Hearts manager Craig Levein discusses his formula for selecting XI from 30-man squad


Hearts manager Craig Levein insists picking a starting eleven from his huge 30-man squad will come down to form – not reputation.

The Tynecastle outfit return to competitive action in tomorrow’s Betfred Cup clash at Cove Rangers following a summer overhaul that has seen eleven players, including the return of Steven Naismith on loan, arrive.

Czech marksman David Vanecek has also signed a pre-contract, while American goalkeeper Kevin Silva has agreed terms and will join initially as a reserve team player.

Levein is not short of options for Wednesday’s Group C clash but insists whittling down the numbers will be based on who has caught the eye in training and pre-season to so far.

Levein, whose ten other signings are Zdenek Zlamal, Peter Haring, Ben Garuccio, Olly Lee, Oliver Bozanic, Bobby Burns, Ryan Edwards, Jake Mulraney, Uche Ikpeazu and Steven MacLean, said: “We have loads of options just now and people are finding their place in the pecking order after pre-season. 

“I’m pretty much looking to be using the players I feel have done well in the games. 

“We have a lot of players in. I’ve just looked at who is doing well in training and who is doing well in games. I’ll be playing the players who are in form.

“It might be some of the young ones playing, it might be older ones. It’s just who I feel is up to speed quicker. Everybody gets there at different times.

“I’m excited. There’s always a feeling of uncertainty when you bring so many players in. It takes time to get to know them as people, their strengths and weaknesses, and find out how emotional they are. 

“That’s all going on just now and I’m learning more about them all the time.

“When you start a season, it’s important your big characters are up to speed. 

“We can carry other things if that’s the case. We will be relying heavily on Christophe Berra, John Souttar, big Bobby (Zlamal) in goals, Kyle (Lafferty and Steven MacLean – and boys like that who have been over the course before.”

A woeful League Cup campaign at the start of last season cost head coach Ian Cathro his job after the Tynecsatle outfit failed to reach the second round following a third place finish in Group B behind Dunfermline and Peterhead.

Hearts will also face Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath and Inverness in Group C this term and Levein insists an encouraging start in the cup can set the tone for a successful league season.

He added: “This, the Scottish Cup and the league are three major competitions. 

“We can’t and won’t take any of those lightly. 

“We will put our strongest team out, barring injury or someone needing rested, in all these games. We have two away matches before we’re back at Tynecastle. 

“We are wary, of course, and we want to do well. We’re completely focused on doing well in this tournament and it’s really important.

“We aren’t completely up to speed and I think these four games will get us closer to firing on all cylinders. We’ve certainly done enough preparation to be ready to go.”

Levein admits he could still add to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

The former Scotland manager is keen to re-sign Manchester United left-back Demi Mitchell, who has been included in the Red Devils’ tour of America, on loan but refused to comment on any interest in former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean Clare.

Levein admits he is also looking to streamline his squad. Conor Sammon yesterday joined Motherwell on a season-long loan deal, while midfielder Malaury Martin has been told he is surplus to requirements.

He added: “The process of bringing players in has been put before the process of moving anybody out. 

“What you’re seeing just now is probably our maximum number, bar another goalkeeper. 

“There are two or three who will move on. I’m not under the pressure of having to let players leave before I can sign others.

“I just feel, right now, I’ve done quite a lot of business. 

“We have six weeks till the window closes and other things might happen. 

“I just want to be more prepared than last season. To do that, you need to get players in early.”

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