Destination Europe as Hearts coach Gordon Forrest outlines club target and praises young Riccarton role model
Winning Premier Sports Cup ties builds a useful platform for the season ahead and momentum is building at Tynecastle Park ahead of today’s final Group A match against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Coaching staff know sterner tests await but the new 3-4-3 system employed by manager Robbie Neilson is bedding in nicely so far. Even as a newly-promoted club, Hearts are aiming high.
“Our main priority is to qualify for Europe but these cup games allowed us an earlier look at this different system and different shape,” explained coach Gordon Forrest. “We need to win these cup games.
“Other teams might use it as pre-season minutes or to test players, but straight from the off one of our goals is to win all these games. It's maybe a wee bit lighter but we want to come out on top.”
Some of Scotland’s European representatives were already in action this week. “It was interesting watching them and we have eyes on our Premiership opposition. For Hearts, and for us as coaches, we want to do our best this season to get there,” added Forrest.
“We have a good group and we've spoken about what we want to achieve. We have players who have been there before and know what's expected at Hearts.”
Despite being only 17, recent academy graduate Finlay Pollock won’t need that explained to him. The childhood Hearts fan has made a major impression this summer.
“He was great in pre-season and he's a really good role model for our young academy players. He's been good on the pitch but it's his enthusiasm, his attitude, he's a Hearts supporter and wants to do his best for the club,” said Forrest.
“He is a young player and we have to manage his game time. We can't just keep chucking him in because it won't do him any good. It's important we look after him because he is a prospect. He will have ups and downs but he's doing great just now.
“When we first came in there were names chucked at us and he was one to keep an eye on. He is enjoying himself, he's enthusiastic and very fit. He is a key role model because he listens and wants to learn.”
The young midfielder is still to experience the major test of coping with adversity at first-team level. “He'll have games where he isn't performing as well, there will be training sessions where he isn't training as well, there will be senior players getting on at him and coaches getting on at him.
“But Finlay is a good lad who is certainly grounded. With all young players, you've got to be wary. Young lads are on a performance and development plan, so Finlay has his own programme to suit him. He can focus on his technical and tactical side, but also the physical and mental side as well.
“How does he deal with press? How does he deal with pressures? How does he deal with certain games? He is on his own plan and it's up to us to manage that. He's certainly got the attitude, enthusiasm and commitment to do what he wants, really. It's up to him.”