Makenzie Kirk's Hearts future addressed as Steven Naismith discusses 'top, top finisher'

Some fans want to see prolific Lowland League forward pitched in but Naismith explains caution

Hearts manager Steven Naismith will mull over what to do with teenage striker Makenzie Kirk for the rest of the season, with a loan away from the club a possibility.

Kirk – the son of ex-Hearts forward and current St Johnstone coach Andy Kirk – has scored 22 goals in 17 appearances for Hearts’ B team in the Lowland League, which has led to some supporters to question whether he the 19-year-old, whose only cameo for Hearts came in April 2022 away at Ross County, should be given a chance in the senior set-up. Naismith revealed that the academy graduate has been involved in first-team training, but pointed out the jump between the levels and that a loan move could be the best option for him when the transfer window opens to continue his development.

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“When fans see he is scoring a lot of goals, how many have watched a B team game?” said Naismith on Kirk’s performances. “Mak Kirk's strongest attribute is finishing, arguably the top, as good as anyone we have got at this club. Top, top. But the other aspects of his game he needs to work on, he's such a good character that he learns. If anything he works too hard, running everywhere and the ball comes in the box and he's not there or the link up is not there because he is doing somebody else's job. For the last year that's the biggest thing I've tried to turn with him when I've been working with him. But his season so far has been really good, improving in all the areas.

Makenzie Kirk (No 35) has been in excellent form for Hearts' B team in the Lowland League.Makenzie Kirk (No 35) has been in excellent form for Hearts' B team in the Lowland League.
Makenzie Kirk (No 35) has been in excellent form for Hearts' B team in the Lowland League.

"When he's around with the first team he's had a few sessions where we are like 'that part needs to be better' then he gets it. For instance he was in our training group yesterday (Thursday) and does really well so it's about keeping him on that upward trajectory. In terms of January we will wait and see because the question will be will he get much else from the next six months in the B [team]. If there is an offer and somebody wants to take him higher up, do we challenge him there? The ultimate goal is that he needs to be in the first team. He might go and break records in the B team league but that's irrelevant really because he needs to progress and we need to test him to see exactly where he is.”

Naismith has always been a strong advocate of using Hearts’ youth system and has promoted midfielder Aidan Denholm into the first-team picture this season. But the manager also cautioned against throwing callow players into the deep end too soon. "Like I've said before I am not going to fling any young kid in just to show we are throwing him in,” he added. “It can kill a young player as much as it can help them but we want to get as many young players through as we can. A lot of work we've done in the background with the B team, with the boys going on loan, how their working week works in terms of getting around the first-team is as good as it's been since I've been at the club. It's just that last bit that everybody sees is on the pitch and getting him there. I think we are in a good place and have some good prospects coming through so we will see in the next year or two and we can hopefully get a few of them in the first team.