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Scottish Cup showdown with Hibs could come too soon for new Hearts boss Robbie Neilson, says Steven Pressley

© SNSSteven Pressley lifts the Scottish Cup for Hearts in 2006
Steven Pressley lifts the Scottish Cup for Hearts in 2006

Steven Pressley insists Hearts will be fit enough for their Scottish Cup showdown with Hibs.

But he fears the Hampden derby will come too early for Robbie Neilson to have put his stamp on the Jambos.

The scheduling of the semi-finals for Halloween weekend means the Tynecastle club are likely to have played just two Championship games.

Hibs, meanwhile, will have had the benefit of two-and-a-half months of top-flight football.

Hearts fans have voiced fears it will leave their side under-prepared going into a massive match that may be left over from last season, but could help define the new campaign.

Despite the lack of games, Pressley is convinced match fitness will not be an issue for his old club.

But the former Hearts skipper admits it will be too early in Neilson’s reign for him to have his team fully on his wavelength.

He said: “Because they’re under a new manager, there will definitely be a bedding-in period.

“When there’s change, it takes a period of time to fully get the team firing on all cylinders.

“In fact, to be honest, it can take years before you get in the right personnel, before the team truly begins to function in the manner you want.

“So, under new management, it’s going to take time.

“I don’t think the biggest concern for Hearts would be the conditioning of the players.

“The biggest concern will be it’s a new manager, it’s a new way, it’s a new style, and it will take a period of time before you see the real fruits of that.

“It’s very early in Robbie’s tenure to be playing such a massive game, and it will be far too soon to see his team functioning the way he wants it to.”

On the flip side, Pressley believes playing fewer matches before the semi could even work in Hearts’ favour – if Hibs have failed to get into their stride in the Premiership.

He said: “Even though Hibs will have played numerous games before the semi-final and Hearts only a few, it depends on Hibs’ form coming into the fixture.

“During the early part of the season, if their form’s not particularly good, then Hearts could be coming into a semi-final facing a team that’s not got a great deal of confidence.

“All of these things come into it.”

Pressley was skipper in 2006 when Hearts routed Hibs 4-0 in the Scottish Cup semi-final before lifting the trophy with a nerve-shredding penalty-kicks victory over Gretna.

And he knows what a victory in the autumn could mean for new boss Neilson.

“It would be amazing,” said ‘Elvis’. “It could give the club a brilliant platform for the season ahead.

“For Robbie, it’s a game that could really give him foundations to build from. It would be the perfect start to the new campaign.”