When Heart of Midlothian enter the transfer market over the coming weeks and months as they prepare for next season and the potential of juggling up to 10 European matches alongside the domestic campaign Steven Naismith will put one quality over any other. A quality that is hard to measure or quantify. Character.

Hearts have been working on squad planning for a while with the head coach keen to future-proof, looking ahead to what is needed and when rather than having to react and trying to play catch up. 

That has been evident with the business done already with the Premiership trio of Yan Dhanda, James Penrice and Blair Spitall set to join on free contracts in the summer.

All three will have been scouted and analysed, both by the recruitment team and the coaching staff who, according to the club's sporting director Joe Savage, are the best scouts the club have. As part of the analysis will be character references, finding out about them as a person, what they will add to the squad dynamic and what they are like around training. 

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The Hearts head coach has been keen to develop the right environment at the club which the summer additions of Frankie Kent, Kenneth Vargas and Calem Nieuwenhof have fit into and added to. And, speaking to Hearts Standard, he emphasised the importance he puts in the character of a player to the point it is likely a defining metric in deciding which player is signed.

It is also relevant for the reverse, those in the squad who may not be at those required levels.

"I would take good character over ability every day of the week," he said. "Now there is a level of ability required but if you are in that bracket of player that has got that level of ability, it all comes down to character for me.

"I’ve been in changing rooms where there have been difficult characters and been in changing rooms where everybody is bouncing off each other. Even though there is a competitive edge between players in the same position they bounce off each other and want to drive each other because you will still have that competitiveness that drives each other to get in the team and play but understanding if we want to be successful we will need everybody. That’s the way we’ve worked.

"If you look at the squad there has not been one player who has probably been that far out and not played. If there is somebody who is a bit out and there is an opportunity that suits all then the player won’t sit unhappy and in the same breath, if they are not doing the required levels they will be moved on and we will try to improve that."

Less of a requirement than character for new recruits is versatility. Yet, it is welcomed.

Hearts fans have witnessed a number of players capable of filling different roles within the side this season. Whether it is Stephen Kingsley in various defensive positions or Alan Forrest moving around the final third with good effect.

Both Penrice and Spittal are known for their flexibility with the latter having played in around six different positions for Motherwell during his time at Fir Park and the former playing all up (and down) the left-hand side for Livi as well as in the centre of the pitch.

"It helps," Naismith noted. "It doesn’t define whether we sign a player or not but definitely in the modern day and even with the size of club, we need to be adaptable at times. We have got our preferred things we want to do but at times teams do things to stop us doing that and you need to adapt. Having players that are versatile is a massive strength.

"I think we’ve seen that. Kingsley is the one that springs to mind. He can play centre-half, right of the three at the back, can play wing-back, can play left-back but we’ve got a few players like that. It adds a value and when I talk about not wanting to have a massively big squad, if you have players who can do a couple of jobs it saves you from having to have that second player which keeps the group size at a decent level that builds into that togetherness and there are not a big amount of players that aren’t involved to try and keep happy."

Going forward one of those players in the squad may not even be a new signing but academy graduate Aidan Denholm. He's carried out different functions in midfield and played at wing-back for Scotland Under-21s. That came through experience in training.

While Naismith doesn't perhaps subscribe to the theory that players have to be more versatile in today's game he does feel it is "highlighted more".

"For most young players coming through that’s inevitably what happens," he explained. "If you are a centre half you might come on at full-back because it might be easier to get you on the pitch and limiting the damage in case there is a mistake. If you are a forward you are potentially coming on in the wider areas just so you are not coming on in a vulnerable position where one mistake could cost your team. By doing that as young players coming through you do inevitably pick up the skills in these different positions.

"Each player is different. I was someone who could understand the game in general quite easily when a manager spoke to me which makes moving into different positions easier. Aidan Denholm is like that. He’s played wing-back for Scotland, he’s played right-back in training for us, he’s played at centre-back in training, he’s been a 6, he’s been a 10, he’s been a wide forward. It’s adding another string to their bow."

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It may not be the case of a planned exposure for young players to different roles but more one that is natural and brought about by circumstances related to football.

"I don’t think it will be a key, ‘we’re doing this every three months’. With injuries or selection issues it is definitely something we would do," Naismith said. "When the younger players do come up to the first-team environment there are elements of what we’re trying to do in the session, what’s required, what’s being focused that a lot of the players are out of their preferred position. That’s just natural, that’s just football.

"We say to them it’s a learning day. Even though you are not in your right position, you don’t just switch off, you learn, you work and you listen to what we are wanting from you in those positions and then at the end of the day you might reflect and go, ‘oh, I understand that a bit better than I did before the session’."