The Riccarton Seminar: Hearts await their fate as Europa League draw works intricately

No Tynecastle team has experienced continental group stage football in its current format. Excitement is building among fans and players, who will complete their morning training session before heading upstairs to watch the Europa League play-off draw live from UEFA at 12pm.

One of the 15 teams will travel to Edinburgh later this month once third round qualifying is complete. This afternoon, Hearts learns which tie to watch while waiting for the winners. They will meet either a priority three or priority four pot team.

The winners of the following five third round qualifying matches will enter in priority three for the play-off: Malmö (SWE) against F91 Dudelange (LUX), Shamrock Rovers (IRE) against Shkupi (MKD), Linfield (NIR) against Zurich (SUI) , Olympiakos (GRE) against Slovan Bratislava (SVK) and Maribor (SVN) against HJK Helsinki (FIN).

The Priority Four pot will contain the winners of the following two matches: AEK Larnaca (CYP) against Partizan Belgrade (SRB) and Fenerbahce (TUR) against Slovacko (SVK). Omonia Nicosia (CYP) has also been moved to priority four.

The first team drawn is usually at home in the first leg, although UEFA sometimes allows a backhand at the request of both teams.

A reputable side from a serious football hotbed like Athens, Istanbul or Belgrade would present a real threat to Hearts’ ambitions of reaching the Europa League group stage. The parachute of a Europa Conference League group place is therefore a very practical safety net.

Either way, they are guaranteed at least eight European matches by November. The club’s only previous group stage experience abroad dates back to the 2004/05 UEFA Cup, when the future Europa League group stage was still in its infancy.

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson is investigating who his side could play in Europe.

There were only three section games then compared to six now. Add in a stake payment of around £3m and it becomes a lucrative and exciting prospect.

“It’s going to be great. The analyst brought a list of teams we could play,” Hearts manager Robbie Neilson explained. “We needed to beat Ross County first, then Hibs and then Dundee United. Then we will deal with who we have in Europe.

“For us, the focus has to be on the short term to make sure we win these games. It will be exciting when it happens, but it’s still three weeks away. We’ll come here and watch the draw. We We’ll practice first, then we’ll come in and watch.

Wisely trying to temper expectations, Neilson might as well step outside to urinate in the wind. Hearts supporters are already planning a great adventure over the next few months. They have endured four managerial changes, forced relegation and a global pandemic since their last European trip in 2016.

“I think it will be great,” admitted Neilson. “For the staff and the players, but for the fans, it will be incredible. They are guaranteed four trips and it is well deserved with the money they put into the club.

“For us, it’s the balance and the ability to do it from Thursday to Sunday. That’s at least eight more games, plus a Premier Sports Cup to insert as well. It will be difficult, but for me it comes down to the mentality of doing it continuously.

“I think the fans will have the time of their lives. The last group stage dates back to 2004/05, so it’s been 18 years since fans can get the draw and say, ‘This is where I’m going’. It’s great for them and I’m sure they’ll enjoy it. I hope we can give them good nights.

Memories like Basel in 2004, when Neilson scored what remains Hearts’ last goal in a European group stage draw to secure a 2-1 win. “I remember very little. It was cold that night,” he recalls

“It was a great night with the fans all around, after you saw them all outside. What an experience for them. It could have been my first goal for Hearts. There weren’t many of them!

“I remember traveling and coming back to play from Wednesday to Saturday. For me, players can do it, you just have to believe they can do it.

No one has any illusions that the Hearts are largely European novices. Goalkeeper Craig Gordon, midfielder Andy Halliday and winger Gary Mackay-Steven are the only players in the squad with recent UEFA club tournament experience.

The goal is to build knowledge and awareness over the next few weeks, learn how to handle demanding travel, and then make it a regular occurrence. The size of the squad increases with this plan in mind and supporters naturally relish the prospect of overseas jaunts.

“It’s just different. You come into these games as underdogs in these places,” Neilson said. Then you will win. The fans are all out eight hours before getting ready and enjoying it and sending them home happy is really important.

“That’s why the fans are coming to Ross County and Inverness to help us get to this stage. They have that starting experience and I would expect us to take a few thousand of them to those games at the moment. exterior. Hope they enjoy it.

“We want to do it consistently. This will be the most difficult. Trying to balance those European games and trying to hold on to an automatic qualifying spot. The European games will be great. We want to try to progress and win as much as possible, but we also want to maintain and continue to progress in the league.

“That’s why we have to have a great squad. If we have to change two or three players, we’re still strong for Sunday’s game. It’s the balancing act.

Read more

Read more

Hearts are moving to sign former Barcelona striker Lee Seung-woo with a contract offered to…

About Stephen Arrington

Check Also

Wexford teenagers attend international youth leadership seminar

A group of teenagers from County Wexford were among 250 young people from around the …