First Team

Neil: We're ready for Rangers

5th August 2014

Goalkeeper convinced Hearts are in the right place as pre-season draws to a close with 4-0 win over Scottish Cup winners.

Hearts no. 1 Neil Alexander is counting the days until his side run out at Ibrox to start the SPFL Championship season against Rangers on Sunday.

The summer signing was speaking in the wake of last Sunday's comprehensive defeat of St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park in Steven Anderson's testimonial, as Hearts showed their squad depth with a 4-0 victory despite naming two separate line-ups.

The ease in which the half-time substitutes entered the flow of the game was a sign of the progress and hard work the team have been working on during pre-season, according to Alexander.

"We're definitely advancing, you can see that clearly", said the Scotland international. "In both halves, we played really well and we can take a lot of positives. We played a different eleven who showed the same desire to pass the ball and press forward.

"I think the manager wants competition in every position, which I think we almost have. It's the first game of the season now and everyone's vying for a jersey. The manager's going to have a headache after that performance today, which is a great problem to have."

This Sunday's league opener presents an intriguing clash, with the Jambos facing the Gers for the first time in over two years following the Glasgow side's descent to the then-Third Division.

Having been a part of Rangers' climb back up the leagues before leaving last summer, Neil revealed the match would hold some emotions for him, however, that didn't matter when it came to making sure Hearts started the season with a bang.

"It's just another game, but it'll be a bit special for me. We want to get off to a good start, most importantly. It's a big game and a good test, and today was a good boost, beating a higher division side and showing we can be a match to anyone.

"It'll be unusual going into the away dressing room, but it'll be special for me personally. I had a great six years at Rangers, I loved every minute of it, I have fond memories but it's a bigger day for Heart of Midlothian Football Club and we want to win."

Despite the heavy interest in the match from the media, the goalkeeping coach lifted some of the pressure off the occasion, stating that the game was only worth three points out of a possible 108 at the end of the day, but nonetheless, the Jambos were desperate to leave Govan with a three-point lead over their promotion rivals.

"Obviously we want to get off to a good start, regardless of who we play", explained Neil. "It doesn't matter if it's Rangers, Livingston, Raith Rovers or whoever we have to play.

"It's only three points in a long season, but it'll be a good marker to see where we are and how far we've come. We've been working hard all pre-season, and this is what we've been working towards since June."