Naismith: Shankland is Scotland's Player of the Year by a distance

Shankland is on a four man shortlist for the PFA award after scoring 28 goals for Hearts this season.

Steven Naismith has hailed Lawrence Shankland as the best player in Scotland this season by a distance and expects his star forward to scoop the end of season awards.

The Hearts manager insists it’s “not even close” in the debate over who should be named the Premiership Player of the Year.

Shankland has been nominated by the PFA alongside Celtic’s Matt O’Riley and Rangers duo James Tavernier and Jack Butland in the four-man shortlist for their award.

The Scotland international has scored 28 goals so far this season and skippered the Tynecastle side to third place and two semi-finals.

The PFA winner will be revealed on Sunday, while the Scottish Football Writers accolade will be announced later this month and Naismith cannot see how anyone else could land the honours.

Speaking on Friday, he said: “I’m not sure it’s close, if I’m honest, I think he’s been the best player, I think he should win it, I expect him to win it, I expect him to win the media award as well.”

The future of Shankland has been the subject of intense speculation this season, but Naismith insisted he is still planning for his talisman being at Tynecastle next term.

He said: “Yes, we’re in control of the situation.

“He’s got a year left and that’s how we’ll focus on it.

“Every player at the club, at some point they will leave, they might get bought or their contract might run down. We need to plan for further ahead all the time, that’s the way we work.

“We need to be a club that’s producing players, buying players, progressing them and selling them on, I think every club in Scotland is the same. But ultimately it needs to be right for Hearts.

“If we think we can do something to keep a player here, we will and if we think it’s the right time to move them on, they will move on.”

Naismith was philosophical about his own omission from the shortlist for the PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award in a season when he has led Hearts clear of the pack in the battle for third place in his first full campaign as a manager.

Kilmarnock’s Derek McInnes, Dundee’s Tony Docherty and Falkirk’s John McGlynn are the three nominees.

The Hearts manager said: “To be fair, I think this season has been really good for managers who have done really well.

“John McGlynn has had an incredible achievement at Falkirk and Stephen Robinson, Tony Docherty and Derek McInnes have all been brilliant as well.

“For me, in my first year leading a team, the time and the commitment all these guys give me is invaluable. I’m just privileged to be in a position where you get some contact time with these guys.

“I think we’ve had a really good season. Obviously the first few months when you’re a new manager, you’re there to be hit and be pressured. People want to see if you can stand up to the scrutiny as well as putting on performances and getting results, and we’ve done that.

“We’ve got a really good group of players and staff, and the club has grown and is ambitious to progress. We’re in a really good moment.”

Hearts travel to Glasgow to take on league leaders Celtic on Saturday with third place all-but secured with four games remaining.

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