Phil West says...
In some ways, the timing of today’s friendly is slightly unfortunate.
In an ideal world, we’d be heading into the match with a clutch of new signings on board, and the team fully gelled together. As it is, Alex Pritchard, Corry Evans and Callum Doyle have arrived, and all three are genuinely interesting signings, but I do think there can be some definite merit in the game against Hearts. Having achieved promotion back to Scotland’s top flight last season, they ought to pose a reasonably decent test for us.
In terms of the main things I’d like to see us take from the game, getting a clearer picture of our midfield options would be high on the list. Alex Pritchard’s signing gives us some genuine quality in the middle of the park, and it’s a shame he’ll be missing. I’m also curious to see whether Lee Johnson will also give Luke O’Nien ninety minutes in what has long been suggested as his natural position.
I’d also like to see how Ross Stewart looks, as well. I think there are (rightly) high expectations around Stewart this season, given the flashes of promise he showed since he arrived in January, and I do believe he will be our main striker for the new campaign.
He’s a big, physical forward who really ought to be a handful for opposing defenders, but whether he can do the role filled by Charlie Wyke, and run the channels and hold the ball up if needed, is a question that is yet to be answered.
Hopefully, he gets a good amount of time under his belt on Saturday.
Finally, I think a big question mark surrounds Lynden Gooch. We’ve often discussed the idea of him being deployed as a wing-back, a position to which he does seem quite well-suited, and where his energy can be best utilised. He’s often seemed too haphazard to be an out-and-out forward, and whether Johnson feels he can effectively be retrained and reshaped to suit a new role is something I think we should keep a keen eye on.
First and foremost I’m looking forward to seeing the blend of new faces with the newly-established U23s players that are making the proper step up into the first team picture.
Callum Doyle should at least play some part, as will Dan Neil, Elliot Embleton and Anthony Patterson.
It’ll also be good to see how we line up, and how everything knits together.
This is only our second (official, anyway) pre-season game and it’s more of a training/fitness exercise than a competitive game, but Hearts are well ahead of us in their preparations given their season has already started up in Scotland with the cup competitions, so it’ll be a huge test of our general fitness regardless.
Ultimately... just don’t get embarrassed and send the fanbase into a bigger tizz than they’re already in. Let’s see the youngins prove they’re able to hang in a first team setting, score a few goals, and give the paying fans at home watching on the stream something to cheer about after months without being able to watch the Lads in action.