HEARTS will begin a mini pre-season today to raise fitness levels within the first-team squad.
Head coach Robbie Neilson plans to gather players at Riccarton for four days of intense work and insists everyone must accept the relentless demands of football.
Numbers are reduced with Callum Paterson, Jack Hamilton, John Souttar, Sam Nicholson, Liam Smith, Faycal Rherras and Arnaud Djoum on international duty. Colleagues left behind will work on specific fitness and preparation drills between now and Friday.
They will then be given the weekend off before preparations begin in earnest on Monday for Hamilton’s visit to Tynecastle the following Saturday. “The demand of football is relentless. Our players got two days off – Sunday and Monday – but they’re back in today and the demands are there again,” Neilson said.
“We’re having a mini pre-season to try and get our fitness up, and then we come back after a couple of days off at the weekend. The demands will be there again next week. It’s constant demands. We could quite easily give the players eight days off but it’s not going to make them win against Hamilton. We must focus now on how we’re going to beat Hamilton.
“This will be a week block where we can work on fitness. We’ve got four days so we’re working hard at it. We aren’t going to be running like mad, we’ll just work on what we think is important with the Hamilton game coming up. We’ve changed a few things this season in relation to the way we want to play and we still need to work hard on that.”
Meanwhile, Prince Buaben is expected to stay with Hearts beyond the current transfer window. Tynecastle officials had agreed a deal to transfer the midfielder to Ross County, but terms could not be agreed.
The Edinburgh club are bracing themselves in case a late bid arrives for in-demand full-back Callum Paterson, with the transfer window due to close tomorrow night. Striker Juanma Delgado and full-back Juwon Oshaniwa are available for transfer but, so far, have not managed to secure moves out of Tynecastle.