Although it may be wrong to suggest the prospect of ties in Iceland, Armenia, Macedonia or Romania would be enough to elicit pangs of jealousy in the rest of Scottish football, John Robertson is adamant Hearts will be desperate to take their place in the European draw this time next year.
Robertson, Hearts’ former striking hero and manager, believes firmly in the old adage of not trying to run before you can walk, and reckons head coach Robbie Neilson will be careful not to publicly set his sights too high in the forthcoming season. In fact, Robertson has cited Dundee, who followed promotion with a top-six finish, as a benchmark for Hearts as they prepare to rejoin the Premiership.
However, Robbo reckons “deep down” there will be a determination to ensure Hearts are firmly in the battle for European qualification next May.
Talking as he launched “John Robertson’s Summer Fitness Challenge” on the power plates at Fitness Studio EH1 in the capital, the 50-year-old said: “Hopefully Hearts could be in that European draw in 12 months’ time. Every Hearts player and Hearts supporter would love that to be the case.
“But you’ve got to show respect to the rest of the league. Hearts have dropped out of it for a year. I take Dundee as the perfect example. They came up last year under Paul Hartley and made the top six. Can Hearts do that? Yes, I think they can.
“That’s not being arrogant or disrespectful to the rest of the league; I certainly wouldn’t do that, because I know how good and how tough a league it is.
“But, certainly, top six is achievable and, I’m not going to lie, everybody at Hearts would love to be involved in the European draw this time next year. European football would make sure it was another phenomenal season.
“I don’t think Robbie will say they’re going for Europe, a bit like last year when he didn’t say they were going to win the Championship – he said they would be ‘competing for it’. But I think deep down, Robbie, they will want to be competing for a European place and they’ll want to be competing in the final stages of the cup competitions, because I think that’s where they believe the club deserves to be.”
Robertson, meanwhile, has tipped prospective new signing Gavin Reilly to prove a success if, as expected, the Queen of the South striker’s move is completed this week.
“Reilly first and foremost can score goals. But I’ve been very impressed with his work-rate and also his attitude.”