“I’ve Loved Pre-season!” – John Souttar on cup progression and getting back to full fitness

John Souttar met the media following Tuesday’s 0-2 victory over Stirling Albion. Jamie McIntosh reports. 

Photo Credit – Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images

Goals from Liam Boyce and Finlay Pollock were enough to see the Jambos secure progression to the next stage of the Premier Sports Cup. 

Craig Gordon broke the record for the number of consecutive clean sheets from a Hearts goalkeeper against Cove Rangers and added another one to the list at Forthbank taking his tally to 10 – John Souttar was full of praise for the new Hearts skipper:

“It’s another win on the board, a clean sheet and some more legs in the bag for the boys which is good. It’s a good accolade to have for Craig, he’s a top keeper. When you’ve got a keeper like him behind you, you feel you can play higher and it gives you more confidence, because he’s probably the best keeper in the league. Having him behind you makes everything you do so much easier.” 

Hearts once again lined up in their new 3-4-3 system, with Souttar starting on the right-hand side of a back three. New signing Alex Cochrane and the reliable Michael Smith provided the width, with Andy Halliday and Peter Haring in the middle of midfield and the dangerous front three of Gary Mackay-Steven and Josh Ginnelly either side of Liam Boyce. 

Like any new system, it can push you out of your comfort zone, but 24-year-old Souttar says he is enjoying the change of formation:

“It’s good. I’m liking it, it’s got a lot of positives in it, it’ll take time to get used to, because you find yourself in different areas, but these games help us with that and make it easier for us to get used to it. The biggest difference from my point of view is I find myself a bit wider when receiving the ball and you have a bit more running to do in the channels, but I’m enjoying it, and everyone’s bought into it which is great.” 

You’d struggle to find many players who have had worse luck with serious injuries than John Souttar, but instead of looking at the past, Souttar is full of excitement for the season ahead and admits he even enjoyed pre-season running.

“Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s the first time for a long time that I’ve been able to do a full pre-season and get my base fitness in, which has been brilliant. I’ve loved pre-season. When you’ve been away from the game for so long you dream of getting back in with the boys and getting running again. I’m feeling good now and I just can’t wait for the season to start.” 

Having now qualified for the next round of the competition, the majority of Hearts fans will now turn their attention to the opening day showdown with Celtic at Tynecastle next Saturday, but Souttar wants to keep momentum going with a positive result against Inverness on Sunday, before focussing on Celtic.

“Maybe slightly, but to be honest the manager doesn’t let us think about anything later than the next game. We’ve struggled against lower league sides in the cups before, so it’s important we stay focussed. We’ve done well in the first three games, but that’s got to continue, because we want to keep the momentum going ahead of the Celtic game and the new season.”

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