Craig Gordon: Hearts have no concerns over goalkeeper's commitments
Robbie Neilson believes Hearts’ ability to cope with domestic demands and European exertions will come down to the mentality of his players.
The Tynecastle side’s first test comes this week as they follow up this afternoon’s hosting of Dundee United with travel to Switzerland to face FC Zurich on Thursday and then next Sunday’s trip to Glasgow to take on Celtic.
Neilson has been intent on building an expanded squad capable of coping with the rigours of three games in a week. However, he is convinced the challenge will not just be a physical one.
“It's something we've known about for a number of months,” commented Neilson, who played in Europe with Hearts himself. “We have tried to get a squad where we believe the players can play most of the games and guys that come in and out as well and keep standards up. It's a privilege to go and play in Europe, so we see as it as positive.
“You play Thursday, you play Sunday and you keep doing it. All the top players can do it, so it comes down to mentality rather than physicality.
"The players had experience of that in pre-season [friendlies] and did well. Second time through we realised what we needed to do to get ready and it will be a great experience for them.”
One player for whom European football will not be new is goalkeeper and captain Craig Gordon. The Scotland number one has featured 14 times in continental competition for the Jambos and 63 more for Celtic. Now 39 and only four months from celebrating his 40th birthday on New Year’s Eve, Neilson is adamant he has no concerns over Gordon combining club duties both at home and abroad with his international commitments.
“Out of the squad, he's probably the guy who has done it the most, whether it's internationals, Champions League or Europa League,” added Neilson. “He's used to playing all these games and if there's anybody who looks after themselves, it's Craig Gordon. Craig will make his own mind up and he's keen to play for as long as he can at as a high level as he can.”