Hearts coach Neilson backing Jack Hamilton for Europa clash

Jack Hamilton will be in goals for Hearts against Infonet. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Jack Hamilton will be in goals for Hearts against Infonet. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson insists he has no concerns about thrusting young goalkeeper Jack Hamilton into the heat of European action.

Neilson has confirmed the 22-year-old will start the season as the Tynecastle outfit’s number one following Neil Alexander’s departure.

Veteran stopper Paul Gallacher has been signed as back-up while Swedish trialist Viktor Noring has been given another week to try and earn himself a move to Edinburgh.

But it is Scotland Under-21 international Hamilton who will start against Estonian side FC Infonet when Hearts kick off their Europa League campaign at home on Thursday night.

And Neilson believes his side are in safe hands.

“Jack is the No 1,” Neilson said. “It’s up to him now to go and perform well.

“I’ve got no concerns about throwing him in at all. That is part of football. You need to give boys opportunities and Jack has proven himself the entire time he’s been here that he is ready to step in.

“He came in a couple of seasons ago for a derby match and did really well. He also came into the team towards the end of the season and played in some big games against the likes of Aberdeen and again did really well.

“He’s progressed too so there are no issues at all. He’s ready and has proven in the last couple of weeks he can handle it. Thursday’s game should be good for him.

“He can now make a name for himself. It’s a great game to be involved in. There will be a big crowd and a chance to perform.”

Thursday’s clash marks Hearts’ return to continental competition after a four-year absence but Neilson is wary of a side riding high in the Estonian top flight.

A seven-game unbeaten run has taken Infonet up to second place but the Hearts boss admits he is not equipped with detailed intelligence on their first qualifying round opponents.

He said: “It’s quite difficult to get a lot of information about them. We couldn’t get out to watch them because they have been given a little break by their FA to prepare for this game.

“We’ve watched them on Wyscout to get as much information as we can.

“We hope we know what to expect. It is all dependent on whether they change their style of play for Europe. Generally in their games at home they are pretty dominant and do well in their league, scoring goals and winning a lot of games.

“But I reckon they will change things a bit when they come to Tynecastle so we will need to prepare for that.”

Both Hearts and Aberdeen - who take on Fola Esch of Luxembourg - will find themselves back in competitive action before Euro 2016 has even reached its climax in France.

To reach the group stages, they will have to successfully clear four hurdles and Neilson admits it is a tall order.

“Everybody in Scotland needs to be realistic about our teams getting into the group stages of the Europa League and the Champions League,” he said. “It is difficult.

“Ourselves, Aberdeen and Hibs all have tough games coming up and that is only in the early rounds. Things get even harder if you make it as far as the third qualifying round and harder still in the play-off stage.

“So we can’t say we are going to do this and that. We can only take it one tie at a time.

“I do think we will eventually get back to the group stages. However, it’s about getting the co-efficient back to a level that gives us a platform to do it, so it’s important we all do well and work together.”

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