IAN Cathro has completed his first two Hearts signings after sealing deals for veteran Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes and former Hamilton left-back Lennard Sowah.
Hughes – who featured at Euro 2016 for Michael O’Neill’s side – arrived at the Jambos’ Riccarton training base on Monday morning to seal a deal until the end of the season.
The 37-year-old is a free agent after completing a spell with Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters.
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Cathro is looking to add experience to his defence and has turned to the former Newcastle, Aston Villa and Fulham centre-back.
Hughes is Northern Ireland’s most capped player having made 104 appearances for his country, the last of which came during October’s 2-0 defeat to world champions Germany.
He will replace former Hearts skipper Alim Ozturk, who was allowed to depart Tynecastle.
Former Arsenal youngster Sowah has also agreed a six-month contract just days after quitting Accies.
The 24-year-old came through the ranks at the Gunners but failed to break into Arsene Wenger’s first team.
He featured in the Premier League for Portsmouth and also had spells with Hamburg in Germany and Danish side Vestsjaelland before joining Hamilton in October.
Sowah played seven times for Martin Canning’s side but left last week after his Accies deal expired.
Ozturk, meanwhile, negotiated his release from the Jambos over the weekend and has now signed an 18-month deal with Turkish second-tier side Boluspor.
The 24-year-old centre-back joined Hearts back in June 2014, winning a Championship winners’ medal in his first season as the Jambos bounced back from their administration nightmare to reclaim their top-flight place at the first time of asking.
He was appointed captain by former boss Robbie Neilson in 2015 and led the club to a third-place finish on their Premiership return.
But he dropped down Neilson’s pecking order this term and has now been allowed to move on by new head coach Cathro.
A club spokesman said: “Alim will forever be remembered in Gorgie for his last-minute, 40-yard screamer that broke Hibs’ hearts at Easter Road in October 2014, securing the Jambos a point and helping to maintain an unbeaten record that lasted nearly seven months.
“The club would like to thank Alim for his time at Hearts and wish him all the best with his career in the future.”
Sowah says he is already eyeing a long-term stay in Gorgie.
Asked if he wanted to win a deal beyond the summer, he told Hearts TV: “That is definitely the aim.
“I’ve felt right at home in Scotland. I’ve played in the UK before down in England and I love the passion they have here.
“It wasn’t such an easy decision to come to Hearts because I’d only played three months at Hamilton. But when I got the offer I was really excited about it.
“I think it’s the right decision to sign for Hearts.
“I played in the 3-3 draw with Hamilton earlier this season. I only came on for the last few minutes but saw they are a good team when they came back from 3-1 down to get a draw.”