Jimmy Dunne: Hearts and Burnley 'agree in principle' to extend centre-half's loan

Hearts' Jimmy Dunne and Olly Lee
Jimmy Dunne (left) has made 13 Hearts appearances

Hearts are considering extending Jimmy Dunne's loan from Burnley even though captain Christophe Berra is expected to make an early return from injury.

The 21-year-old was initially signed as cover for the Scotland centre-half, who was expected to be out for six months.

With Berra returning to training three months ahead of schedule, manager Craig Levein said: "I think Jimmy's done that well that I'd find a place for him."

Burnley manager Sean Dyche is happy to extend the loan until the summer.

"I've spoken to Sean at Burnley and we're going to speak again in January," Levein said.

"In principle, we felt it was quite a good idea for him to prolong his stay here.

"I've not bottomed that out completely, so I'll do that once I get past these games leading up to the winter break."

Dunne, who had previous loan spells with Barrow and Accrington Stanley, has made 13 appearances for Hearts after initially joining the Edinburgh club until the new year.

His international future has also yet to be settled after he was an unused substitute for Republic of Ireland's 0-0 draw away to Denmark in the Nations League on Monday.

Dunne had initially been released by Martin O'Neill, who has since departed as national manager, ahead of last week's friendly with Northern Ireland but recalled following injuries.

The defender, who also qualifies for Northern Ireland, has held talks with their manager, Michael O'Neill, and his international future will not be settled until he has played a competitive game.

Berra returns to play bounce game

Hearts defender Christophe Berra back in training
Christophe Berra returned to Hearts training on Thursday

Levein is hopeful that Berra and on-loan forward Steven Naismith will be match fit soon to bolster a side that has gone four games without a win and been knocked off the top of the Premiership by holders Celtic.

Berra was hopeful of facing Rangers on 2 December and Levein plans to see how his hamstring responds to a "bounce game" next week.

"If it's good then, with someone of his experience and quality, I want him back in the team as quickly as possible," he said.

"The good thing is he is a sensible guy and he'll know when he's right. It will be guided by him more than anything else."

Defenders John Souttar and Jamie Brandon, plus striker Uche Ikpeazu, also remain on the sidelines, but Levein has no plans to add to his squad in January other than the already-agreed signing of striker David Vanecek from Czech outfit Teplice.

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