Hearts stage mock European trips to get players ready for continental ties
Mock European-style trips have been factored into Hearts’ pre-season campaign to prepare players for continental ties over the coming months.
Club management recognise they have an inexperienced squad when it comes to European competition and have moved to address the situation with a carefully-planned summer programme.
Hearts participate in the Europa League play-off next month for the right to a place in the tournament’s group phase. Defeat would see them parachute into the Europa Conference League, with either scenario guaranteeing at least eight matches against non-Scottish sides.
Last week’s training camp in southern Spain was chosen deliberately to test players in 30-degree heat ahead of potential away ties in stifling temperatures. Upcoming friendly visits to Tranmere Rovers and Preston North End will also be treated like away matches in Europe.
“A lot of the players in this squad haven't played Thursday-Sunday-Thursday-Sunday like that. We just wanted to try and replicate that using these games in England,” manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News.
“We will train at our training ground on the Tuesday, then we will travel down and play on the Wednesday night. That will mimic a European away trip in some senses. We will do that twice just to try and get the boys used to it.
“We went to Spain because we could be going to southern Europe to play soon so you need to be able to deal with this kind of heat and get used to it. There is the whole build-up to these games as well, staying out of the sun during the day, then making sure you're hydrated and ready.
“Spain was a great facility. It was very warm there and difficult to train but that allows us to do things a lot sharper and means it's a lot harder for them. We are really pleased with the camp.
“The most important thing is that the players don't get any injuries at this stage. We need to push them as hard as we can but without them getting injured. It was a really good week, the camp was good and the boys trained really well.
“They bonded through being together and then we got a game at the end against Europa to build a wee bit of momentum, so I'm pleased.”