HEARTS have incorporated a glamorous friendly with Austria Vienna into their pre-season tour this summer, which will also include a match against the Ukrainian side Tavriya during a 12-day stay in Austria.
Valdas Ivanauskas, the former Tynecastle head coach who now performs a director of football-type role, is organising Hearts' pre-season preparations and has arranged for two of his former clubs to meet in Vienna's Franz Horr Stadium on Saturday, July 7.
Ivanauskas scored 52 goals in 122 matches for Austria Vienna, helping the club to three league championships in the 1990s. He also struck the 1992 national cup-winning goal against Admira Wacker.
He was head coach of Hearts until March this year but now operates in an overseeing position in tandem with club owner Vladimir Romanov.
The players are to report back to Riccarton for pre-season training on Tuesday, June 19 - three weeks from today - and will depart for Austria eight days later.
They will be based in the lakeside town of Walchsee, around 60 miles west of Salzburg.
Hearts will face Tavriya in the Salzburg region on June 30 or July 1 [to be confirmed] before heading east to face Georg Zellhofer's side in Vienna in a match which kicks off at 6pm local time. They are due to return to Edinburgh on Sunday, July 8.
"Tavriya is physically a very strong team. They are a very traditional club in Ukraine after Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk. They will be good opponents for our first game," said Ivanauskas, pictured below right.
"I think I will be at the match against Austria Vienna because they were my club. I have organised this game. The coach had a lot of options but he wants to play against Hearts because I was the manager there and he knows me. Vienna is a beautiful city and it's the last game before the team travels home. It will be a good game, and for Austria Vienna it is their last game before the Austrian championship begins."
Tavriya are currently fifth in the Ukrainian Premier League, whilst Austria Vienna finished sixth in the Austrian Bundesliga in the season just ended.
The Hearts players will stay in a hotel overlooking Lake Walchsee from June 27 to July 6.
The secluded resort is located between the cities of Innsbruck and Salzburg, and offers peaceful and picturesque surroundings in which the players can begin their ascent to optimum fitness for the new season. They will then spend two nights in Vienna before returning to Scotland.
Ivanauskas continued: "In Austria, every place is very beautiful.
"A lot of teams from Italy and Spain are going to Austria for training camps because the weather is perfect and the facilities are good. We had other options for Hearts but Walschee is the best."
Hearts spent ten days in the Austrian mountain resort of Windischgarsten last July at the beginning of Ivanauskas' tenure as head coach.
Walchsee offers facilities of similar quality, with two pristine football pitches little more than a two-minute coach journey from the team hotel. There will also be a licensed UEFA match agent, Hannes Empl, on hand in the city of Salzburg to assist with the club's requirements.
"I hope the players will enjoy it," said Ivanauskas. "The pitches are good in Walchsee, well maintained, and it's a very nice part of the country. This can help the team to prepare for the new season in the SPL."
Hearts are also toying with the idea of a second training camp in Germany later in July, but may find themselves reluctant to squeeze in another trip after spending 12 days in Austria.
A friendly with Everton remains a possibility, but the club are obliged to fulfil a pre-season engagement in Dingwall against Ross County as part of the 40,000 deal which took 16-year-old goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to Tynecastle earlier this month. That match is expected to take place at some point after July 8 but before Barcelona visit Murrayfield on Saturday, July 28.