STEVEN NAISMITH insists he is ready to make his mark with Robbie Neilson’s new-look Hearts side after returning to full fitness this week.
The Jambos skipper cruised through a 30-minute cameo against Falkirk on Tuesday afternoon as the capital club claimed a comfortable 3-0 victory.
It was Naismith’s first appearance of pre-season following a persistent calf complaint and he is likely to step up his recovery with a longer outing when the men in maroon host Partick Thistle on Saturday.
Naismith reckons he will be back in contention when Hearts host Inverness in their Betfred Cup opener on October 6 – albeit it remains to be seen whether Steve Clarke is tempted to include him in the Scotland squad for the European Championship play-off against Israel two days later.
“Falkirk was the first game and it’s been long-awaited,” said Naismith. “We’ll have another friendly at the weekend and then I’ll push on for a full week’s training.
“I feel fit and I’m raring to go. The start of the Betfred [Cup] is a realistic target.
“I had a good programme and built up to make sure I’m not going to break down for any long period of time.
“Every box is ticked in terms of hitting markers to come back into contention and I’ve done a lot in training.
“I felt really good [against Falkirk]. I’ve probably done more in training in terms of high-intensity running and longer distances. I knew I’d be comfortable in that – it’s now about getting the sharpness and that touch round the final third ahead of the start of the season.”
Hearts’ weapons in the final third were illustrated at the Oriam Performance Centre as goals from Liam Boyce, Jamie Walker and Craig Wighton put the Bairns to the sword. That followed hot on the heels of 5-0 victory against East Fife.
And the 34-year-old is adamant he is relishing the challenge of fighting for a place in the Hearts side after the arrival of Jordan Roberts, Elliott Frear and Josh Ginnelly bolstered their attacking options.
“You want to play, you want to play with the new signings and make your stamp on the team,” the Scotland striker told Hearts TV. “Competition for places is high now and we’re raring to go.
“You can tell their [new signings’] football knowledge is good, the positions they are picking up are good, so it’ll be good to have them in and around the group.
“We’ve got good forward players and they all want to get on the ball, which is a sign of confidence.”