Double training time in store for Hearts stars

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson, right, with striker Soufian el Hassnaoui

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson, right, with striker Soufian el Hassnaoui

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Robbie Neilson plans to implement regular double training sessions in order to get the best out of the Hearts squad and has warned his players to be prepared for an intensive pre-season stint in north-west England.

The head coach oversaw the first double session of his tenure on Tuesday and was impressed with the way the players embraced it. Having encouraged extra time on the training field in his role as Under-20 coach last season, Neilson believes it can help a youthful Hearts side gain a vital edge over their rivals in a country where players are regularly allowed to clock off and head home at midday.

“We’ll be on doubles three times a week pretty much right through the season,” he told the Evening News. “Not many teams do it here, but it’s something that we want to do. It’s up to us to look after ourselves and we think it’s the best way to develop young boys.

“It’s geared to improving everything because it will give us more time together to prepare properly. The players have all been good about it. It was one of the things we spoke to the new boys about and also the ones who were here before, but a lot of them who were involved with me last year were doing doubles anyway, so they know what’s expected.”

A 24-man Hearts squad – including trialist Lee Currie – travelled south today to begin a rigorous four days in which they will play two friendlies against top-level eastern European sides in Leigh, while also undertaking “a minimum of four” training sessions in Chester on the two days in between their matches. Their first game is this evening against Bulgarian champions Ludogorets Razgrad at the pavilion in Leigh Sports Village, and Neilson expects a formidable test from a side containing a raft of Bulgaria internationalists.

“They are quite far ahead of us in their pre-season plans because they’ve got their Champions League qualifier in a couple of weeks, so it’ll be good experience for us to play against a team like that,” said the head coach.

“We’ve watched quite a bit of them over the past few days to get an idea of what they’re like and they keep the ball well, so it’ll be hard work.

“We’re taking a big squad down with us so we’ll rotate the players and give them a good workout in between the games. We’ll have two days’ training between the games, so there’ll be a minimum of four training sessions.”