Hearts boss reveals encouraging contract news over key players

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson admits Stephen Kingsley is close to signing a new deal, and that negotiations have also begun with Michael Smith.

Kingsley has impressed for the Gorgie outfit since penning a 12-month contract in October following an injury-plagued final season at Hull City.

The left-back has played every minute of Hearts’ six Championship games so far this term and has found the net three times.

Stephen Kingsley has joined Hearts following a spell at Hull City | Hearts news
Stephen Kingsley joined Hearts at the start of last October (Pic: Hearts TV)

Northern Ireland right-back Smith, who is also out of contract next summer, remains an integral part of the team having moved to the Edinburgh club from Peterborough in June 2017.

Neilson, whose side host Queen of the South on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s Scottish Cup final against Celtic, said: “We’re very hopeful that Stephen will sign a new deal.

“We’ve already spoken to him and he’s comfortable here. 

“He’s moved back up the road, he’s got a kid now and got a house just outside Stirling and we’re very hopeful we’ll get something tied up.

“I think he has shown he has real quality. He’s just concentrating on playing week-in, week-out. 

“It’s still early days but I’ve been pleased with everything he has shown so far.

“I even think he could potentially get into the Scotland set-up. 

“The issue is he has a couple of world class players ahead of him in Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson.

“We’ve already spoken to Michael’s agent as well. Michael is out of contract in the summer so we’re in negotiations with him as well. 

“Similar to Stephen, he’s the same kind of character. 

“He is pretty level headed and we’ve been really pleased with him as well.”

Neilson, meanwhile, has been given a timely injury boost ahead of an important period of games, with Josh Ginnelly available for the first time since October 23 after recovering from a thigh tear.

Fellow winger Elliott Frear is also fit again after shaking off a hamstring strain.

The visit of Queens is the last chance to impress ahead of the Hampden showdown but Neilson has stressed that the players cannot take their eye off the ball on Saturday.

He added: “There’s a game in nine days time but for us it’s all about the league this season, it’s the most important thing. 

“I don’t see there being any issues at all about focus for Saturday. 

“We have an idea of what we want to do in the cup final but this week has been about the game on Saturday against Queen of the South because it will be two completely different games. 

“I’d expect us to have the majority of the ball on Saturday, dominate a lot of possession and then expect to go to Hampden the following week and have the shoe on the other foot. 

“We have to focus on this week and then pick a team after this week.”