ROBBIE NEILSON has admitted defeat in his bid to capture a new defender, while the Hearts head coach has confirmed that contract talks with key midfielder Andy Irving remain at an impasse.
With Michael Smith currently the Jambos’ only senior right-back following an injury to Jamie Brandon, Neilson has made no secret of his desire to add to his ranks prior to the March 31 lower league transfer deadline.
The capital club are understood to have made an enquiry to one Scottish Premiership side and have analysed options south of the border — but Neilson concedes that he has all-but given up the ghost.
“Joe [Savage, sporting director] and I haven’t spoken about that for about a week now,” said Neilson. “I don’t think it’s going to happen. We had a target and it didn’t come through.
“The other ones we looked at probably aren’t going to improve the squad so it’s likely to be something we just move on from.”
Discussions with Irving, however, do remain a priority, even if they are at a standstill.
Hearts have offered the classy playmaker what they believe is an attractive extension to his contract, which expires in the summer, and are waiting for a response from the player’s representatives.
But Neilson has praised Irving’s professionalism during the process, with the 20-year-old set to add to his 22 first-team appearances this term when Ayr United visit tomorrow.
“We’ve offered Andy a contract and we’re still waiting to hear back from the agent and the player,” Neilson continued. “We’ve put it there, we think it’s a good offer and hopefully he will accept.
“Ultimately, it’s down to the player and the agent to decide now.
“Andy is still performing on a Saturday so, from my perspective, that’s the most important thing. He’s shown a maturity to concentrate on training and games — and hopefully we will come to an agreement.”
Meanwhile, Neilson is adamant the impending return of League One and Two is vital for the development of his young players, insisting talented kids up and down the country have endured a year of hell.
The likes of Cammy Logan, Connor Smith (both Cove Rangers), Harry Cochrane (Montrose) and Chris Hamilton (Stirling Albion) were among the players due to embark on formative loan stints prior to the enforced shutdown at that level.
“We’ve got a number of players out on loan already — a couple at Cove and a couple at other lower league teams — and we have a few younger boys we would like to place with certain teams,” aded Neilson.
“They haven’t had many league games because the lower leagues got curtailed and they haven’t played bounce games, reserve games or under-18 games.
“It’s really important for these younger players that they get some kind of football this season because it’s been a tough year for them.”