Steven Naismith is hoping to see several other Hearts players pledge their futures to the club in the coming weeks after Alan Forrest signed a new contract until 2026.
The 27-year-old’s initial deal was due to expire this summer, but he has earned an extension after establishing himself as a key man for the Jambos this term.
Naismith praised Forrest for the way he has handled the step up since moving to Hearts from Livingston in 2022.
“Alan needed to prove to the fans he’s good enough and understand the demands at the club and I think over his time here he’s done that,” said the manager.
“I think this period is the most consistent he’s been. That’s something I challenged him with at the start of the season in terms of impacting games more and needing to be one of the most consistent performers, and he’s done that as well.
“It’s great that we’re keeping a valuable asset, but Alan deserves it more than a lot of the boys in the group.”
Hearts allowed two midfielders to leave on Friday in search of more regular game time as Andy Halliday joined Motherwell on loan with a view to making the move permanent when his Jambos contract expires in the summer, while Alex Lowry had his loan deal from Rangers cut short.
Goalkeeper Michael McGovern also left to join Livingston on loan for the rest of the campaign.
The Edinburgh club are in talks aimed at tying down several other players on longer contracts, including Craig Gordon, Beni Baningime, Craig Halkett and Lawrence Shankland.
“There are a few more (beyond those listed) that we’re talking to, whether it be younger players in the full-time environment or first-team players, but I’m hoping a fair few will have signed new contracts in the coming weeks,” said Naismith.
Shankland’s future has been the main talking point among supporters, with the free-scoring forward’s current deal expiring in the summer of 2025.
“We’ve been in conversations for weeks,” said Naismith. “We’ve not had any interest or offers.
“I think a lot of that speculation is coming from outside, punditry and the media. Lawrence is playing the best football of his life and he needs to weigh up the pros of staying at Hearts while also understanding that it’s a short career.
“He’s got to do the best he can for him and his family. Everybody within the club and supporters need to appreciate that and respect it and just enjoy him while he’s here, whether that’s for the rest of this contract or beyond.”
Hearts kick off their Scottish Gas Scottish Cup campaign with a short trip to northern Edinburgh to face cinch League Two side Spartans on Saturday.
“It will be an awkward game,” said Naismith. “You’ve got the beauty of the Scottish Cup and going to new surroundings, which will be tricky.
“There’s also the expectation that we should just turn up and roll these teams over, but it’s never the case.
“Nowadays, in the professional game, the athleticism and organisation of teams is very good.
“We’ve got a good understanding of Spartans because we’ve got a good link with them as a club.
“Our B team play their games there (at Ainslie Park), they’re a fantastic community club and we played them earlier in the season in a bounce game. It will be a tough game.”