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Hearts soaking up vitamin D to help bring their A game

Evanna Holland spent time with Craig Levein's squad on their winter break in Murcia.

Hearts are recharging their batteries in the sunshine.
Hearts are recharging their batteries in the sunshine. SNS Group

Passengers on the early flight to Alicante in Spain got quite a shock when the 30-strong Hearts squad made their way onto the plane.

A few sneaky photos were taken but the players were left to their own devices and travelled in peace. You can imagine they'd enjoy the privacy after the poor run of form that began in late October and momentarily halted when they achieved back to back wins just before Hogmanay.

They've come to a (very) remote resort about 40 minutes south of Murcia, to regroup, refocus and re-energise. But why do the big teams fly out for winter training to warmer climates? How does it make sense when they're only going to be playing in the dreich weather we're all subjected to in January?

Tom Taylor, Hearts head of fitness, explained how important a trip like this can be for the players, not only physically, but for morale and sense of purpose.

"One of the big things is the sunshine, it makes a massive difference to not only just the mood of the players and the staff in the middle of a long season but it also has some physiological elements as well in terms of the vitamin D," he said, referring to the sun's medically recognised energising effect.

"(It helps) their bone health and muscle recovery."

It's a long season for the players. Pre-season training kicks off in June; they begin to play in in August. So by December, especially over the busy holiday period, the group are in need of some shared time together.

From the staff to the players, they've all expounded the benefits of eating as a group, sharing rooms, socialising with another - a big difference from just going home after yet another session at Oriam.

So why Hacienda del Alamo? Why not go to the famous La Manga complex which has been hosting elite teams for decades?

It turns out that's what the investors of this site were hoping for, to rival the neighbouring centre of excellence and attract the top teams. The thing is, the financial crash of 2008 took its toll and shareholders were hammered.

Some put in as much as £30,000, yet only saw a return of 10% of the money they put in. It was a catastrophe for anyone who ploughed their cash into the project.

But things are changing - the hotel we're staying in was built just last August. A new international airport, just ten minutes from here, will be opened on Tuesday by the King of Spain.

These are all signs that many in the region hope indicate the region has finally turned a corner - something Hearts can relate with as they prepare for the second half of a pivotal season.

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