Hearts hoping to fly under radar as focus falls on Old Firm

HEARTS are happy for Celtic and Rangers to dominate Scottish football talk this season '“ because it allows them to fly under the radar.

Saturday, 6th August 2016, 5:30 am
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is keen to pit his wits against Brendan Rodgers tomorrow
Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson is keen to pit his wits against Brendan Rodgers tomorrow

Head coach Robbie Neilson and midfielder Arnaud Djoum revealed they plan to capitalise on any fixation with the Glasgow clubs and use it for Hearts’ benefit.

Celtic captain Scott Brown and Rangers striker Kenny Miller exchanged controversial views this week on whether the Ibrox side will be serious challengers to their city rivals.

Much of the pre-season media focus has centred around the two clubs seen as the traditional powerhouses in Scotland after Rangers earned promotion from the Championship.

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Hearts, who begin their Ladbrokes Premiership campaign against Celtic at Tynecastle tomorrow, are more than content for that to continue.

“A team of Rangers’ size, with the budget they’ve got and the players they’ve got, they would expecting to be challenging near the top of the league. We’re delighted everyone is talking about Rangers and Celtic,” said Neilson.

“It gets us under the radar, nobody is bothered about us, we can just go and win games and try to get as high up the league as we can.”

Djoum, who yesterday signed a contract extension keeping him at Hearts until May 2019, concurred with his manager.

“Maybe it is good for us that we don’t have a lot of pressure on us this season,” said the midfielder. “There will be pressure but not like Celtic or Rangers, because they have to be first. So if they are not, that’s a big thing. Ourselves and Aberdeen can keep a low profile, take it game by game and see what happens. So I think it’s good we are not under so much pressure. Our team is not used to that.”

The midfielder believes his team are meeting the league champions at a good time. After Celtic, Hearts meet St Johnstone in the Betfred League Cup before a trip to Pittodrie next weekend.

“It is a tough start but it is also maybe the best time to play Celtic,” stated Djoum. “Once they have found their form and have played a lot of games they will have a lot of confidence.

“I don’t know if they are at 100 per cent yet so maybe it is a good time to play against them.”

Neilson is keen to pit his wits against the new Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers in what is sure to be a keenly-contested affair. There is also the possibility of the Northern Irishman springing a surprise on his Tynecastle counterpart.

“It depends what Brendan does with his formation,” said Neilson. “He’s changed it a few times now, they’ve brought a couple of players in and they have a big squad so they can rotate it.

“We’ll concentrate on ourselves and try to put a team together that is going to go and win the game. You want to play in big games. We’re in a good place at the moment fitness-wise so it’s a great time to get Celtic.”