Hearts confirm exit of three first-team stars, new deal for popular midfielder, Josh Ginnelly future

Hearts have confirmed three first-team stars will exit at the end of the season when their contracts expire, while Peter Haring has penned a 12-month extension.

Michael Smith, Ross Stewart and Gary Mackay-Steven will all depart but the future of forward Josh Ginnelly is yet to be decided.

Northern Ireland international Smith became a fan favourite during his time at Tynecastle Park, joining from Peterborough United back in 2017. Across six years and more than 200 appearances, the 34-year-old became a reliable figure for the club, playing a variety of positions but mainly at right-back where he has been first choice for the majority of his Hearts career.

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Stewart has acted as back-up to Craig Gordon and Zander Clark. Proving a popular figure behind the scenes, he made nine appearances. Gary Mackay-Steven has not featured for the club since suffering an injury in October. He has been restricted to 64 appearances since joining in January 2020 after a spell in MLS.

“All three of them have been fantastic to work with since I came into the first-team scene," interim boss Steven Naismith told the club's official website. “They’re all at different stages of their careers and have faced different challenges this season but they’ve always given nothing less than 100% and they should be proud to be part of this club’s history.”

Sporting director Joe Savage added: “All three of these guys have played a part in helping this club to return to the top end of Scottish football.

“Michael’s performances saw him become a real fans’ favourite and the way he went about his business meant that he was someone that the younger players looked up to. Ross came in to bolster the goalkeeping department, working with international standard goalkeepers, and never let us down when he got the opportunity to take the gloves. Gary was part of our promotion-winning team and helped us to secure third place last season and with it group stage European football, and he’s been desperately unlucky with injuries this term.

“We thank all three for their services to Hearts and wish them well in the future.”

Michael Smith will leave Hearts at the end of the season. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Michael Smith will leave Hearts at the end of the season. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Michael Smith will leave Hearts at the end of the season. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Haring and Ginnelly

Meanwhile, Hearts have taken up an option on Haring's contract for a further 12 months after he signed a new deal last summer. The Austrian missed a chunk of the season following a head knock but has proved his worth under Naismith.

“Having played alongside Pete I know all about his strengths and qualities so it’s great news for the club that he’s going to be here next season," Naismith said. “He was a big miss to the team when he was out injured but he’s come back and made an impact because he’s influential both on and off the pitch. I’m sure he’ll continue drive the team on this Saturday and in the season to come.”

Savage added: “We always knew we wanted Pete to be here beyond this season and we’re delighted that he’s fit and healthy and, of course, playing well in a Hearts shirt.

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“It’s not by accident that Pete is one of our longest-serving players. He consistently delivers a high level of performance on the pitch and away from it he’s a highly-respected figure in the dressing room. He’s also a real fans’ favourite so this is good news as we head into a massive game for the club this weekend.”

Ginnelly recently addressed his future with the club keen to keep a player who has scored 13 times and formed a strong partnership with Lawrence Shankland, the second-best in the last 40 seasons in terms of goals scored.

"It’s obviously a tough decision but I’m not too involved in the conversations," he told the Evening News. “Ideally, I do want to stay. I’m obviously at an age where I need to look out for myself. I’m not saying I’m going because I don’t know yet. Fans will think it’s just me but my agent reports back to me and we talk about it. I’ll probably talk about it with Naisy and people around the club.

“I haven’t seen my family more than three times this year. It’s a long way for me to go if I want to go home – six or seven hours. These things all come into play. If I do decide to sign then I have to bring everybody up, so I have to make sure the deal is right.”



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