HEARTS: Jim Jefferies aiming to challenge Old Firm next season

JIM JEFFERIES today insisted he wants to have a team capable of challenging the Old Firm at the top of the table in place by the start next season.

The Tynecastle manager (pictured) has identified the areas he needs to strengthen before the start of the 2010/11 campaign, but believes that he already has the nucleus of a successful team in the current Hearts squad.

Jefferies knows that his options will be limited in the transfer market with Vladimir Romanov preferring to look to the youth players currently on Hearts' books.

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However Jefferies and his No.2 Billy Brown are determined to strengthen key areas to avoid becoming embroiled in a battle simply for a place in the top six again next year and the Hearts boss said: "We have got to build a team that is able to compete. We have the nucleus of a very good side here. There are areas of the team that need to be looked at and strengthened. Myself and the owners will have to sit down to ensure that we can try to do that.

"If we can do that then I want to be off and running with a squad at the start of the season that is capable of putting in a challenge.

"The philosophy here is that you want to have a good enough team to get the fans coming along and being successful – I've learned over the last couple of years that, if you do that, you tend to be in that position for two or three years and then other clubs come in and want to take your players.

"There is always a knock-on effect but we will tell players we bring in that if they come here and do a job for us, they can go on to play for Scotland and make a lot of money playing at the highest level. That is no different from what we had here the last time, people do well for you and then move on. But it works for this club and can be of a great benefit to the club financially as well."

Club owner Romanov revealed today that he has spoken to Jefferies, insisting that the Tynecastle side must put their focus on the youth system at the club.

Romanov maintains that he will not be splashing out in the summer and will instead look to bring more players through the ranks, following in the footsteps of the likes of Craig Thomson and Gary Glen. Romanov said: "Regardless of whether Hearts make it into the top six or not, Jim Jefferies and I have long ago developed a strategy for our club's development for the future.

"We want to help our own young players grow into real stars. That is the only way of doing it in the showbusiness atmosphere of Scottish football."