Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is excited by the array of creative options he has at his disposal ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table Edinburgh derby showdown.
The Tynecastle club have added highly-regarded duo Ben Woodburn and Barrie McKay recently to an area of the squad that already boasted proven game-changing talent like Gary Mackay-Steven, Josh Ginnelly and Jamie Walker.
Neilson admits he is spoiled for choice as he prepares to pick a team to try and topple city rivals Hibernian and move clear at the top of the cinch Premiership this weekend.
He said: “It’s really important to have a lot of options in that area of the team. These guys (Woodburn, Walker, Ginnelly, Mackay-Steven, Mackay) are very explosive players. We’re asking them to go one v one with people and they’re going to get a lot of contact so they’ll pick up knocks and niggles.
“You have to have a group of them so players can come in and play, and if they pick up injuries someone else can come in and take their place. I’m really pleased with that department.”
Neilson is happy with the overall make-up of his squad as Hearts bid to build on their strong start to the campaign.
He said: “The recruitment’s been good. Joe (Savage) and I spoke with Ann (Budge) and the board prior to the window opening about what we wanted to do with the squad and where we felt we had to get to, and I think we’ve managed to do the majority of it.
“There’s still more scope to do one or two things in the January window. We spoke about not having wholesale changes every year at Hearts, which had happened in the previous three or four years. We were basically a good team but we’ve added quality. We’ve got a couple of loan players who will help us for the season and we’ve got a few guys who will be here longer term. We’ve got the age down, we’ve got some assets into the team and it’s a case of continuing to build.”
Neilson – who expects to have key man Michael Smith available after he suffered a minor injury on international duty with Northern Ireland in midweek – has been named cinch Premiership manager of the month for August. But he admits Hearts’ impressive start to the season will count for little if they don’t show up at Tynecastle on Sunday.
He said: “It’s been a good start but what’s happened in the last six weeks doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what happens when it kicks off on Sunday. We need to find a way to win the game.
“It doesn’t matter how you win it, it’s about winning a derby. It’s so important for the fanbase, the club and also for the players and their league position.
“It’ll be 200 miles an hour. It’s about being up for that battle at the start and then having the composure to go and play. We’ve got a number of boys that have played in it or played in Dundee or Glasgow derbies so I expect us to be ready for it.”
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