Hearts look to Germany and Austria again

HEARTS are considering holding pre-season training camps in Austria and Germany again this summer in a repeat of last year's double-pronged preparations.

The Evening News can reveal that Tynecastle officials have visited both countries to assess facilities for the squad to prepare for the 2008/09 campaign. Sport director Anatoli Korobochka travelled to Austria to view hotels and training provisions whilst club interpreter Konstantin Kornakov has done likewise in Germany.

Korobochka is understood to be behind the push to organise two pre-season trips during July, which is also favoured by majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov. Last summer, Hearts spent 12 days in the lakeside Austrian town of Walchsee, which preceded another 12-day stint in Meschede, Germany. The trips were overseen by veteran Russian coach Eduard Malofeev, whose old school methods irked many senior squad members.

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Players are less than enamoured by the idea of a repeat schedule this year but the final decision will rest with senior management, who are keen that the team should bond together with any new signings before starting the new season.

Hearts have expressed an interest in participating in the Intertoto Cup, which would force a rethink on pre-season plans due to the tournament's June starting date.

Meanwhile, interim manager Stephen Frail is urging caution over the fitness of striker Christian Nade, who returned to full training at Riccarton yesterday. The Frenchman's pelvic problem has eased and Frail is hopeful of having him available for Saturday's visit of Dundee United.

"We'll need to make sure he's right. He was a loss on Saturday against Falkirk and I'm keeping my fingers crossed he can come back into the squad. It's not certain at the moment," said Frail.

"He looked sharp enough in training and all being well will be available for Dundee United. We were all disappointed not to beat Falkirk and it has obviously left us needing favours now as we attempt to make it into the top six. It is going to be tough ask with Falkirk still three points ahead of us but all we can do is influence our games. That's why we are focusing on United now and getting the victory we need."

Frail's lack of striking options is not being helped by a distinct lack of commitment from Mauricio Pinilla, who is showing little willingness to return from a knee ligament injury sustained in January.

Neil McCann underwent a successful operation on Saturday night to remove a plate from the leg he broke against Celtic last August. "The surgeon is happy enough with things and Neil is up and about walking," said Frail.