Mihai Popescu jets into Edinburgh as Hearts host East Fife in friendly

Robbie Neilson says Romanian will have key role
Romanian defender Mihai Popescu is Hearts' latest signing.Romanian defender Mihai Popescu is Hearts' latest signing.
Romanian defender Mihai Popescu is Hearts' latest signing.

Hearts host their first official friendly on Friday night against East Fife as new signing Mihai Popescu begins life in Edinburgh.

The Romanian defender is due to land in the Capital late on Thursday and must self-isolate for two weeks due to Covid 19 rules.

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After bounce matches against Sheffield United, St Mirren and Burnley, Hearts will welcome League One East Fife to Tynecastle Park for an official pre-season match.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow night,” manager Robbie Neilson told the club website. “We’ve had a few bounce games already but this will be a proper friendly against a Scottish team.

“It will be an opportunity for a lot of the boys to get a full 90 minutes under their belts. Obviously it would be better having our fans inside the stadium but it’ll be good for the players to be at Tynecastle and, for some of them, get a bit of experience in our home environment.”

Neilson outlined his delight at securing centre-back Popescu on a free transfer from Dinamo Bucharest. The former St Mirren loanee has signed a two-year contract.

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His arrival will help his new club compensate for injuries to John Souttar and Christophe Berra, who are out with Achilles and calf issues respectively.

“I’m delighted to get him in. It’s an area we’ve needed to cover with the injuries to John Souttar and Christophe Berra so I’m pleased we’ve managed to bring Mihai in,” said Neilson.

“I think he’ll do well here. I know him from when he played at St Mirren and he’s got Premiership experience. He was really keen to join us because he enjoyed his time and Scotland and was looking to get back.

“He’ll do well in the Championship. He can take the ball out from the back, which is key for us because we’re expecting to have a lot of possession.

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“He flies in tonight and will then quarantine for two weeks. He’s been training over the summer so he’ll already have a good level of fitness and we’ve sorted him out with gym equipment for his accommodation so he can keep going until he gets in the building.”

Hearts will play further friendlies against lower-league opponents over the next few weeks, including Falkirk on Tuesday and Partick Thistle four days later.

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