Hearts boss to give full squad game time in Spain

Hearts manager Craig Levein is glad to be leaving the Scottish climate behind
Hearts manager Craig Levein is glad to be leaving the Scottish climate behind
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Craig Levein intends to give every Hearts player valuable game time during two friendlies on Spain’s Costa Blanca over the next 48 hours.

The Tynecastle manager and his squad flew out of Edinburgh airport this morning for a five-day winter training camp near Valencia.

They play closed-door matches against Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem tomorrow and German side Nuremberg on Saturday. The games will take place at the Oliva Nova resort and will help preparations for next weekend’s Scottish Cup tie against Edinburgh rivals Hibs.

Levein has recalled youngsters Dario Zanatta, Marcus Godinho and Harry Paton from loan spells and will also take Andy Irving to Spain, although he remains on loan at Berwick Rangers until the summer.

Injuries mean Hearts are without Prince Buaben, Arnaud Djoum, Ross Callachan, Michael Smith, Connor Randall, Lewis Moore, Krystian Novak and Rafal Grzelak. Young winger Callumn Morrison is also sidelined after returning from a loan period at Stirling Albion.

The Spanish climate is intended to help Hearts structure training sessions and Levein hopes players will use the friendlies to get up to speed as the winter break nears its end.

“You see what it’s like in Scotland. The weather is rubbish and we’re having to change training times to get use of the indoor facilities. I’m looking forward to five days of good training and the two games,” he told the Evening News.

“We will probably play a team for 45 minutes and then a different team for the next 45 minutes. I imagine we’ll do the same in both matches. That will give everybody some time on the pitch and it will get them all back into the swing of things.

“We aren’t going to play our team to face Hibs next week. I don’t think we need to do that because it’s not like we’re coming back after the summer and you’re trying to get your team ready. I know pretty much what all the players can do so I don’t really need to work on systems or anything like that. It’s pretty straightforward, just give them some games.”

Levein confirmed that Ashley Smith-Brown is likely to have his Hearts loan ended early due to injury. The Manchester City left-back was supposed to spend the full season in Edinburgh, but relentless fitness issues have meant he has made only three competitive appearances.

“Ash is a different situation because he’s been constantly injured. That deal is probably going to be concluded,” admitted Levein.