Hearts slipped to a 3-1 defeat in their final pre-season friendly at home to Barclays Premier League outfit Everton.
Despite taking the lead through Callum Paterson’s early header, the Merseysiders ran out victorious thanks to a Romelu Lukaku hat-trick, two from the penalty spot.
The Toffees boasted a team worth over £75m in transfer fees, and ultimately their class told in the end. Having said that, head coach Robbie Neilson admitted he was delighted that his players got to go toe-to-toe with some of the best in British football.
“It was great that Everton brought their strongest team,” said Neilson. “When you see players like that, our lads get to realise how far they’ve got to go if they want to reach the level Everton play at.
“The first 20 minutes were good, we passed it about well but when we lost the equaliser, they pressed us higher up the park and it became more difficult, but remember some of these lads have over 70 caps for England and cost £30m, so for us to compete at all is positive.”
New signing Igor Rossi made his first appearance for the club, as summer signings Blazej Augustyn and Juanma sat out the friendly ahead of the season’s opener against Arbroath on Thursday evening, and Neilson conceded that, while preparations hadn’t been ideal, he was confident the team would hit the ground running soon.
“We’re not far away in terms of being ready for the new season,” he continued. “We’ve been disappointed with injuries to, what we would call, key players, but we’re getting there. We won’t hit maximum form until after the first two weeks.”
Finally, Robbie offered supporters an update into the protracted transfer of Juwon Oshaniwa, the club and player having both been frustrated by red tape delays for the past month, but did admit that the Nigerian international would be ‘worth the wait’ upon his arrival.
“We’re still looking to do some more deals, and we’re still waiting on Juwon to get here,” explained Neilson. “We were told 3 to 15 days for his visa to be processed, but now we’ve been told there’s a backlog of visas. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, nobody knows for sure.
“There’s nothing we can do but wait. It is what it is over there in Abuja, it takes time. Juwon's told us that he’s training, we’ve sent him a program to follow and he’s keen to get here as soon as he can. He’s worth the wait, though. He’s definitely worth the effort.”