Hearts manager Craig Levein admits he is planning to unveil two more signings before the end of the season, and has revealed how he could already have cashed in on talented teenagers Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald.
Winger McDonald yesterday signed a new three-year contract at the club, just 24 hours after midfielder Cochrane also inked fresh terms that will tie him to the Gorgie outfit until 2021.
As Hearts prepare for tomorrow’s Premiership trip to Rangers, Levein has enjoyed a productive week off the pitch.
Keen to ramp up his recruitment drive, Levein is hoping to welcome more fresh faces in the coming weeks.
He said: “I would like to do a couple more before the end of the season.
“That would give me two kids signing new contracts and four additions if I can get everything over the line.
“And that will make me feel quite good because the nature of the early start is always awkward.
“This season, we have had many more recruitment meetings. It has been at the fore of my mind and I have tried to identify players we can watch and target.
“Using the pre-contract situation gives me some peace of mind, really. Okay, we are losing some players but we will also be adding a number and some of those are done.”
Levein is delighted to have tied Cochrane, 16, and McDonald, 17, down on longer contracts, with the pair having shone in their breakthrough campaign in the first team.
Naturally, the youngsters have attracted attention of clubs south of the border and Levein concedes Hearts could quite easily have accepted offers for the players.
Praising the maturity both Cochrane and McDonald have shown in realising that playing in the first team at Hearts as opposed to under-23 football in England is better for their development, Levein added: “They want to play and that excites me more than anything.
“You’re right, we could have sold both of them already, easily.
“I don’t want to sell them, I want them to play 100 games for Hearts and then we can look at it again.
“I want them to play for Hearts and I want the Hearts supporters to watch them.
“I have been fortunate enough to watch them for the last four years and it excites me and I want people to see what myself and the academy coaches have been watching.”
Levein, meanwhile, has defended his decision to sign Saints marksman MacLean at the age of 35.
He added: “He’s very intelligent and I liken him in some ways to (former St Johnstone striker) Roddy Grant.
“I played against Roddy and he was a tough guy to play against, knew the game and was strong.
“He couldn’t run, pace was never his thing. That allowed Roddy to play well into his thirties and Steven is the same. Steven isn’t quick, although he’s quick in the head.
“Those players get better as they get older.
“Other players you might say at that age they’re over the hill but I don’t feel that way with Steven.
“Okay, he’s 35 and that’s the thing people will talk about but I look at it differently. I just think he’s a really good player who could get better. That sounds silly but if you put good players around him to help him he can be a big asset for us.”
On signing 23-year-old Cambridge marksman Ikpeazu, who has scored 14 goals in English League Two this season, Levein said: “There are moments in games that call for experience and something different and Uche is different.
“He’s strong and you can play the ball up to him and know it’s going to stick and sometimes when you’re playing and under the cosh, it’s a good feeling to know you can have that respite.
“I’m hopeful he kicks on from there and we took advantage of the cross border compensation rule which means any club in England would have to have bought him.
“We managed to get him for nothing which makes me feel better about taking the risk as well, although I would still have paid the £150,000-£200,000 if necessary. I’ve got a good feeling about it, there’s no-one up here like him.”