SEVERAL first-team players will return to the Hearts squad for today’s friendly at Preston North End having been rested in midweek.
Sam Nicholson, Miguel Pallardo, Blazej Augustyn, Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben are all expected to feature at Deepdale after sitting out the last two friendlies against Cowdenbeath and Stirling Albion.
The Edinburgh club’s pre-season campaign now starts to intensify, with only two friendlies left before competitive games begin. Today’s game at Preston is followed by Everton’s visit to Tynecastle eight days later as Hearts prepare for their long-awaited return to the Scottish Premiership. Head coach Robbie Neilson will only take first-team players south in order to begin moulding his team for the new season. Most of those returning are likely to be heavily involved over the next two games.
“Sam is fine but he’s played a lot of games and he was involved at Oban. He’s a very fit boy,” said Neilson “The games against Stirling Albion and Cowdenbeath during the week were because we’d taken a player from Stirling and a physio from Cowdenbeath [in the last year], so the friendlies were part of the deals.
“I felt there wasn’t any need to bring Sam and play him in those matches. Pallardo was rested as well, as was Augustyn and a couple of others. It was important to get through those games and then focus on Preston and Everton.
“The boys have done okay in the friendlies so far. It’s been difficult for them in the sense that we’ve been mixing and matching teams.
“We’ve been playing a lot of young kids and it’s important the older players try to help the young ones. I think they’ve done that. They all have time for the young boys and they encourage them.
“We’ll be taking all our first-team players down to Preston and hopefully get them some game time.
“It’s about putting the team together now and getting everyone ready.”