HEARTS manager John McGlynn today told his experienced players to lift their game and match the performances of the Riccarton teenagers who have gatecrashed the first team in recent weeks.
Whilst Callum Tapping, Fraser Mullen, Jamie Walker, Jason Holt and Billy King have excelled at senior level, recognised senior players like John Sutton, Andy Driver, Mehdi Taouil and Darren Barr have found themselves left on the substitutes’ bench.
McGlynn will keep faith with the youth academy graduates for this weekend’s league encounter with Dundee United at Tannadice. He stressed that it is now down to the older players to prove their worth in the fight for first-team places.
“Our bench just sums it up,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you’re on the bench you need to do something to try and get back into the team. Our team’s been doing so well that, right now, no-one can argue. The players on the pitch have been doing exceptionally well.
“All the guys on the bench can do is train hard and take any opportunity that comes, whether it comes from an injury or a suspension or someone dropping in form.”
Michael Ngoo will continue leading the attack at Tannadice after two goals in his first three games since joining Hearts on loan from Liverpool. McGlynn was particularly impressed with the Englishman’s individual effort against Ross County last
“It was an exceptional goal. The ball was just played up the park and he had a two versus one against him, but he was big enough and strong enough to fend off the defenders. He took it in his stride and stuck the ball away very calmly and in a very composed manner.
“I’ve seen many players who would have lashed that into the stand or somewhere else, but he took it so well.”
Meanwhile, defender Jamie Hamill will not jeopardise his rehabilitation from injury to push for a place in the League Cup final on March 17. He returned to training earlier this week after 11 months out with cruciate ligament damage.
“I would like to be back before the cup final but I’m not focusing on that,” he told the club website. “I’m just trying to get back into the swing of things. From there, if I can make it a game or two before the final or a game or two after, then so be it. I’m not really pushing myself for the final as such. Obviously it would be great because I missed the Scottish Cup final last year, which was difficult to take. But worse things have happened to me in my life. Hopefully I will make it but if I don’t, I’ll take it with a pinch of salt.
“It’s good to get back in about the atmosphere of being around the boys. I’m happy and the physio is happy to let me off the leash. It’s been difficult mentally for me. When I first got injured I thought I would never play again.”