Hearts boss Steven Naismith praised Lawrence Shankland after the Scotland international scored a late winner against Hibs in the derby but then said that no player is irreplaceable.
Shankland, who had missed a first half penalty, netted in injury time to seal a 1-0 win for Hearts at Easter Road and spark joyous celebrations in the away end.
The goal brings the striker’s tally for the season up to 16 goals in all competitions and his efforts have been a significant factor in Hearts’ rise to third place in the Premiership.
Inevitably, that has form has led to the forward being linked with a move away from the club in January.
Hearts have been clear that they have no plans to cash in on the 28-year-old, who is contracted until the summer of 2025, and chief executive Andrew McKinlay has said they plan on holding talks over a new deal.
Naismith described Shankland as being on his way to becoming a club legend after his derby heroics. But when asked how he would deal with the situation if the situation changed and Shankland did leave the club, he said that experience had shown him that the departure of an important figure just opened doors for other people.
“That’s part and parcel of football,” he said.
“I would want to get to a point where if a player leaves or you get a bad injury, you have a list there you can comfortably go at.
“We had it with Josh Ginnelly in the summer, who was a big part of last season for me. He moved on and we had to make different signings. When players go out of the team it creates an opportunity for someone else.
“I was at Kilmarnock when Kris Boyd scored all our goals. He went to Rangers in the January and everybody’s saying ‘what’s going to happen now?’ But me and Colin Nish stepped up and scored goals.
“It happens at every club. No matter who leaves, an opportunity arises for someone else.
“I’m comfortable with our squad. I think we’ve got a good squad. (Kenneth) Vargas, (Yutaro) Oda and (Kyosuke) Tagawa are still young.
“They have good moments and they have moments that can be better. But I think over time they can bring real quality to the squad. I’m comfortable with it all.”
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