The heart function

This session comes from the old Hearts manager, Bobby Seith, who developed this function and passed it on to Jim McLean at Dundee United, who coached me when I broke into the first-team at Tannadice. We’d run this for 40 minutes every day and when you see it in full swing it’s incredible.

Seith developed this because he was fed up running the same old training drills which only focused on possession or finishing or defending. Instead, he wanted something all-encompassing, and that’s what this provides.

I now deliver it to my team on a regular basis because it has everything we need to work on with the players.


Half pitch
Balls, cones, goals
Number of Players
9v9 plus keepers
Session time
Function 40mins, match 20mins

What do I get the players to do?

First phase

We set up as shown on a 50 x 44-yard area (1). The ball starts with the keeper who throws it out to one of his three defenders, of  whom only two can defend at any one time. They must work it between themselves to play forward into one of their strikers. As the ball travels to the striker, any one defender steps out to create a 3 v 2 overload.

The strikers then work together with the ball to create a goalscoring opportunity. If the ball gets played to the third man runner, he must finish off one-touch.


1. The keeper rolls the ball out
2. The right-sided full-back and centre-back are designated active players working in the 2v2
3. The third defender is not allowed to defend but prepares to run forward 4. The ball is fed forward into the attacking half
5. The third defender moves forward to support attackers
6. As a ‘third man runner’ he can only finish one-touch

Second phase

Now we add wingers, as shown (2). Only strikers can link with the wingers – they can hold it up and play out wide before making a run into the box. A defender can still join in and attack the cross.


1. Again the keeper starts by rolling the ball out
2. The defender links with the attacking player
3. This time the ball is fed out to the winger
4. The ‘third man runner’ is used as a decoy to distract the attention of defenders
5. This means the central defender isn’t tight enough on his attacker, so a short pass inside enables the forward to receive, turn and score

Third phase

We now add a 25-yard midfield zone (3). Two central midfielders play on each team in linking defence and attack. The defenders can still join in with the midfielders and the midfielders with the strikers. We allow all three defenders to protect the goal now to make it more difficult for attackers. We can also allow the opposite winger to join in and attack the back post as he would in a game (4).


1. The keeper begins the move again
2. Now a pass is fed into a newly created midfield zone
3. The supporting defender arrives in the middle to create a 3v2 overload
4. Again a pass goes wide to the winger 5. Now the midfielder makes a supporting run, arriving late to finish well


1. The keeper feeds his full-back
2. A pass is made into the middle zone
3. Midfield players interlink with the third man runner
4. A pass is made into the attacking area and the winger is fed the ball
5. Now a long pass goes to the opposite winger, who comes in off the line to score

How do I progress the session?

After 40 minutes, removing the cones brings the wingers in and invites teams to play a 10v10 game.

What are the key things to look out for?

At first it’s all about the striker’s play – how he links up, movement and hold-up play. Is he finishing off chances, and can he create space to get a shot away?

As for defenders, are they getting tight, are they the right side of the player, and can they get in front of the striker to nick the ball away from him? We also assess positioning, quality of clearances, why mistakes are made and how we can ensure they’re not repeated.

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