Hearts boss reveals double squad boost ahead of Dundee Championship opener

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Hearts manager Robbie Neilson has revealed that Northern Ireland internationals Liam Boyce and Michael Smith will be available for Friday’s Championship curtain raiser against Dundee – even though they will both be in Norway just 48 hours earlier.

Striker Boyce climbed off the bench to hit the winning penalty for his country against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday to set up a Euro play-off final against Slovakia.

Smith did not feature but is expected to add to his nine caps against Austria today and Norway on Wednesday in the Nations League.

Liam Boyce plays for Nothern Ireland | Hearts news
Boyce and Smith will both be available to face Dundee

The clash in Oslo comes just two days before Hearts open the league campaign at home to the Dark Blues but Neilson insists both players will be in his squad for the televised encounter.

Neilson, whose side also face Raith Rovers in Betfred Cup Group A action on Tuesday, said: “The boys in the Northern Ireland squad arrive back on Thursday morning. 

“They play Wednesday night in Oslo and they fly back early Thursday morning so they’ll be available for the Dundee game.

“That was always confirmed to be the case. 

“If our first league game was a Saturday game it would have been better for us, but with it being Friday night it means they’ll join up with us later on the Thursday.

“Even if they play on Wednesday I would not have any reservations about them playing on the Friday. 

“Michael didn’t play any part on Thursday and Boyce was only on for a minute so they’re not going to be fatigued.

“It’s not long until we kick off the league so we’re looking forward to it. The Betfred Cup is also important to us, we’ve got the game on Tuesday against Raith and then we’ll turn our attention to Dundee.”

Neilson insists there are no injury concerns over Smith after he was not part of Ian Baraclough’s match-day squad for the semi-final play-off win.

He added: “Michael is fine, I text him. He’s all good, he just never made the 20-man squad.

“Liam was delighted he got the winning goal. I think he had missed the last couple of penalties so it was a big one to step up to and I’m pleased for him.”

 
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