Hearts boss says Italian trip a 'godsend'

Hearts boss Jim Jefferies today admitted it is a "godsend" for his squad to be thousands of miles from the nationwide storm which has engulfed the club as a result of the Craig Thomson affair.

• Jim Jefferies

Since jetting out to Italy for a week of pre-season fitness training, Jefferies and his men have escaped the unwanted distraction created by Hearts' original decision to keep Thomson, who was placed on the Sex Offenders' Register after being found guilty of offences involving underage girls. "We didn't come away because of that but with what's happening back home it's worked in our favour," said Jefferies. "We would have had a lot of difficulty with concentration levels, I think, with so many things going on. We've not been distracted by that. We're better here – it's a bit of a godsend, to be honest.

"With your preparations, you don't want any disturbances – even though we get kept up to date with what's happening back home. It's important that we come over and there's no distractions. We want to get on and concentrate on preparing for the new season."

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The Hearts manager is without Thomson, who was suspended by the club yesterday, as he puts his squad through its paces at Il Ciocco in northern Tuscany, and revealed he is delighted with the efforts of his players as he puts them through some gruelling drills.

"It's not been as long a break (between seasons] as we've had in the past," said Jefferies. "We've done some tough sessions but not maybe as intense as I've done it in previous years – we want to get quickly on to the ball because the season's not far away.

"There's been earlier ball work, but we still want them to sleep well at night – and they will. Through experience you

get to know how to judge it and gauge how they are, and I'm really happy with them."

Meanwhile, Hearts have escaped punishment for the assault on Celtic manager Neil Lennon during a highly-charged SPL match at Tynecastle last month. The flashpoint amid a host of trouble at the fixture came when a spectator made his way from the main stand to the dugout area and leapt upon Lennon. The Scottish Premier League has chosen not to take action against Hearts but has raised serious concerns about inconsistency of policing at football grounds.