Reading between the lines of Beni Baningime's comments over the weekend regarding his future, it wasn't too difficult for the Heart of Midlothian support to surmise that the midfielder is set to extend his stay at Tynecastle Park - an optimism that is shared by Steven Naismith. 

Baningime is out of contract at the end of the campaign and could move on for free. When speaking to the Evening News he revealed that he had come to a decision on where he would be playing football next season and would let everyone know pretty soon.

The 25-year-old spoke about Hearts improving next season and it wasn't the first time he had hinted that Gorgie is where his future could lie. In March he talked positively about the proposed arrivals of James Penrice, Blair Spittal and Yan Dhanda.

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"They are going to be great additions and to push us on to be even better than this season," he said.

"With those players coming in and where the club is going it definitely makes you start to think, 'Okay, I'd want to play with these players' because they are good players."

So he is staying, right? 

"I hope he tells me soon!" Naismith laughed when asked about Baningime's comments.

The Hearts head coach has a good relationship with the player having first encountered him when he was at Everton and Baningime was in the club's academy. He is "optimistic" about the contract decision.

"I can understand where he is at, where he wants to go, why he wants to take time to think about it," Naismith said. "I'm optimistic. Any conversation I've had with him, what he wants in this short-to-medium term we can give him. I also understand he wants to get to as high as he can.

"I've been comfortable with the whole thing all along. The conversations we've had have been good. I've got real hope that he will sign and with him saying that hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later."

Despite the ball-winning and ball-playing qualities he brings to the team, Baningime has perhaps been underrated or undervalued by some within the support since making the move from Everton in the summer of 2021.

He has been an influential midfielder, playing a key role in two third-place finishes during that time. He missed the entire 2022/23 campaign when the team placed fourth.

There is real merit in him staying at Tynecastle Park beyond this season on a personal level. At 25 he has yet to play more than 100 first-team games. He has made the highest number of appearances in a single campaign this season. 

Naismith noted two difficult loan spells when at Everton as well as injury and believes remaining will help him in his pursuit of playing at the highest level possible.

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"I'm very conscious when talking to players, I'm not selling a dream here," he explained. "I'm just going to give them facts of what we can give them.

"He's had one bad injury and two poor loans when he was at Everton that set him back. He then comes here at a risky point where if he doesn't do well at Hearts where does he go? That's high risk but what he has done in that time is showcase himself and go 'I'm a good player'.

"It can be quick [for a player] to go 'I'm going to capitalise on this' or do you truly believe in your ability and playing another 60 games or 100 games, in Europe, challenging for trophies at a demanding club? If he stays here for two or three more years he is in the prime of his career then he can look at what is bigger.

"It's about painting that picture for him rather than going 'come here, this is the best club in the world, it's going to give you this'. It's just being honest with him. Players have a feeling inside, when you are making a decision you have a feeling inside and it is ultimately the one you are going to go with. Hopefully, Beni is at that point and it is with us."

Meanwhile, Liam Boyce could make his first appearance since sustaining an injury in a win over Kilmarnock in December. The Northern Irishman is set to be in the squad to face St Mirren on Wednesday night.

"It's good to get Boycie back but there hasn't been any pressure," Naismith said. "He has worked really hard, he feels good and he brings something different."