HEARTS enjoyed a morale-boosting win against Austria Vienna on Saturday night as they brought the first phase of their continental training stint to a close. They will now return home briefly before travelling to Germany for more pre-season games.
Goalkeeper Steve Banks, who started in goal with Craig Gordon still suffering a leg injury, believes they are benefiting from a tough training regime.
“I think the standard we have played here so far has been pretty good because they are so far ahead of us in pre-season,” the 35-year-old said.
Hearts went ahead through two own goals before Florian Metz scored a late consolation for the hosts past substitute goalkeeper Eduardas Kurskis. Assistant head coach Stephen Frail declared himself satisfied with the performance.
“I’m happy with that,” he said. “To play a team of the standard of Austria Vienna – it’s a good win. It shows the hard work is beginning to pay off.
“They are a week away from starting their season. They started really quickly but once we got the pace of the game we started to knock it about and some of our stuff was really good.
“The pace of the game dies down when you make so many substitutions. The last couple of games I have noticed a sharpness and real buzz about them in training. We now go into our two or three games in Germany looking to fine tune it.”
Defender Ibrahim Tall didn’t feature and is looking for assurances about his future at the club. “I hope to have a meeting with the directors and coaching staff about my future,” he said. “It’s important for any player to be involved at this club. If not then I need to look elsewhere. I could still move this summer.”
In terms of summer recruits, Hearts are still pursuing former Rangers player Stephen Hughes but face competition for his signature from Motherwell.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Romanov is to make a rare “in-depth” interview appearance in front of Hearts supporters as part of a behind-the-scenes documentary, covering the club’s pre-season work.
The Lithuanian tycoon will address supporters as part of a DVD being produced by Stuart Greig, who has already put together a similar fly-on-the-wall documentary for BBC Scotland, in discussing his plans for the forthcoming season and the long-term goals for Hearts.
“The club are working towards a different approach to Mr Romanov’s communication with the fans and the media,” said the majority shareholder’s spokesman, Charlie Mann. “And this will be part of that. We are looking at being a bit more selective in who he speaks to. It is a good opportunity for him to speak on an in-depth basis and to let the fans hear, directly, his plans for the months ahead.”
The DVD, which Hearts plan to distribute free of charge with September’s copy of their official club magazine, The Beat, will provide an insight into pre-season training, including footage from camps and matches in Austria and Germany, the player recruitment process and will culminate in the eagerly anticipated friendly match against Barcelona at Murrayfield on July 28.
Hearts: Banks (Kurskis 46); Kancelskis (Neilson 65), Goncalves (Park 82), Berra, Zaliukas, Stewart (Pilabaitis 46), Ivaskevicius (McCann 55), Velicka, Pospisil (Mole 60), Kingston (Screpis 46), Mikoliunas (Cesnauskis 46).