Steven Pressley names two Hearts transfer requirements for European push that can avoid Aberdeen trap

Former Hearts captain Steven PressleyFormer Hearts captain Steven Pressley
Former Hearts captain Steven Pressley
The former Tynecastle skipper has been looking ahead to Hearts vs Rangers.

Steven Pressley has stressed the importance of Hearts keeping Lawrence Shankland beyond the summer if they want to make a successful European push.

It’s a big week for the club as they head into a Scottish Cup semi-final with Rangers on Sunday. They beat Livingston 4-2 in Premiership action last time out, a result that secures European football of some form next season.

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11 points clear of fourth-placed Kilmarnock with 15 left to play for, third spot where they currently sit becomes an automatic European group stage place for next season if Celtic beat Aberdeen in the other semi-final. Robbie Neilson was the last manager to guide the club into that territory via the Europa Conference League but Premiership form dipped amid that endeavour.

Current head coach Steven Naismith has already started planning ahead of next season with Yan Dhanda, James Penrice and Blair Spittal signed on pre-contracts. Speculation will no doubt mount over club talisman Shankland, who is fast approaching 30 goals across all competitions for Hearts this season.

Pressley knows a bigger squad will be needed to deal with the rigours of Europe and avoid a form dip like Aberdeen’s this term, and planning for that must centre around Shankland being the focal point. He said: "The last time they experienced Europe, Robbie was in charge. There's no doubt it had an adverse affect on their league form, Aberdeen experienced that this year.

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“I think it's a big challenge and it's about achieving it at the right time. Sometimes you can achieve European football too quickly and it has an adverse affect on your following season. It would appear they are beginning to put things in place, good stability around their squad and they seem to have greater depth.

“A key factor is keeping in Shankland and building from there, and building from there, bringing in players who can support and provide for him. If they can do that then hopefully they can have success but you need a bigger squad. The challenges of playing on a Thursday then returning home and having to reproduce that form is difficult. Many of our clubs have been found out in the past few seasons."

While pleased with how his former side have progressed under Naismith, Pressley wonders if they are too reliant on Shankland up top for goals. He believes that’s a situation the club will look to alleviate of any lingering questions, as optimism remains high for facing Rangers.

The 50-year-old added: "I read Steven talking about the fact there is a lot of support and stability about the club at this moment in time which is key for success. He is a young, fledgling manager who's come out a difficult period and shown good strength.

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“He is beginning to shape and mould his team and the statistics will tell you they are improving and developing all the time which is really encouraging. They are very much a team performing well and getting results.

“The one concern I have about them and I have said this prior, they are very reliant on Lawrence Shankland. He has been in terrific form and that is an area hopefully in time with stability that they can continue to improve and bring more goals, and more support in the team in that area.

“But they are in good shape and good form. They have shown recently the ability to come from behind so they should go into the game with real confidence.”

Steven Pressley was promoting Premier Sport’s live and exclusive coverage of Rangers v Hearts on Sunday. Premier Sports is available to stream from or via your TV provider on Sky, Virgin TV and Amazon Prime as an add-on subscription.

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