Hearts' Peter Haring facing the biggest summer of his career
He started Hearts’ final five games of the Championship season and needs a thorough pre-season programme to help him play regularly in the top flight. He is also entering the final year of his Tynecastle Park contract, so there is plenty at stake.
The Austrian, 27, is still rebuilding his career after more than a year out with a groin injury. Recent weeks suggest he is nearing his dominant best but he will take very little time off during the summer.
Having missed much of last year’s pre-season, optimum fitness is crucial if he is to establish himself in manager Robbie Neilson’s team for the Premiership. He doesn’t want, and can’t afford, to spend another campaign as a mere squad man.
Hearts finished their season with a convincing 4-0 win at Raith Rovers on Friday night and won’t resume training until June 15. Haring knows he must be ready to hit the ground running. He also knows several new signings will arrive to compete for game time.
“I hope I can be a regular starter but, like in every pre-season, everyone starts from zero,” he said. “From the first day in pre-season you have to come back fit and ready and everyone starts again for the fight for a first-team place.
“I think I have done quite well for the last few games where I have got the chance but that won't count for anything next season. We have a long pre-season to show the gaffer that we want to be in the first XI.
“It will be good for me to get a pre-season. This season I came into the team without any minutes or any pre-season, so just to get games in the new pre-season will be massive for me.
“It's definitely going to help me, I'm trying not to take too many days off in the coming weeks so I can stay strong, stay in shape and get better.
“I enjoyed the last few weeks. It was very good for me personally to get games. You need to get back to a rhythm after such a long injury. I knew I could trust my body so that wasn't an issue. It was just about getting minutes because you need that to get back to your best.”
Every Hearts player must also shoulder the demands of trying to reach the Premiership’s upper echelons. “Everyone expects us to push for the top six or even top four and that's our target, definitely,” continued Haring.
“We've got a few weeks off and everyone needs to look after themselves. We need to make sure we come back ready to go and hit the ground running next season.
“We know what to expect and I hope we get fans in next season because I can't wait to get fans in the grounds. It's so much more enjoyable, especially being back in the Premiership.
“We've definitely got good players in our squad. We will have a few players leaving and a few players coming in which is normal. We will have to bring them into the team and I am positive we will be able to challenge for the top spots.”