Joe Royle was reportedly in attendance for Hearts 2-1 win over Hibernian in Sunday’s Edinburgh derby in news that has sparked rumours the Everton scout was there to watch Maroons midfielder Sam Nicholson in action.
The 19-year-old played a starring role in the hosts’ victory, scoring the opening goal of the game with 14 minutes remaining to set a frantic finale in motion that Prince Buaben put Hearts 2-0 up from the penalty spot on 80 minutes before Farid El Alagui reduced the deficit with seconds left.
Nicholson provided the only moment of true class, in an otherwise fractious encounter that saw red cards for both sides, scoring with a sumptuous strike from 25-years to send the home fans wild.
It could even be enough to see Everton make initial contact over a deal for the midfielder, with Sport In A Storm reporting that Toffees scout Joe Royle was there to watch the highly-rated Scot.
While only scouting the player at this stage, the Premier League outfit would be expected to pay a fee in the region of anywhere up to £3 million in order to land the Hearts star, who recently put pen to paper on a new three-year deal with the Edinburgh club.
Scotland is quickly becoming an attractive prospect for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, with Everton previously linked with a move for Dundee United defender John Souttar.
Hull City, meanwhile, have already signed Souttar’s former teammate Andrew Robertson for £2.85 million while Ryan Gauld has moved to Sporting Lisbon from the Terrors, having once reportedly been on the Toffees’ radar.
Hearts’ precarious financial position, coupled with their second-tier status could make any deal for Nicholson easier to negotiate, with the player no doubt keen to earn a move to the Premier League and the chance to play at the highest level.
One other possible scenario would see Everton sign the midfielder and immediately loan him back to Hearts, where he could help the club make an immediate return to the Scottish Premiership.
The Edinburgh club have certainly enjoyed a positive start to the season, having picked up wins over promotion rivals Glasgow Rangers and Hibernian.
Check out Sam Nicholson's first ever goal for Hearts below - should Everton pursue a deal?