New Hearts striker Conor Sammon insists the Tynecastle club can add to the new-found excitement surrounding Scottish football by challenging for league honours next season.
The former Kilmarnock forward sealed his return north of the border on Tuesday after putting pen to paper on a three-deal following five-and-half years at Wigan and Derby County.
The 29-year-old has followed in the footsteps of more stellar names after Celtic unveiled ex-Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers in the dugout, and Rangers recruited former Burnley and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton.
Those high-profile additions has lifted the game in Scotland and Republic of Ireland cap Sammon is adamant that Hearts, who finished third in the Premiership last term, can play their part.
Sammon said: “It’s fantastic to see big names coming here. You want to test yourself against the best.
“Brendan Rodgers’ teams play good attacking, technical football and he showed that from his time at Swansea and Liverpool.
“I’ve no doubt he’ll do the same at Celtic and that will only help us to improve. That will push us to be as strong as we can.
“You want competition to be fierce and tough.
“It’s a real positive to see Scottish football on the up and there’s a feelgood factor about Hearts as well.
“Can Hearts challenge? Definitely. For us as players, and for me coming into the group, you are just looking to improve the club from last season.
“Third position last season, so, absolutely, we want to be pushing to try and improve on that and to do well in Europe. That’s my objective and I have know doubt that the club have the same objective.
“I see no reason why not why a team outwith Celtic and Rangers can’t challenge.
“From a neutral point of view, looking on from down south, I think it was fantastic to see Aberdeen pushing and Hearts pushing so close.
“It was really good to see that the other clubs have stepped up, Hearts being one and Aberdeen being another, and there is no reason why we can’t do the same this season and push them.”
The marksman confirmed that he held talks with Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes before agreeing to make the switch to Gorgie.
He added: “I spoke to the manager at the tail end of last season. It was just a conversation and that’s where we were.
“I didn’t get an offer from Aberdeen. I was obviously then excited to come to Hearts and it was an easy decision for me.”
Sammon joined Wigan from Kilmarnock in a £600,000 switch in January 2011 before Derby paid a reported £1.2 million for his services 18 months later.
Despite struggling for regular game time with the Rams amid loan switches to Ipswich, Rotherham and Sheffield United, Sammon insists he has returned to Scotland a vastly improved player.
He added: “It was a really good experience to test yourself against the best players down there. When I went to Wigan, I was playing in the Premier League and was going to play in some amazing stadiums that you could only ever dream of as a kid.
“I had some great experiences there and then I moved to Derby, which was still a massive club, with real ambition.
“I learnt an awful lot about how to look after yourself and how to get the best out of yourself. Physically and technically I have improved as a player, and definitely mentally.
“I have had to deal with the ups and downs of football over the years. I have had some bad experiences where you are not playing as much, you are frustrated and things aren’t going as well for you. But I have learned how to cope with that and channel all my frustrations the right way and still get the best out of myself.
“I have taken a lot from my time down south and I’m looking forward to taking that into my time at Hearts and really helping to improve the team.”