The Hearts summer recruitment drive was kicked off last week after Alan Forrest signed up for this season’s Euro campaign.
The former Livingston winger has penned a two-year deal at Tynecastle, but Robbie Neilson and sporting director Joe Savage are just getting started.
The Jambos will be fighting on two fronts next season – trying to pull away from the chasing pack in third place while closing the gap on Celtic and Rangers will be the domestic priority.
But they’ll be embarking on the Thursday-Sunday playing schedule every other week into December as well.
A Europa League play-off in August will be followed by group stage football in either that competition or the Europa Conference League.
Injuries and suspensions will inevitably happen, which means more numbers will be needed in maroon.
As many as seven more new faces could arrive in Gorgie before now and the end of the transfer window.
Chief executive Andrew McKinlay said recently that the cash boost from Europe could prove to be a transfer “game changer” for Hearts, explaining: “We will need to invest in a bigger squad. It won’t just be jersey-fillers, it has to be guys good enough for the team. Robbie has talked about a net increase of three, taking the squad up to 24.”
That leaves scope for Neilson and Savage to significantly strengthen, but where should they be focussing their efforts?
Replacing John Souttar
John Souttar ’s official unveiling as a Rangers player happened last week, but many Hearts fans had moved on as soon as the final whistle went on his Hearts career at Hampden last month.
With Craig Halkett and Stephen Kingsley both signing new, long-term deals last season, the blow of Souttar’s pre-contract was softened somewhat.
But he’ll still need replacing, especially if three at the back is to be Neilson’s preferred system once again.
Neilson has already admitted he wants two new centre-backs for the new season, and one will likely be arriving soon in the shape of Kye Rowles.
The Jambos are understood to have agreed terms with Central Coast Mariners as they dip into the Aussie market once again following the success of Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson.
Kingsley’s versatility means he can easily cover here, but the Andy Robertson/Kieran Tierney-esque understanding he developed alongside Alex Cochrane will be hard to replicate.
Unless of course, Cochrane returns for another season. He went to Brighton after his loan spell ended, but is out of contract at the Amex.
An extension could yet be forthcoming but if not, Neilson has already admitted he’d like Cochrane back, which could happen on loan if he does put pen to paper with the Seagulls.
Savage won’t have all his eggs in that basket however. Andy Halliday offers cover, but a first pick will be high on the transfer wishlist.
Engine room options
Beni Baningime’s cruciate ligament injury came as a big blow to Hearts,
The former Everton kid excelled during his first season in maroon, but will likely be missing until later this year as his slow journey back to fitness continues.
Peter Haring has been offered a contract extension but is yet to sign, which leaves Cammy Devlin and Halliday as the senior centre mids.
A move for Connor Ronan could happen, with Hearts thought to be ahead of Aberdeen when it comes to landing the Wolves midfielder.
There’s cash to spend, but a reported £500,000 asking price from the Molineux club could deter further interest from Tynecastle.
Getting Ellis Simms back
Attempts to bring Ellis Simms back on loan from Everton have already begun.
Everton avoiding relegation to the Championship will have helped Hearts’ cause but his form in maroon won’t have gone unnoticed elsewhere.
His Goodison wages mean a permanent deal is out of the question financially, but a crack at Europe and another season of first team football under his belt could appeal to both the Toffees and Simms.
Ben Woodburn likely won’t be reuniting with Simms in the capital, however. His Liverpool contract is set to expire and while there is interest from the Scottish Premiership, Hearts haven’t made a move to sign him permanently.
Liam Boyce had a couple of spells out last term with injury so another striking option will probably be needed even if Simms does return.