Hearts urged to gain ahead start on rivals

Neil Alexander has urged Hearts to try to repeat last year’s scintillating start when they kick-off their Ladbrokes Premiership return at home to St Johnstone on August 1.

Celtic assistant John Collins, left, joined Hearts goalkeeper Neil Alexander (2nd from left), Morton captain Peter MacDonald (2nd from right) and Albion Rovers player-manager Darren Young as the Ladbrokes Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two fixtures were announced for the 2015/2016 are announced

The Tynecastle club won 11 of their opening 12 fixtures in last season’s Championship, which underpinned their record-breaking title win. Goalkeeper Alexander wants to build the same kind of momentum again.

Hearts entertain St Johnstone on the opening day before a trip to Dundee the following week and then a home match against Motherwell. After winning the Championship by 21 points, they are eager to cement their place back in the top flight.

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Alexander stressed today that a solid start will be key to the new campaign. “Getting off to a good start last year was fantastic, it gave us a real confidence boost and gave the boys a lot of belief about what they could achieve,” said the 37-year-old player/coach. “This season will be very much the same but it will be tougher. We have the chance to get off to quite a good start and hopefully pick up some points before we face Celtic and Aberdeen. We’ll be prepared for the first game.”

St Johnstone’s visit could mean Brad McKay making his league debut for his new club against his old one. The defender signed a pre-contract at McDiarmid Park in February and will now return to Tynecastle, where he has played for the last five years.

One notable match missing from Hearts’ fixture list is the Edinburgh derby with Hibs, who remain in the Championship after failing to negotiate a way out through the play-offs last month. In the absence of a derby, the fixture Hearts look to first on the list is Celtic, according to Alexander.

“Yes, you look to the reigning champions,” he said. “That’s going to be your toughest game and your biggest game. We played Celtic twice in cup competitions last year and they beat us both times so we know how hard that’s going to be.

“Sometimes the most important games are going to be against the teams in and around you. If we can pick up anything against Celtic it’s fantastic, but you’re not expected to win or pick up points.”

n New SPFL title sponsors Ladbrokes are offering prices for every side to win the Premiership, Championship, League One and League Two. Visit Ladbrokes.com or see in shop for more information.