Hearts looking south for friendly fixture

PLANS: Robbie Neilson.
PLANS: Robbie Neilson.
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Hearts will do the majority of their pre-season work at Riccarton this year but head coach Robbie Neilson hopes to arrange a friendly in England in July.

The Edinburgh club are preparing for life in the SPFL Championship and will not venture abroad during the summer due to the expense involved.

Neilson and director of football Craig Levein are currently organising their pre-season schedule and already have a confirmed friendly against Dundee at Dens Park on Tuesday, July 22.

Further warm-up games against other Scottish clubs are likely, with a short trip to England also a possibility.

With Ann Budge’s new regime in place, Hearts are determined to budget sensibly and will therefore avoid any foreign trips this year.

“We won’t be going abroad. With the budget we have, it’s too expensive,” explained Neilson. “It can cost £30,000-£40,000 to take a team abroad and we can’t go anywhere near that.

“We’ve got good facilities at Riccarton so we’ll do our pre-season there. At the very most, we’ll maybe go down to England for a day or two if we can get something sorted out.

“The facilities at Riccarton are second to none. Going abroad is fine but sometimes you can get there and you don’t know what the facilities are like and what you’re going to get. At least we know we’ve got top notch facilities at Riccarton.

“We come back on June 26, then it’s four weeks until the Ramsdens Cup starts. We have a free week after that before the league starts so I’d like five or six games in by that time.

“Getting a friendly against a big English team can be difficult because the majority of these teams are booked up by March or April. We’re coming in at the last minute but I’d like to think we can get at least one decent game against an English team, then maybe a few games against Scottish Premiership teams. I think it’s important that we test ourselves because that can set us up for a good start to the season.”

Neilson hopes to have several new signings in place by the time the friendlies begin early next month. First, the club’s priority is to exit administration, which should happen by June 19 at the latest.