The Tynecastle manager is determined not to rush into more new recruits as he seeks a right-sided centre-back, a central midfielder and another creative attacker. Alan Forrest, Kye Rowles, Lewis Neilson, Alex Cochrane, Jorge Grant and Lawrence Shankland have already arrived since last season finished.
Neilson explained that he still wants more signings and is already thinking ahead to January. “European football allows you to bring better players in. We have a few spots in areas we want but we know what we need in January if everything goes to plan. In football, it can change,” he said.
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“Are we stronger than last season? I certainly hope so. My job is to make us stronger, we have more strength and depth. If we can get one or two in then it would give us more match winners. We had to wait until last September for Barrie McKay and if we need to do that again then so be it.”
Neilson signed a new three-year Hearts contract on Thursday along with coaches Lee McCulloch and Gordon Forrest. The triumvirate overhauled the club since taking charge two years ago, now they want to make an impact in Europe.
Hearts will reach the Europa League groups if successful in the two-legged play-off, with a parachute into the Europa Conference groups softening the blow from any potential defeat.
“I want to get us into the group stages this season and go as far as we can in Europe,” stated Neilson. “We have to maintain a challenge in the league and that has to be the key, can we maintain and push ourselves at home to get closer to the Old Firm while doing it in Europe?
“We have to find that balance and that’s exciting. That’s where the extra depth is needed due to more games. Rangers and Celtic ran with 28 or 29 first-team players last season, we ran with about 19, 21 at a push.
“This season we have to get the numbers up. We will try to get 24 with some kids as well to let us rotate the boys. Apart from managing in Europe, it will be how we deal with the boys.
“How many do we rotate for a game? What can we do to make sure we win? You need to make sure the new players have the right character as well. You need to be a good player and a good character.”
Neilson explained that he feels a more rounded manager in his second spell at Tynecastle. He first took the job aged 33 back in 2014.
“I have picked up experience over the years in England with MK Dons, being at Dundee United and now back here. I have managed more than 300 games and you learn about different characters as you go.
“I feel I am a better manager. When I was here before it was my first job and it was all new. Now I’ve been in most situations.”