Gary Mackay: Hearts must be ready for next level

Signings such as defender Blazej Augustyn should strengthen Hearts
Signings such as defender Blazej Augustyn should strengthen Hearts
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Hearts’ management team will have their own targets for the season, but, from a supporter’s point of view, I think it’s hard to set a clear goal because we are something of an unknown quantity as we return to the Premiership.

We exceeded expectations in the Championship last year but we are stepping up to a different level so, with most of our new arrivals never having played at this level or in this country before, it is hard to predict how we will fare.

It will take time to establish whether we are going to be a team battling to stay in the league or whether we will be challenging for Europe.

Most Hearts fans couldn’t even name our strongest starting XI at present, so there is an element of mystery about us and that could help us catch opponents by surprise. As a Hearts supporter, though, it’s impossible not to be optimistic this summer. The players the club recruited last summer were, by and large, very good, so there is no reason to doubt that the management will have signed well again this year. Through choice, we’ve allowed some decent players to leave the club over the past few months, so you would have to hope that the new arrivals turn out to be upgrades on those players.

Craig Levein was given a blank canvas last summer and since then it’s been drawn on and taken apart before being drawn on again this summer.

The hope is that the significant work undertaken continues to bring improvement in our fortunes. Only a few players have survived at the club through the past two summers, so it will be interesting to see how we line up against Arbroath in the League Cup on Thursday and for the Premiership opener against St Johnstone on Sunday.

Saints will be tricky opponents, but they have been badly hit by injuries since the end of last season.

The team they send out will not be as strong as it could be, so it may prove to be a good time to face them. Our pre-season results mean nothing; it’s only when it gets to 12.30 next Sunday that all the recruitment and hard work begins to come to fruition. Hopefully it manifests itself in a similar manner to a year ago.