A 140-year-old club will start another season at its 128-year-old ground tomorrow.
Hearts will play at Tynecastle, as always, but everything else will be new: new ownership structure at the club, new manager, new league status, and an opening tie in a newly named cup competition.
Robbie Neilson's first competitive game in management comes at home to Annan Athletic in what is now the Petrofac Training Cup (it was previously the Ramsdens). His job title is actually head coach and he, along with director of football Craig Levein and owner/chairwoman Ann Budge, must negotiate the first round of the cup without mishap.
Loading article content
Three nights ago, Hearts lost 3-0 to Dundee at Dens Park. The standard of opposition tomorrow is much weaker, but Neilson intends to draw on that defeat to focus and sharpen his players against the team which finished second in League 2 last season yet missed out on promotion.
"We came back from Dundee on the bus and the coaching staff all sat and talked about it," said Neilson. "Although the result was poor, it was a pleasing thing as it gave us the opportunity to come in the next day and go over the video and tell them what is expected of them. There were a number of things that were not acceptable: work rate, the effort and the hunger. If you go through pre-season and everything is rosy, you're beating teams four/five-nil, and you come to the first competitive game and get beaten 3-0, then you're in a trouble. We had a good performance against Man City [a 2-1 defeat last Friday] and I think a lot of them thought they were there. Then we went up to Dundee and got turned over. Dundee played really well and we didn't compete. It gave us a chance to say, 'this isn't acceptable'. In a way it was a good thing."
Neilson, 34, has watched Annan twice and also obtained DVDs of recent performances. "It's a home game against a lower-league team, we have to perform and make sure we prepare properly. The players must treat it like they would two weeks later going to Ibrox [for the opening fixture in the Championship]. You want to win every game. You should be under some sort of pressure.
"We want to win this cup. Definitely. We won't be using it as an extra training game or anything. It's when the competitive games come along that you see where you really are and if they're understanding what you're trying to coach them."
Hearts have signed eight players: Neil Alexander, Scott Gallacher, Alim Ozturk, James Keatings, Soufian El Hassnaoui, Osman Sow, Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben. Might there be more? "Not at the moment, no," said Neilson. "I'm quite happy with what we've got. If I need to get one or two in I might be able to do it but it will probably be towards the end of the window."