Steven Naismith on the big pre-season plus at Hearts and the entire squad's role in European football push

Hearts head coach Steven NaismithHearts head coach Steven Naismith
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith | SNS Group
The Hearts head coach is now in position to fully look ahead to next season.

Steven Naismith expects most of his current Hearts squad to be ready to go on day one of pre-season this summer.

The Jambos are looking ahead to next term and have already secured three pre-contract signings in Blair Spittal, Yan Dhanda and James Penrice. Goalkeeper Ryan Fulton is also set to join and provide competition to Craig Gordon and Zander Clark between the sticks, with Europa League or Europa Conference League football in the revamped Swiss-style format ahead.

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Gordon, Clark and Lawrence Shankland are all in the provisional Scotland squad for Euro 2024 while Australia have two matches in June, the final game being against Palestine on June 11th. Kye Rowles, Nathaniel Atkinson and Cammy Devlin have all been part of recent Socceroos squads. Kenneth Vargas could be involved for Costa Rica at Copa America.

With the countdown to the team regrouping now on, head coach Naismith is pleased that many of his current crop will be able to be called upon from the first couple of days. When asked how much of the group he expected back for the first day of pre-season, Naismith said: “I think it its mainly the ones at tournaments who will miss the start.

“The rest should all be back within the first couple of days. The amount of time we are getting off, the amount of time the international players are getting off, we have been conscious of that.

“The ones at major tournaments, they will come back when their competition finishes. But most of the other internationals who are just on the scheduled window, they will be back for near enough the start of pre-season which is a big plus for us.”

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European football will add extra matches to the workload for Hearts, who are also keen to retain third spot in next season’s Premiership. The group stage making way for the league-style format does bring changes, but as a group, the development of squad management has been key.

Naismith added: “I think most games you are going to get are going to be tough. It helps in you have more games in Europe in some of the competitions and you are playing different teams every time, so it does bring a change.

“I understand the structure change is meant to even the competition out slightly but it’s tough. For where we are at, we just want to get used to playing in Europe and competing in the league to continue trying to get third. I think we have shown this season we will rely on the whole squad and a lot of work has gone into this season about that.

“As a player, the stance can feel I want to play every minute of every game. The game for me, and the schedule, has moved that far that we need the squad. Players need to trust that when I tell them they might not play one week or might not be in the squad, they have a chance of playing the next week.

“That’s valuably important that they understand that and as the season has gone on, our squad has understood that and it’s shown in performances.”

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