Hearts have really struggled for reliable options at striker this season. With the exception of Steven Naismith, Craig Levein hasn’t really had an out and out marksman to turn to.

With Naismith linked with moves away from Tynecastle in the summer, Levein has to look for another forward option. Aidan Keena provides a youthful spark and Uche Ikpeazu gives the Jambos a physical presence. The likes of Steve MacLean, Craig Wighton and January signing David Vanecek aren’t reliable goalscoring options though.

The likes of Wighton aren’t reliable goalscorers. (photo by David Young/Action Plus via Getty Images)

There is an out of contract Championship star who can provide goals though. Lawrence Shankland has been on fire for Ayr United this term, notching 31 goals in 33 games so far this term.

Hearts have been linked with the frontman in the past but nothing materialised. With Shankland becoming a free agent this summer, Levein has to move in for his former transfer target.

Shankland is a potential Naismith replacement

The former Aberdeen youngster has been linked with both Celtic and Rangers this year but neither would provide him with a regular amount of game time. Hearts could though and that could persuade Shankland to move to Gorgie.

The striker has had Ayr fans jumping for joy this season. (photo by David Young/Action Plus via Getty Images)

He’s a similar player to Naismith. Often played in a two striker formation, Shankland has the ability to play off a big target man. A partnership with Ikpeazu next season would prove to be a deadly combo. The former Cambridge United striker would bring the ball down and Shankland could be the man to finish it.

Blessed with natural finishing ability and pace, the Ayr forward provides a like for like swap should Naismith leave. He would seamlessly slot into the role the Norwich City loanee has played for Levein.

One question mark would be over his top flight ability. He didn’t break through at Pittodrie and has no Premiership experience past that. The Jambos have to look beyond that though. He’s outgrown the Championship and Shankland is now mature enough to become a top striker.

Shankland is very much like Naismith. (photo by David Young/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Wages wouldn’t be a problem, with the Tynecastle side’s finances far superior to the Honest Men’s. The big issue Hearts would have is if the likes of Celtic and Rangers came in for Shankland. They would then blow Levein’s finances out the water, but promises of game time could swing the pendulum towards Tynecastle.

Hearts will need a goalscorer next season. If it’s not going to be Naismith it should be Shankland. To not move for the prolific forward on a free would be ridiculous.

The Jambos haven’t had a 20 goal striker since John Robertson in the 90s. The former Aberdeen youngster has the potential to break that record if Levein goes after him in the summer.

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