Form will be the key as Craig Levein plays numbers game at Hearts

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With some 30 players listed on the club’s official first-team list, Hearts manager Craig Levein has an embarrassment of riches as he prepares for tomorrow’s first competitive outing of the season against Cove Rangers.

Among those looking for game time in the Betfred Cup Group C clash with the Highland League champions are ten of the 11 new arrivals, returning loanee Steven Naismith being suspended due to a ban carried over from last season.

Hearts manager Craig Levein has a first-team squad of 30 players. Picture: SNS.

Hearts manager Craig Levein has a first-team squad of 30 players. Picture: SNS.

However, in paring down that vast number, Levein’s formula is simple. He will select his team on form, not reputation.

“We have loads of options and people are finding their place in the pecking order after pre-season,” said Levein, whose ten other signings are Zdenek Zlamal, Peter Haring, Ben Garuccio, Olly Lee, Oliver Bozanic, Bobby Burns, Ryan Edwards, Jake Mulraney, Uche Ikpeazu and Steven MacLean. “I’m pretty much looking to be using the players I feel have done well in the games.

“We have a lot of players in. I’ve just looked at who is doing well in training and who is doing well in games. I’ll be playing the players who are in form.

“It might be some of the young ones playing, it might be older ones. It’s just who I feel is up to speed quicker. Everybody gets there at different times.

“I’m excited. There’s always a feeling of uncertainty when you bring so many players in. It takes time to get to know them as people, their strengths and weaknesses, and find out how emotional they are. That’s all going on just now and I’m learning more about them all the time.

“When you start a season, it’s important your big characters are up to speed.

“We can carry other things if that’s the case. We will be relying heavily on Christophe Berra, John Souttar, big Bobby (Zlamal) in goals, Kyle (Lafferty and Steven MacLean – and boys like that who have been over the course before.”

Levein is keen to re-sign Manchester United left-back Demi Mitchell, who is included in the Red Devils’ tour of America.