Hearts director of football Craig Levein insists team will be better, but league will be harder



Hearts director of football Craig Levein is reluctant to publicly discuss the team’s targets for the forthcoming campaign.

The former Scotland manager, however, is adamant that the Hearts team will be stronger, although he envisages that the Premiership will be ‘tougher’.

Hearts’ competitive season begins on Thursday, over a month before the league kicks off, in a Europa League first qualifying round visit of Estonian side Infonet.

craigleveinAn impressive third place finish, which saw Robbie Neilson’s side amass their highest top-flight points total in a decade in their first season back in the top-flight, secured a route back into Europe.

But replicating that feat is likely to prove harder next season, with Rangers’ return to the Premiership intensifying the competition.

Hearts have already signed defender Faycal Rherras and strikers Conor Sammon and Robbie Muirhead, but Levein also expects members of the existing squad to improve.

Speaking yesterday after he helped unveil the 1914 Memorial Trust bronze statue of a solider, which pays tribute to the players that fought and died in World War I, Levein said: “What’s our target? It’s something we’re reluctant to get involved in.

“Suffice to say, we’ll be better than last season and the logic behind that is that our young players are not so young anymore. They’re getting older and more experienced, we’ve brought in some good players already and I feel that with the distinct possibility of more signings coming in, we’ll be stronger than last year.

“Whether that does for us, we’ll find out.

“It’s going to be tougher this year. I think (new Celtic manager) Brendan Rodgers coming is good for the league, it brings some outside interest.

“Rangers did well last year and they’ve made some signings already.

“I think for everybody it’s going to be a bit more exciting, probably a touch tougher than last season but I think we’ll be better than we were last season.

“I’m delighted to see the SPFL top division has been strengthened. I’m sure Hibs will have a go this year and try and get back to the Premiership as well.”

Levein guided Hearts to the then UEFA Cup group stages in 2004 before departing for Leicester City after an opening 3-0 defeat against Dutch side Feyenoord.

He added: “It’s great to get back on the European stage. They’re always very special nights.

“I have very fond memories of the European games from the past and I’m sure our supporters do as well. It would be great if this team could create some memories of their own.”