MORGARO GOMIS believes well-rested Hearts are in excellent fettle for the season ahead and is confident they can make an impact towards the top of the Scottish Premiership.
The Jambos have retained the bulk of last season’s Championship-dominating squad and augmented it with the arrivals of former Serie A defender Blazej Augustyn and highly-regarded strikers Gavin Reilly and Juanma Delgado.
They are also well-rested, with the fact the second-tier season finished three weeks earlier than the top flight last season meaning they enjoyed almost seven weeks of recuperation and reflection, a rarity in modern football. As supporters, buoyed by their club’s post-administration resurgence, clamour to pack out Tynecastle, Gomis sees no reason why his team should be daunted by their return to the Premiership.
“It’s a good feeling to be back in in the top flight,” said the midfielder, as he and his team-mates prepared to fly out to Dublin this morning for a four-day pre-season trip. “We had a good season in the Championship last season and now we face a big step up. We’re going into the Premiership and everything is going to be different because all of the teams are full-time. But we have a good squad with good young players and I think we’ll have a good season.
“I think we will make an impact. I think people will be surprised. I’m not going to speak too soon about what we can do but I think we have a good squad and hopefully we can carry on and have a good season. We don’t feel any pressure, we just want to go out and win games.”
Hearts owner Ann Budge and head coach Robbie Neilson have already stated that finishing in the top six is a minimum expectation for the season ahead. Having witnessed Dundee and Hamilton Accies take the jump from the Championship to the Premiership in their stride last term, Gomis believes this goal is more than attainable.
“That’s football, you need to have objectives and, if the manager and Ann are saying they want us to finish in the top six, then that’s what we are going to aim for,” said the former Dundee United player. “We need to go out and win games and just take it from there. I think we are capable of it, we have some good players. I watched a few Premiership games last season and I think we’ll be fine. The likes of Dundee and Hamilton went up last season and did really well and I don’t see why we can’t do what they did. I was part of a Dundee United squad that did well in the league and the cups and I see something similar here. They gave youth a chance and I think Hearts is the same. We have some really good players coming through as well.
“It just depends what we do week in, week out. If we win games it’s easy but, if you start losing, it’s not good. We will see what happens but we are all looking forward to the beginning of the season.”
While some of their top-flight rivals – namely Aberdeen and St Johnstone – have been rushed back into pre-season training less than four weeks after their final league game of last season in order to prepare for Europa League assignments, Hearts had almost double that period off between their final Championship match against Rangers on May 2 and their return to work less than a fortnight go. Gomis is reluctant to suggest that this is an obvious advantage, but he is hopeful that fatigue could catch up with some of his team’s rivals at some point in the season.
“We didn’t have a short break because we finished early but it actually went really fast. We’re all happy to be back in training. I don’t know if that time off will give us an advantage now we’re back. Time will tell.
“It will all depend on what we do during pre-season but we have all been working hard so far. Hopefully we will continue to do that and we can start winning games when the season starts. Everybody is enjoying the work, everybody seems happy to be back and training. It’s been good. It might be harder for a team like Aberdeen being back after three weeks but only time will tell. Maybe it will help them start the season really well. We will have to wait and see what happens. But every team seems to be coming back fit and all the teams are signing good players. It is going to be an interesting season.”
While Aberdeen and St Johnstone – the latter are Hearts’ opening-day opponents – were heading to Macedonia and Armenia respectively for their Europa League ties, the Tynecastle team were this morning making the short hop across the Irish Sea to Dublin.
They will play their first friendly of the summer against League of Ireland Premier Division side Bohemian at Dalymount Park tonight before undergoing two days of rigorous training at their base some 25 miles west of the Irish capital. Robbie Neilson’s side will conclude their trip with a second friendly, against second-tier side Shelbourne at Tolka Park on Saturday.
“I am looking forward to Ireland. We have really hard days coming,” said Gomis. “We have a game straight away and we’re looking forward to it. The training is really tough, just like last season. There’s loads of running but loads of running with the ball as well. It’s fun, but it’s hard at the same time.” The trip to the Emerald Isle will allow Hearts’ three new recruits to further bed in with their new team-mates. Early impressions of Augustyn, Juanma and Reilly are positive.
“The new guys look like good players,” said Gomis. “We haven’t done too much with them yet, but they all look good.
“I don’t know what is going to happen but hopefully we will bring in more and we will have a good squad next season but so far the squad is looking good. They all seem good guys. Blazej is a big guy and he seems to be a big character as well. He’s always laughing and that’s good.
“I think it’s really important when the new guys come in that they start talking to the guys here and become a big part of things, that they’re not all by themselves, that everyone gets on with them. It’s not just about football, it’s about their personalities as well. They’re good guys – we can see that.”