Craig Levein insists Hearts’ start to the Ladbrokes Premiership campaign will be shaped by how they fare in pre-season friendlies and Betfred Cup ties.
The Edinburgh club begin the new league programme away at Hamilton on Saturday, August 4, before hosting Celtic at Tynecastle Park the following week. They then travel to Kilmarnock for another tricky away fixture.
Levein is happy to avoid the fate dealt his team last year, when they were handed a trip to Parkhead on the opening weekend. However, he is preoccupied with more immediate matters right now.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, the manager declared that his priority is ensuring Hearts players are put through their paces in pre-season to leave them thoroughly prepared for the new campaign.
He also intends to gauge their progress during four Betfred Cup group matches. Hearts face five summer friendlies before the cup ties begin, and those will determine their readiness for the league.
“It’s a guessing game at this minute in time, really. We have to be ready to play against anybody, to be honest. We have to be at our best as quickly as possible,” explained Levein.
“I don’t know if there is a perfect start to the season. It’s more about where we are and our progress in pre-season. That’s more important. We played Celtic away in our first game last year so at least we’re not playing them away this time, no disrespect to Hamilton. We play Celtic at home in our second match and then it’s Kilmarnock away.
“I’m not really thinking too much about them just now. The important thing for us is getting our pre-season right. If we don’t, it doesn’t matter who we play. The key thing for us is making sure we’re ready to play.”
The first Edinburgh derby does not take place until Wednesday, October 31, when Hibs visit Tynecastle in what will be an eagerly-anticipated midweek fixture.