Football Academy

Nine starlets pen pro terms with Hearts

21st June 2022

Nine of Hearts' brightest academy talents have put pen to paper on their first professional contracts at Tynecastle Park.

Zach Paris, Adam Forrester, Gregor Crookston, Kai Smutek, Kenzi Nair and Harvey Chisholm will step up to the professional ranks this summer - with Rocco Friel, Mackenzie Ross and Bobby McLuckie set to sign when the trio turn 16 at later points in the year.

The nontet were honoured at a signing ceremony at Tynecastle with Chief Executive Andrew McKinlay and Sporting Director Joe Savage in attendance, as the players and their families raised a toast to the next chapter of their careers.

This move marks the latest development at academy level after a successful campaign that saw a Youth Cup Final apperance alongside debuts at first-team level for Murray Thomas and Makenzie Kirk.

Academy Director Frankie McAvoy said: "I'm absolutely delighted that a number of our players have been given a chance to step into the full-time environment. Hopefully within that environment they can flourish and become proven players.

"Our aim, hopefully, is to get them ready for Robbie's first team. Murray and Kirky got a chance in the latter part of last season which was great to see. Now this group have a chance to push forward and thrive."

Sporting Director Joe Savage added: "We want to be building our academy and producing players. With Frankie, Steven Naismith, John McLaughlan, and all the guys we have in the academy - we feel like we've got a coaching group that can really develop these players and push them into the first team environment.

"These players understand the demand we're setting on them and the need to get to that level. We can coach them to become the players we know they can become."

 Adam Forrester - Centre Back

  • Joined the academy from Rangers in October 2021
  • Technically gifted, right footed but able to play on the right and left side. 
  • Steps out and reads the game well with a good change of pace
  • Integral member of the Under-18s squad that made last season's Youth Cup Final.

Kenzi Nair - Centre Back/ Central Midfielder

  • Joined the academy in 2018 from Forth Valley.
  • Versatile, left-footed player that predominantly plays in the left of a back three
  • Quality range of passing with both feet
  • Previously part of SFA's Graeme High Performance School in Falkirk, and will now join Hearts' performance school at Balerno 

Zach Paris - Goalkeeper

  • Part of the academy since 2017, joined from Spartans
  • Member of the Under-18s for the last 18 months as understudy to Liam McFarlane
  • Great communicator that has kicked on significantly through the ranks at youth level

Kai Smutek - Centre Back

  • Defender that stands at an imposing six foot four
  • One of the fastest players in the academy in speed testing
  • Reads the game well, impressed of late, likely to slot into the middle of a back three
  • Joined the academy in 2017 from Alloa

Bobby McLuckie - Left Wing-Back/Left Wing

  • 15-years-old but already a regular in Steven Naismith's Under-18s squad
  • Joined the academy in 2017 from Penicuik
  • Member of Balerno performance school programme
  • Great talent on the ball, left footed, lots of energy to get up and down the park

Mackenzie Ross - Striker/Right Wing

  • Joined the academy from Salvesen in 2019
  • Versatile operator with experience of playing up top, either side and dropping deeper as a ten
  • Great change of pace, got a number of goals for the 18s last season

Harvey Chisholm - Central Midfielder

  • Joined the academy in 2017 from Spartans
  • Part of the Balerno school programme
  • Ball playing midfielder with a great range of passing
  • Limited game time for 18s last season due to age of players ahead of him, but utilised by Steven Naismith as a calming presence to see a game out

Rocco Friel - Right Wing-Back

  • Joined the academy in December 2021 from Rangers
  • Initially was part of the Under-10s before joining Rangers and returning to Hearts
  • Regular starter in Naismith's Under-18s squad, playing nearly every game
  • Very good on the ball with a great range of passing from in deep

Gregor Crookston - Midfielder

  • Joined the academy in 2018 from Falkirk
  • Classy, composed figure in the middle of the park

All images courtesy of David Mollison, club photographer