Callum Paterson reckons no-one should be surprised that Hearts have been able to soar high on their return to the Ladbrokes Premiership.

A year on from escaping the second tier, the Jambos are celebrating a return to European competition after clinching third place.

Read more: Neilson delighted to secure European football

It is a commendable achievement, especially given boss Robbie Neilson was uncertain his team would even make the top six when they kicked off their campaign back in August.

But Paterson insists he was always confident Hearts - who will now enter next season's Europa League at the first qualifying round stage on June 30 - would find themselves mixing it with the big guns come the end of the season.

He told the club's official website: "I've not been surprised at all to be honest.

"Our top-six goal was perhaps a tad on the safe side, we always felt we had the ability to achieve that. From there we set ourselves a target of a top-four spot and now we're obviously third, so we've done well to get there.

"So we're now looking to finish the season on a high and then come back full of confidence for pre-season."

Paterson is fit again after a shoulder injury cost him six weeks of the season.

He made his return off the bench in Hearts' last fixture with Inverness a fortnight ago but is determined to finish the season strongly having already achieved his European objective.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's trip to Motherwell, he said: "It was brilliant to get back against Inverness. Being out for such a long time and having to watch on from the sidelines was gutting, but I'm back training now and I'm feeling good.

"It's always frustrating to be out, but you can only take it in your stride and hope that it makes you stronger. The recovery was hard but I'm looking to kick on now and get back in the team.

"Obviously it's great to have secured Europe, that's where I think the club should be looking to get every season. Finishing third is a massive achievement but we'll still do our best to try and finish second.

"Motherwell are playing well but we're fully focused on picking up as many points as we can going into the final games, so we're going to Fir Park with the intent of getting all three points."