JUWON OSHANIWA believes Hearts would complete a “massive achievement” if they reach the Europa League group stage this autumn.
The Edinburgh club must overcome four tricky qualifying rounds starting next month in order to reach the coveted group phase and Oshaniwa admitted it is a difficult task.
The Nigerian full-back stressed that taking each round one at a time will be key to staying in the competition. He is eager to play at European level for the first time when Hearts face the first leg of the first qualifying round on June 30. They need to negotiate three two-legged qualifiers and a play-off tie to reach the groups.
Oshaniwa is not daunted by the challenge but acknowledged that getting through the qualifying phase would represent huge success for everyone at Tynecastle. “With the squad we have, and with boosting it, I think we can go far. Collectively, our heads are all on the one goal,” he said.
“It would be a massive achievement if we succeed through the four qualifying games. That would project us into the group stage and it would be huge. It would boost the popularity of the team and attract so many sponsors to the team.
“First and foremost, we take one round at a time. We go into the first one and, with God willing, we will proceed and proceed and proceed. We must go one step at a time. You don’t remove two feet from your shoes. You remove one after the other. It’s going to be a great achievement if the team proceeds.”
The 25-year-old played at the World Cup with his country and won the African Cup of Nations. European exposure was one of the main reasons he joined Hearts from the Israeli club FC Ashdod last summer.
“It’s a good step again. This is the only competition I had left to participate in my career if you check my profile,” he continued. “It’s going to be a massive tournament and a memorable one. You want to go higher to the next level, then you become better. It’s going to be better because the focus is there and the work rate is there. If you work all the time then you see the result.
“We’ve come from the Championship and we have secured tickets for the Europa League. That is going to project us because there is going to be massive competition in the league next season. Rangers are coming up, maybe Hibs will join them. It’s going to be more competitive. For us, qualifying for the Europa League is going to be a massive morale booster.”