Hearts eye back-up for injury-hit Kevin Kyle

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Jim Jefferies and Kevin Kyle
Jefferies brought Kyle with him from Kilmarnock

Jim Jefferies could seek a similar striker to Kevin Kyle in the summer after admitting that his absence has hampered Hearts' bid for third place.

Kyle was ruled out for the rest of the season after a hip operation and is doubtful for the start of next term.

"With Kevin being out, we don't really have another player like that," said manager Jefferies.

"So we might have to see if we can find another in the summer and look at who the options are just in case."

Hearts' advantage in third place in the Scottish Premier League has been cut from 15 points to eight with six games remaining, Dundee United having won seven of their last eight league games.

But Jefferies believes that, if Kyle had remained fit for the season, his side would have already secured third.

"His absence has been noticeable," said the manager, who has had to do without the Scotland international since January.

"I don't think that David Templeton has scored since Kevin has been out.

"He has been a big loss in the second part of the season."

Now Jefferies is thinking of bringing in an additional striker in case Kyle does not make a recovery in time for the start of the season and could suffer further absences next season.

"It's quite a short break because of the early start to the season and also we could have a European tie," said the manager.

"I would not imagine that he would be back for pre-season training. So we will struggle to get him back for the start.

"Some people react differently, so you never know. Let's hope he is a quick healer."

Jefferies will wait until Hearts' finishing position in the SPL is confirmed before finalising plans for next season.

"Nothing will be discussed with any player under contract or wanting a new contract or in plans until we get third place tied up," he said.

"We've had tentative discussions with the owners, but nothing will be decided or discussed until we get third place tied up."

Jefferies is confident he can retain players and enhance his squad next season.

"Hopefully the ones we want to keep, we can keep and, if we want to try and improve the squad, we'll try and do that," he said.

"I'm not bothered whether I get cash or not. Cash would be nice, but if it's not there it doesn't stop us bringing in players.

"There are a lot of players out of contract and this club has great stature about it.

"There's a lot of people that would like to play at this club."