Hearts return to action for first time in 56 days
Hearts will come out of cold storage on Friday night to play their first match in 56 days when they face Berwick Rangers at Shielfield Park.
Robbie Neilson will take a mixture of senior players and youngsters to the Border town to take on the Lowland League outfit (kick-off 7pm). Less than 24 hours later, Hearts will then play East of Scotland Premier League club Linlithgow Rose (Saturday, 3pm).
The Tynecastle outfit have been inactive since completing their Championship campaign with a 4-0 win over Raith Rovers at Stark’s Park on April 30, with only Liam Boyce and Craig Gordon picking up minutes since on international duty with Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively.
After winning promotion back to the Premiership at the first time of asking, Hearts want to hit the ground running when the league action begins on July 31 against Celtic. Before that, they have a Premier Sport Cup group campaign to navigate which includes Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Peterhead, Stirling Albion and Cove Rangers.
Neilson is expected to use his full squad for this weekend’s two matches, with only goalkeeper Gordon likely to be rested given that he was involved in Scotland’s Euro 2020 campaign.
Hearts have only made two signings since the 2020/21 term came to an end. Goalkeeper Ross Stewart and forward Josh Ginnelly – two players who were on loan last season – have penned permanent deals from Livingston and Preston North End respectively. In particular, Ginnelly will be relishing being back on the pitch after so much of his first year in Gorgie was blighted by injury.
Up to 500 supporters will be present at both matches, with Berwick and Linlithgow selling tickets via the Fanbase website. It will be the first time that Hearts will have played in front of a crowd since losing 1-0 to St Mirren on March 11, 2020.
Berwick are managed by Stuart Malcolm and recently completed the signing of former Hibs and Edinburgh City winger Alex Harris, while Linlithgow’s boss is Brown Ferguson.
Linlithgow have already begun their pre-season, losing 1-0 to Pollock, and the Rose gaffer is excited by the prospect of Hearts coming to town.
“It’s a great test for us,” said Ferguson. “I would expect Hearts will try and retain the ball a little bit more than Pollok. It’s an exciting game.”
He continued in the Linlithgow Gazette: “It was a very good level of opposition and we were never in the game in the first half, Pollok completely dominated us.
“They were very direct how they played, with a real purpose. I thought they did it really well.
“They played a 4-4-2 and we really struggled to really impose ourselves on the game in so many different ways.
“The goal we lost was disappointing. It came from a throw-in and the ball got to their player really easily.
“In some respects we were fortunate that it was only 1-0 come half-time. We were sloppy, lethargic and we looked a little bit shellshocked if I’m being honest.
“I tried to sort a few things out at half-time and in fairness to the group, in the second half I thought we were the better team.
“The players started to impose themselves more. I hope the players take the lessons from it as we move forward.”