Craig Levein today warned against rising expectations amongst Hearts fans.
Levein, the club’s director of football, is keen to temper some of the excitement following last year’s record-breaking Championship title win but admitted that several new recruits will improve the team.
Spanish striker Juanma, Polish defender Blazej Augustyn and Scottish forward Gavin Reilly have been added so far. A deal for Nigerian left-back Juwon Oshaniwa is close and Levein believes the new additions can help young home-grown players as Hearts reacquaint themselves with Premiership football.
However, he is keen not to make wild predictions about where the club will finish come next May. Progress is the main aim following last season’s remarkable promotion success.
“We’re coming up against teams that are established – that’s our biggest problem,” said Levein. “A lot of players haven’t played in this league before. It takes a while to understand sometimes what the important things are when you go to a new club and a new division. There is an element of needing to see how they settle but, on first sight, I’m hopeful.”
Solid foundations are already in place following an intense recruitment drive by head coach Robbie Neilson last summer.
“Last year, Robbie did a fantastic job with players thrown together,” stressed Levein. “The season prior to that, we had kids that had some really good experience. I mean opportunities to play and get used to the environment and I think that stood them in good stead.
“Guys like Sam [Nicholson], Callum [Paterson], Jordan [McGhee] and Billy [King], all these kids came on a ton. We threw a lot of players together at the last minute, we didn’t have a lot of time. The way Robbie dealt with it was fantastic.
“In some ways, I would expect our base level to be a bit higher [this season] than it was [last season]. The kids are still here and we’ve added a few that have made us stronger. We need the new signings to improve us again. I’ve sat here in the past and we’ve not had a great season and been completely wrong.”
By next August, Hearts will have the added benefit of using the SFA’s national performance centre, which is being built beside the Riccarton training complex. “We’re really excited about that,” said Levein.
“It’s great for us. We’re right in the middle. It looks like it will be fantastic. It will be good for our players and I think the national teams will be there at times as well.”