Gary Mackay: Hearts ready for title challenge

Hearts have looked good in pre-season
Hearts have looked good in pre-season
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Hearts, without doubt, have to be looked upon as title contenders this season.

When you see the personnel that has been added to the squad over the summer, we have to fancy our chances.

It’ll certainly be a challenging season, though. Last year there wasn’t any expectancy on the team, but this year there will be massive expectation as, outwith Rangers, we have the biggest budget in the league.

With the extra interest in the league this season, the Hearts players will also have to deal with the pressure of playing in front of stadiums which are likely to be full to bursting more often than not.

The big crowd at Tynecastle will be a real positive if the team gets off on the front foot, but, at the same time, a bigger crowd also brings extra demands and pressure.

The management will have to find a way of making sure the players are relaxed and able to enjoy and embrace playing in front of big crowds in the Championship rather than become tense because of it. That’ll be a challenge for everybody.

Early signs have been promising in terms of the new additions, but only time will tell if we have really improved in terms of quality.

That competitive environment comes no more demanding than an opening-day trip to Ibrox and an opening home game against Hibs. We’ll have a better idea after those two games of where we are.

From their Petrofac Cup game in midweek, Hibs took all the plaudits and Rangers took the result, so it shows how difficult our opening two games will be.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, Hearts players can take heart from the fact Hibs were able to put up such a positive show at Ibrox.

Hearts, Hibs and Rangers will probably have no problem getting up for the games against each other, but it will be the supposed banana-skin games that will decide what happens over the course of the season.

It will be at places like Alloa, Dumbarton and Cowdenbeath where the league is won and lost – so it will come down to whether or not we have the consistency to keep winning week in, week out when all our opponents are gunning for us.