he needs to do to get to the next level.”

Asked if he fears clubs will be attracted to the full-back in the wake of his Scotland inclusion, Neilson added: “That’s football, that’s the way it is at any club in Scotland.

“The good thing for us is that it shows that we can get a guy coming through the academy and get him into the Scotland squad.

“We’ve got other guys coming through as well, Sam Nicholson, Jordan McGhee, Jack Hamilton, John Souttar and Billy King when he comes back – guys that we hope will take that next step to get into the international team.

“Jamie Walker might be a possibility in time but he’s missed a lot of the season through injury.”