Craig Gordon explains just why Toby Sibbick can become a 'special player' at Hearts

Craig Gordon has had a front-row seat to the unrelenting upheaval in Hearts’ defensive ranks this term as a lamentable list of injuries and the ongoing quest for balance has resulted in the line-up chopping and changing.

In their final Europa Conference League home match, against RFS on Thursday, there was another shake-up as Stephen Kingsley went off with a hamstring strain, but through the tumult, Gordon witnessed a Toby Sibbick metamorphosis as the 23-year-old hushed his critics with a mature and commanding performance, earning him the man-of-the-match award and the acclaim of the Tynecastle crowd.

“We aren’t getting any luck with injuries,” said Gordon, as Hearts turn their attention back to Premiership business and head to Dingwall to face Ross County on Sunday afternoon. “We couldn’t fill the bench on Thursday. We are hopeful we might get one or two coming back soon, but this is what we have.

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“I have to give a special mention to Toby for his performance, though. He never put a foot wrong. He drove the team from the back and for someone so young to be able to do that, he was absolutely fantastic. I am sure the fans will remember this result for his performance.

Hearts' Toby Sibbick put in an impressive performance against RFS on Thursday night.

“He started it all off, he won the ball for the first goal by heading it back where it came from. He was a dominant centre-half and we got the first goal from that. From there he grew into the game and that’s one of the best centre-half performances I have seen in a while.”

As someone who broke into the Hearts team at a young age, Gordon is only too well aware of the club and the fans’ expectation levels and the pressure that can pile on young shoulders. Highly-regarded in his first stint at Tynecastle, Sibbick has conceded things have been less straightforward since, as injury, a form dip and confidence issues hampered him.

“Yes, it’s massive for him,” continued Gordon. “He’ll still have the days where things don’t go for him, he’s still a young boy in his position. But everything came together for him on Thursday. He was absolutely outstanding and a leader on the pitch, which we absolutely needed. If it wasn’t for his display the result could have been all different. He can take huge confidence from that. The fans were singing his name for the last 15, 20 minutes because every time it came up he won it. [RFS] were trying to run him down the line but he’s quick and it’s going to take someone really quick to beat him in a race like that. He was absolutely first-class.

“Everything he touched came off and he was so composed on the ball and started off attacks for us. We knew that was in there and he’s starting to prove that now. He’s quite quiet in the changing room but he works away. He’s a little bit shy at times, so Thursday night was huge. He’s aware that he has come in for a little bit of criticism at times, but he is still so young and he’s shown his class. Hopefully that’s the big turning point for him in his Hearts career because he really could go on and be a special player for us.”

Gordon has witnessed plenty of change in front of him as Hearts battle an injury crisis.