Cup runs are high on Hearts’ priority list this season ahead of the League Cup first round on Thursday.
Head coach Robbie Neilson revealed today that he will give that tournament and the Scottish Cup particular attention this season after focusing solely on promotion last year.
Neilson won the Scottish Cup with Hearts in 2006 and is aware that such achievements are highly valued at Tynecastle. He wants a run in the League Cup, starting at home to Arbroath on Thursday night, as well as progress when the Scottish Cup begins in January.
Having identified promotion from the Championship as the Edinburgh club’s main priority this time last year, he is placing much more emphasis on a cup run this season.
“The cup games are more important for us this year. Last year was all about getting promoted but this year it’s important we get good cup runs,” Neilson told the Evening News. “We’ll be taking this tie against Arbroath as seriously as anything else.
“I’d hoped to get the game earlier in the week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, but Arbroath’s manager and assistant are away on holiday. They don’t get back until Wednesday night so we had to take the game on Thursday.”
Hearts face St Johnstone in their opening Scottish Premiership fixture on Sunday, just three days after the Arbroath tie. Neilson explained why he didn’t want to play the League Two club next midweek.
“It isn’t ideal having it so close to the first league game but, if we’d played next week, that would mean we’d have to play Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday right at the start of the season. This was really the only time we could play it. We just need to get on with it and hopefully get through.
“It’s important for the club to do well in the cups but it’s important just to keep winning games. You want to win as many as you can, so a good result against Arbroath would set us up well for St Johnstone on Sunday. It builds momentum.”
The new three-man defensive system Hearts tried in Sunday’s friendly with Everton isn’t likely to be used against Arbroath. However, Neilson admitted he will use the 3-4-2-1 formation again in certain games during the forthcoming campaign.
“I’ve got the personnel to do it and there will be times during the season when we do it,” he said. “This gives us another string to our bow. Igor Rossi gives us that option to play that way and that was part of the reason we signed him. Guys like that can give you cover all over the place.
“I was pleased with Igor on Sunday and I thought he looked really good. That was his first game for us and his first since the middle of May. Blazej Augustyn has still to come in as well, so we have a lot of options.”