HEARTS have decided to end Igor Rossi’s season early to ensure he overcomes a persistent groin injury in time for their European campaign.
The Brazilian defender will not play in any of his club’s final three matches having been ordered to rest and recover.
Coaching staff want him ready for pre-season training starting on June 15. Hearts’ first Europa League qualifier is on June 30 and Rossi is seen as a key figure for the competition. The groin problem has troubled him for a few months and it is hoped several weeks of rest will provide a long-term cure.
“Igor has been struggling for the last two months and that’s probably him done for the season,” explained Robbie Neilson, the Hearts head coach. “We don’t have a long break. We’re back in four weeks’ time, so a few of the players need managed at this stage.”
Neilson admitted that such a short close season makes preparation difficult. “It’s the way football is going nowadays. You used to get eight to ten weeks off,” he pointed out. “In England they still get a long time but it’s shorter here, especially if you’re in Europe. They’re introducing the League Cup earlier as well. It makes it a bit more difficult because it doesn’t give you much time to bring players in or get them prepared.”
Although some of Hearts’ European matches were staged at Murrayfield in 2006, fans will be pleased to know that will not be repeated with the club about to construct a new main stand. Twelve months of work on the project will commence early in the new season. When finished, Tynecastle will meet all necessary UEFA criteria.
“The stadium will cover all the bases now, so playing European games at Murrayfield would no longer be an issue,” confirmed Neilson, who played for Hearts at Murrayfield in Europe. “Everything’s moving in the right direction. We want to keep the feelgood factor up and make sure it stretches through the summer.
“It was difficult to play at Murrayfield. Having played at Tynecastle on big European nights, it’s night and day. You go to Murrayfield and you could have 25,000 there but it still feels like no-one is there because of the size of the stadium. The fans and anyone who has played here wanted to stay at Tynecastle. The club looked at Murrayfield in different times, but it’s good news that we’ll be here for a very long time.
“It’s also great news that the stand won’t affect the budget. The backing of the fans has allowed us to do that. They’ve been great and the club’s heading in the right direction. We have to keep investing in the team as well.
“A couple of months ago we had meetings before the plans were finalised. We looked at the dressing-rooms, what we need on a match-day, on a Friday for training and so on. The dressing-rooms will be a big thing. We’ve picked up good ideas from a few places that we’ll look to implement to improve the place. We have to make sure everything’s up to standards for the Europa League, or the Champions League, as we could one day reach that stage.