Hearts in Spain: Robbie Neilson relishing Hibs derby and facing old team-mates Lee Johnson and Jamie McAllister
While Hearts work towards a season-opening Premiership meeting with Ross County, manager Robbie Neilson is also relishing the first Edinburgh derby a week later.
Hearts are currently in Spain with Hibs across the border in Portugal preparing for the new campaign. Neilson stressed the Ross County match at home on July 30 is the first priority whilst allowing his mind to wander to the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road.
“You want to play in these big games, but our focus has got to be on Ross County at home and make sure we win that,” he said. “We've got European games after that which need to be put to bed. The derby, yes, you’re always thinking about it when it comes but the first one's got to be Ross County and be ready for that.”
Neilson maintains a good relationship with both Johnson and McAllister. “Wee Johnno, I know him very well. Jamie [McAllister] as well, I played with him for a number of years. We've had a conversation here and there but when the derby comes, the derby comes and everyone is wanting to win.
“I've kept in touch with Lee a wee bit since our playing days, going back and forward. I've known him since he came up here in 2006 and we’ve always kind of kept in contact. Probably more so with Jamie – I've known him a lot longer. It's nice to see him back in management, but hopefully he's not successful!”
Hearts are still awaiting the arrival of new signing Kye Rowles, who has been given an extended summer break alongside Nathaniel Atkinson following their exploits with Australia.
“We knew Kye was a good player who would be round about the Australia squad but he has obviously played in both World Cup play-off games and done really well. I think he will be an excellent player for us,” said Neilson.
“We have Atkinson there and Cammy Devlin, so this gives these guys a carrot to get in the World Cup squad. It's great for us as well.”