MORGARO Gomis is expected to fly in to Edinburgh today and walk straight into Hearts’ starting line-up for tomorrow afternoon’s match against league leaders Aberdeen.
The midfielder missed last weekend’s defeat up at Inverness due to the death of his father but, after spending time with his family, the capital club hope to have their key man back in the ranks as they attempt to prevent the Pittodrie club recording their first win at Tynecastle since 2010.
Manager Robbie Neilson has never experienced a run of losses during his short spell at the helm. However, having suffered back-to-back defeats in the build-up to tomorrow’s head to head with Derek McInnes’ side, he revealed that he would have no qualms about throwing Gomis straight into the sell-out fixture, despite the emotional turmoil and the fact he has missed out on over a week of training and arrived back in the country just 24 hours before the match kicks off.
“It’s been a difficult time for him. His father passed away while on holiday in Africa,” said the man who signed the French-born Senegal international in his first summer in charge.
“But it’s not a concern putting him straight in. He’s played over 400 games. He’s been in Paris trying to help his family out but he’s been training over there. If he comes back and feels ready for it, he’ll play.
“He’s a big player for us, the way he plays. You saw that last Friday when he had to pull out on the morning of the game. Ideally I wouldn’t have had to give Sean McKirdy his debut at a place like Inverness, but the squad is not huge. Although I thought McKirdy did well, not having Morgaro in there was a big loss to us.”
Morgaro is a hard-working, determined man, but this is a hard thing to talk aboutPrince Buaben
Hearts have an enviable record against tomorrow’s opponents, losing just three of their last 25 games against the north east side, but buoyed by burgeoning title aspirations and a recent victory over defending champions Celtic, Prince Buaben acknowledges the threat posed by the current Aberdeen team.
“On Sunday we are just going to give it our best, but if we don’t get the right result then it is not the end of the world,” said the Ghanaian midfielder.
Impressed by the potential of youngster Sean McKirdy, who made his Premiership starting debut in Gomis’ absence last weekend, he will nonetheless be happy to welcome back his more regular midfield colleague for such a big match.
“Whoever plays beside me, I will try to work with them, but I have played with Morgaro for five or six seasons, so I know him very well,” said Buaben.
“With the other players, I have only played with them for one season. When I play with Morgaro, we understand each other very well and there is not much I need to say.
“I see him as a brother, he is a good friend. He covers so much ground – I noted that [when he was absent] on Friday! He is a hard-working man and works for the team. We miss him a lot.”
A player whose contribution is noted more by those he plays with than those who simply watch the game as a whole, Gomis’ ability to help set the tempo and exert control on a match was missed in the Highlands. But Buaben says he and the rest of the squad understood Gomis’ need to be with his family at the time of bereavement.
“I have spoken to him this week but I know that this is a very difficult time for him, so I have given him space,” he said.
“Morgaro is a hard-working, determined man, but this is a hard thing to talk about. All I can do is encourage him to stay strong. We are all with him as a team. Everyone has sent him a text and told him to stay strong, but the best thing is for Morgaro to be with his family for a few days.”
Separating the personal from the professional, they would be glad to welcome him back into the starting line-up tomorrow, though.
“It is the same with any good friend, when he is not alongside you, you miss him a lot. But we have guys that can play if Morgaro is not available,” added Buaben.
“He was a miss on Friday, but Sean [McKirdy] came in and did well. He is only 17 years old – I didn’t make my debut until I was 19, so that is a great achievement for him.”
But he would prefer to see Gomis back in the middle of the park against Aberdeen. Even then, Buaben recognises the enormity of halting Aberdeen’s winning start to the season. “If you ask any footballer, these are the games you want to play in and hopefully we get the win,” he said. “They [Aberdeen] have started the season ahead of everyone, playing games in Europe, so they will be sharper than us, but this is football, so anything can happen. We just need to give it our best and see what happens.”