First team

Naismith relishing European challenges

10 May 2024

Steven Naismith admits preparations are already underway for next season as the Jambos prepare for European group stage football. 


Results last weekend saw the men in maroon secure third place in the cinch Premiership, meaning they will now have a Europa League playoff to look forward to at the end of August.


Speaking to the media ahead of Hearts’ match with Dundee, Naismith said:


“We’ve got the opportunity with the qualifier to get into the Europa League and ultimately you want to play at the highest competition you can, against the best teams.


“But whatever happens, we’ve got group stage European football. The boys experienced it a few years ago and it’s an opportunity for them to play on that stage and show what they’ve got.


“No matter what the structure of the competition is, we’ll go into the game with a game plan that we expect to get something from the game. As you go up a level, it’s the small margins that you get punished on, that you might not against a lower-level team.


“You can do 90% of your game plan right, but that one moment you slip up, you’ll get punished at that higher level, but I believe we’ve got a squad here that can cause teams problems.


“It’s really exciting, you work really hard all season to achieve your goals and we’ve done that this season with games to spare, which is nice.”


The 23/24 campaign will reach its conclusion at Tynecastle next weekend as Hearts host Rangers and Naismith insists that when the time comes, it’s important that the players enjoy their summer.


“The players will get a decent break. The ones that are at the Euros, will be slightly different. It does give you that bit more time before you’re hitting competitive games, which is pleasing.


“It’s really important [to get that downtime]. I’ve experienced it as a player not so long ago, the schedule in football has become that way in the last five-ten years, it’s really intense.


“It’s massively important that the boys go away and recharge. Don’t think about football or watch the Euros as a fan and enjoy the break. We’ve obviously got some boys from the other side of the world, so hopefully they can go away and spend some time with their families.


“When we work, it’s really intense and it takes a lot out of the players both mentally and physically. So the break provides a chance for them to relax and take their mind off it.”


You can watch Steven’s press conference in full on Hearts TV.