Hearts expect to officially announce signing of Steven Naismith by the end of the week, as boss Craig Levein defends gruelling pre-season

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BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport

HEARTS expect to officially complete the signing of Steven Naismith in the next 48 hours as the formalities of a season-long loan are finalised.

The Jambos have agreed terms with the Scotland internationalist’s parent club Norwich and were yesterday [Tuesday] in the process of exchanging paperwork with the Carrow Road outfit to seal the switch.

Indeed, Naismith was in attendance at Gayfield as Hearts began their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 victory against Arbroath on Tuesday evening.

Hearts will pay a relatively small percentage of Naismith’s £50,000 per week salary,  nevertheless, it is understood he will join Kyle Lafferty among their highest earners.

The capture is a major coup for boss Craig Levein, who made the experienced forward his top summer priority following an impressive six months in the capital last term.

Naismith, who boasts 45 Scotland caps, made 14 appearances and contributed four goals, but was also seen as a pivotal mentor for the club’s best young talent along with fellow experienced campaigners Aaron Hughes and Don Cowie.

He will be the club’s 11th summer signing following the captures of Zdenek Zlamal, Peter Haring, Ben Garuccio, Bobby Burns, Oliver Bozanic, Ryan Edwards, Olly Lee, Jake Mulraney, Steven MacLean and Uche Ikpeazu.

Meanwhile, Levein has defended Hearts’ no-nonsense approach to pre-season training.

The veteran manager rolled back the years last week by putting his players through their paces on the infamous sand dunes of Gullane, a gruelling tradition made famous by Jock Wallace, who served as the Jambos’ fitness coach before becoming Rangers boss.

However, Levein firmly believes his players will find reserves of stamina later this season after being pushed to their ‘limits’ since returning to training.

“Some people might call it old fashioned, but I like players who are fit and feel fit,” Levein told Hearts TV. “There’s confidence that comes from knowing you can do extra because you have pushed yourself to the limit in pre-season.

“I think it’s a mentality thing, more than anything else. My priority is always to get the hard work out of the way without breaking anyone! We’re all fit and ready to go.

“The hard work isn’t completely out of the way, because we obviously have games to play, which is important, but in the last couple of days we have worked more on the tactical side and that will continue.”