HEARTS’ new team will be founded upon the well-known central midfield axis of Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben.
Their partnership returns to its city of discovery tonight as the Jambos head to Dens Park for another pre-season friendly.
Their experience, craft and guile provide an enviable midfield pairing to complement the six other summer recruits at Tynecastle. Then there is the familiarity of two players who know one another inside and out.
Gomis and Buaben were first introduced by Craig Levein at Dundee United seven years ago. Levein is now Hearts’ director of football and his presence may well have been instrumental in reuniting two men who first played together under his command.
Gomis, 29, became Hearts’ first post-administration signing last month, with 26-year-old Buaben agreeing his contract last week after impressing on trial. The two share the same agent and are now aiming to dominate games together again in this season’s Championship. They will get another chance to hone their play tonight away at Dundee.
An indifferent second spell at Tannadice ended in May for Gomis as he was released by the Dundee United manager Jackie McNamara. After signing a three-year contract with Hearts, his joy multiplied when Buaben’s familiar face appeared on the recent training camp in England. Quite simply, Gomis feels he is a more effective footballer with Buaben by his side.
“I was happy when he came here and when I knew the club wanted to sign him I was delighted,” said Gomis in an exclusive Evening News interview. “He is one of my best friends and it’s easy to play with him because he’s such a good player. We just get on together, on and off the pitch. We don’t really speak on the pitch, we just play.
“We both just enjoy playing football. I know what Prince is all about and he knows my game as well. I think we just understand each other.
“I think I’m a better player with Prince beside me. I would say he brings the best out of me and I think I bring the best out of him. With both of us playing together in the middle, we do quite well.”
Some Hearts fans may wonder exactly how their relationship works.
“Basically, when I’m not tracking back he is doing the tracking for me. That also works the other way round,” explained Gomis. “We stay close to each other, we always make sure we are not far from each other. We always try to play one-touch and two-touch football and look to play forward passes as much as we can.”
It certainly sounds attractive and in tune with the kind of playing style favoured by the new Hearts head coach, Robbie Neilson.
Others who held the fort commendably during the trials and tribulations of last season, like Scott Robinson and Jason Holt, may not be quite so enthralled to see Gomis and Buaben looking like first choices in midfield. The youngsters must fight their way into contention to dislodge the current incumbents.
“I hope we can stand out together in the Championship,” continued Gomis. “It’s not going to be easy because we will be made to work hard in every single game.
“It’s not going to be an easy league. Some people think we are favourites, but there are other teams like Rangers and Hibs and Falkirk and others. We need to perform to do well.
“Prince is very happy. He just wants to enjoy playing football again, like myself. We want to get Hearts back into the Premiership – that’s our main objective. There are also other players here at Hearts, so I don’t mind playing with anybody. It’s nice to have competition in midfield.”
Without being unkind to Buaben, Gomis looks the more dynamic of the two. His energy works in tandem with Buaben’s ability to control the tempo of a match. Neilson is determined that Hearts will pass the ball on the ground this season – an approach which suits both of their new midfield additions.
“That’s all we’ve been practising in training every single day. The manager really wants us to play from the back, right from the goalkeeper through the defence, midfield and attack,” said Gomis.
“We try to play on the ground and that suits us. We really like the way the manager wants us to play. Personally, that’s the kind of football I really enjoy. Hopefully we can carry on with that style throughout the whole season.”
The question which has yet to be answered is whether that type of football can be played in a league like Scotland’s second tier.
“I think it’s possible to play that football anywhere,” insisted Gomis. “It doesn’t matter what division you are in, you just need to practise. If you’re ready then you can play on the ground. If it doesn’t work, you just try to play another style. That’s what Robbie wants to do, but everybody in this team can stand up for themselves. Whatever teams we play against, we will try to play football.
“Things are coming together well, the boys are looking really sharp and fit. There are still a few friendly games to go, but I think we will be ready for the first game of the season against Rangers.
“I thought we did well against Manchester City on Friday. We have to look at the team we’re playing against, but I thought we played well. That was the top level – you see the players Manchester City have got and the way they play. Everything is at a high level and they play good football. At the same time, we tried to play our football too and I thought we managed that.”
The goalscorer in that 2-1 defeat by the English champions, trialist Osman Sow, joined Hearts permanently on a two-year contract yesterday.
“He looks a really good player,” said Gomis, “but I think the best is yet to come from him. He is a really strong boy and a good footballer so hopefully he can score a lot of goals for us. He’s looking good.”