Published in The Herald: 2 July 2014
JASON HOLT last night insisted Hearts had not been daunted by Rangers’ summer transfer activity as they face a trip to Ibrox on the opening day of the new SPFL Championship season.
Midfielder Holt is likely to be in the team which takes on new arrivals Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd on August 9 – and Rangers have also been linked with Holt’s former captain, Marius Zaliukas.
Rangers are the bookmakers’ firm favourites to secure the single automatic promotion place but Holt insisted that no-one around Tynecastle was troubled by the Ibrox recruitment drive.
“There is no fear. None at all,” said Holt. “More than anything we are just looking forward to it. For a lot of the boys it will be their first time playing at Ibrox and it will be a big occasion and, hopefully, a full house.”
The 21-year-old said Hearts were desperate to be back in the top flight. “It is going to be an exciting league and we are looking to get promoted. You want to play at the highest level you can, but Hearts are a big club and you just have to get on with it.”
The Edinburgh club will face the unenviable challenge of returning to the Premiership at the first time of asking, no easy feat considering Rangers and city rivals Hibernian will also be battling it out for potentially two promotion places.
Hearts have signed five new players since exiting administration: former Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander, former Dundee United midfielder Morgaro Gomis, forwards James Keatings, from Hamilton, and Soufian El Hassnaoui, from Sparta Rotterdam, as well as defender Alim Ozturk, from Trabzonspor. Jack Ross has also been recruited from Dumbarton to become the new head coach of Hearts’ under-20 side.
“The new signings have been good,” said Holt, who joined them in training after the players returned last Thursday. “It is about getting to know each other and getting to know how we all play. They look like decent players.”
Liam Kelly has joined Oldham Athletic, where he will team up with former Kilmarnock colleagues Lee Johnson and James Dayton.
The 24-year-old had two years remaining on the contract he signed when moving to Bristol City from Rugby Park in January last year, but has been allowed to leave for an undisclosed fee.
Kelly hopes to rekindle his career under manager Johnson after making just two appearances for Bristol last season following a cruciate knee injury that kept him sidelined for seven months.