Olly Lee insists Hearts’ new signings are ready to meet the club’s expectations ahead of todays’ Ladbrokes Premiership kick-off.
The Edinburgh club’s league campaign starts at Hamilton as they target European qualification, and Lee believes the squad will handle the challenge.
A total of 13 signings arrived at Tynecastle Park over the summer and helped Hearts into the Betfred Cup knockout stage as Group C winners. Not all of them will feature against Hamilton but, after beating both Cowdenbeath and Inverness 5-0, confidence is high for the league opener.
Lee left Luton Town after their promotion to England’s League One because Hearts offered top-flight football and the possibility of playing in Europe. He is now eager to realise that prospect and senses his new colleagues also relish the opportunities ahead.
“I think we all know what’s needed. Everyone knows the expectation,” said the 27-year-old midfielder. “Everyone knows that we’re playing for a massive club. That’s the reason we have come. You don’t come up here if you are going to be scared of that.
“You have to thrive on it and you have to look forward to it. That’s what I can’t wait to do. I can’t wait to play at Tynecastle in front of a packed, demanding crowd. Put a smile on their faces, and it’s a good day.”
Lee explained why a Europa League place is his goal. “When I came up and spoke to the manager, that was what he mentioned and that was a big pull for me coming here. At Luton, you wouldn’t have the opportunity to play European football. Hopefully, on the back of a good season, we will be playing European football.
“It is still early days so we are not going to get ahead of ourselves but we did well the other day [against Inverness]. We did well in the Cowdenbeath game before that. There are little things that you can see the manager has worked on coming out into play. It’s just a case of building on that week by week, month by month, and hopefully we will have a positive season ahead.
“We’ve got 13 new faces so it’s never going to immediately be top of the league and we will run away and beat everyone. In any season there are ups and downs, but there are a lot of good players here.
“There are a lot of players who trust each other now. There is some good experience and a lot of good young lads coming through so we have a good mix. It’s an exciting group to be a part of.”
Lee played in League Two last season against another of Hearts’ new signings, Uche Ikpeazu. The former Cambridge United striker is fast becoming an idol amongst the Tynecastle support after three goals in his last two games, plus some entertaining celebrations.
“I think I can speak for me and Uche, coming from down south. We see this as a big step up. It’s a big place to play at. We are really excited,” said Lee. “You can see the passion when Uche scores and gives us 12 different celebrations. It would be nice if I could hopefully join him with a few.
“I don’t score enough but hopefully this season that will change. I tried to celebrate with him after his first one on Sunday, but I couldn’t catch him. He’s a great guy with great energy. He’s really a positive guy who enjoys his football.
“He enjoys being out there. He trains really hard. He’s a pleasure to be around. We’ve got a lot of big characters in the dressing room now. It’s a good place to be. Uche is one of them. He has started really well and long may it continue.
“His goals breed confidence. With 13 new players coming in, that’s what you need. You need to hit the ground running and get off to a good start. Uche has been brilliant so far. Hopefully he will carry it through the season and score as many goals as he can.”