After overcoming Arbroath 4-2, St Johnstone and Dundee in their competitive games in the 2015/16 season, this was many people’s first opportunity to catch a glimpse of a rejuvenated Hearts side, fresh from their title winning exploits in the Championship last season.
Since the trio of Ann Budge, Robbie Neilson and Craig Levein arrived in Tynecastle after Budge saved the club from administration and erratic owner Vladimir Romanov, the three have brought an exciting brand of football back to Gorgie, reaping rewards in a campaign which saw them lose a mere two times in the league campaign last season.
The question on the minds of many is whether Hearts can continue to emulate this success in their return to the Premiership.
From the outset, many seem to think Hearts will have a successful season, with many bookmakers placing Hearts favourite to finish third behind Celtic and Aberdeen, and with many pundits tipping Hearts to finish in a similar position, feeling that the aim should be to reach the top six at the very least.
Manager Neilson has stated he hopes for his side to finish in a top six position come the end of the season, and the Tynecastle faithful will be hoping for another successful season.
In their quest to establish themselves as a force in the Premiership, Hearts quickly set out strengthening their squad, with the signing of Gavin Reilly bolstering options upfront, and filling the gap left by Genero Zeefuik, who many Jambos hoped would return before signing for Turkish outfit Balikesirspor after a successful loan spell.
Reilly himself will bring an air of excitement to Tynecastle, with the 22 year old scoring an impressive 13 goals in the Championship last season in a flourishing partnership with Derek Lyle at Queen of the South, which will no doubt leave the Jambos expecting big things from the young striker.
Hearts again continued to build their attack, with Juanma Delgado too signing from Greek side Kalloni, stating that the “big club” appeal drew him to Edinburgh.
That statement will have brought a warm feeling around Tynecastle, with Hearts returning to the prestige that they feel they are deserving of, looking to reach the heights of old before a period plagued by financial troubles.
Hearts have also gone on to fill the gap left by Captain Danny Wilson, who opted to leave the Jambos to sign for former club Rangers, by signing Polish defender Blazej Augustyn, whose former list of clubs include sides such as Bolton Wanderers.
Hearts’ engine room in midfield was a joy to watch last season, with the steadiness and slick passing of former Dundee United pairing Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben paving the way for exciting wingers Sam Nicholson and Jamie Walker to light up Tynecastle with their speed, tenacity and footwork very easy on the eye.
The loss of Jason Holt will be a blow to Neilson’s engine room, but the gaffer will feel he has very capable replacements in players such as Miguel Pallardo.
Hearts will often look to strength in depth at certain times of the season, and will feel very acquitted with players such as Pallardo, along with promising youngsters such as Billy King, Gary Oliver and heroes from last season such as Osman Sow.
From the look of things, it seems as though everything is finally going right at Hearts after a torrid few seasons. They have a dynamic, young manager who shows experience beyond his years who is building an extremely fit, physical and exciting squad. Along with the promise of Neilson, they have the experienced former Scotland manager Craig Levein as an experienced head to mentor Neilson in his early years, and provide the help which may sometimes be needed as director of football. And finally, they have a very experienced and professional businesswoman in Ann Budge, who has already taken the steps such as employing the living wage to prove to the Hearts faithful that she was the right choice, to deliver a stable club to be proud of, along with providing the funds to bring exciting football back to Tynecastle.
Hearts are a big club with a big fanbase and fine stadium. Their history shows this, with the Gorgie side producing legends of the game such as Dave MacKay and Sandy Jardine, and also winning the Scottish League title four times, and the Scottish Cup an impressive eight times, including that famous 5-1 win over rivals Hibernian. The good times seem to be rolling back in, and many feel this is a place where Hearts belong, and the fans and everyone associated with the club will feel the buzz around Tynecastle. The hard work starts now.
Image credit: faungg’s photo
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