Steven Naismith looking at 'bigger picture' with Hearts amid planning months in the making and 2 objectives

Hearts head coach Steven NaismithHearts head coach Steven Naismith
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith
The Hearts boss has European football of some kind signed and sealed.

Head coach Steven Naismith says future Hearts plans are months in the making - as European football doesn’t shift him off the scent of ultimate objectives.

A 4-2 win over Livingston at Tynecastle on Saturday ensured the club will not finish below fourth in this term’s Premiership. That means European football in some capacity will return to Gorgie next season, and it could be in the group stages.

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Third spot - where Hearts currently sit 11 points clear of fourth-placed Kilmarnock with 15 left to play for - becomes a guaranteed group stage place should Celtic beat Aberdeen in a Scottish Cup semi-final this Saturday. The Dons can no longer finish third after ending up in the bottom six, with Hearts facing Rangers in the other last four match.

Achieving a group stage place is what Naismith wants and adding more silverware is also on the agenda. Planning is already underway for next season amid these two targeted objectives, with Yan Dhanda, James Penrice and Blair Spittal all signing pre-contracts.

Planning at Tynecastle happens over a number of months, and Naismith has been clear on what clinching a return to the continent means when it comes to longer-term viewing. Asked if European football gives more clarity with regards the contract conversations with players at the club and transfer targets ahead of next season, Naismith told the Edinburgh Evening News: "It's not really come into my thinking as we have been planning for months.

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“We planned thinking we were going to have European football. It's then our job to deliver that and yes, there are certain points you can sign off on deals and get things done. But the bigger picture is also... the demand is European football every year.

“We want that and want to try and get that every year. But ultimately we want to grow the squad and make it better year-on-year, regardless of where we are playing. That is the bigger thing for us. It's nice to say we have a chance of European football but we want to finish with as many points as we can.

“There is an opportunity there this season for whoever finishes third or wins the cup, that they get European group stage, confirmed, football. We want that and we want silverware in the cup as well. That's the main drivers for us rather than saying we have a chance of Europe."

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