Hearts not content to just ease their way back into life in the top tier

Hearts are not returning to the Premiership simply to make up the numbers.

While many promoted sides say consolidation is the objective in their first season back in the top flight, the Tynecastle outfit have greater ambitions, with manager Robbie Neilson being told to target a European spot.

The Gorgie side have not managed a top-four finish since 2015/16, when they finished third behind Celtic and Aberdeen, but chief executive Andrew McKinlay said that should always be the level the team is aiming for, while continuing to challenge for silverware in the knockout competitions.

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Quizzed if the board had set out targets for the football department, of what would be deemed an acceptable finishing position, he said: “It's definitely not just survival, I can assure you of that. We're expecting to be competitive within the league.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is hoping for a positive start to the season as Tynecastle club return to Premiership return. Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group
Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is hoping for a positive start to the season as Tynecastle club return to Premiership return. Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group

“We know the teams we want to compete with, and it's the ones you'd expect, but we don't set a 'this is the place you have to be'. As a club we feel that we could be third or fourth but first and foremost we want to get ourselves into that top six, get a good start so we can look comfortably at that and then build on that.

“I feel we've got the squad, with a few additions, which gives us that opportunity."

The club bounced back after the frustration of being demoted before the league was concluded in 2019/20, but there was a vocal section of the support unhappy with the manner of play and the points dropped en route.

It left manager Robbie Neilson under some pressure but the board stood by him and McKinlay says he envisages a bright start to the new season, when they kick off their Premier Sport Cup group matches on July 10

"I'm expecting us to start well and Robbie expects us to start well. I'd never call on fans to be patient because that's not the nature of being a fan. The fans will be what they will be and it's our job, to quote the great [Rudyard] Kipling, to stay calm while others around us are maybe not so calm. We know as well as anyone whether we're playing as well as we should be or could be."

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