Hearts players face 'massive responsibility' after Liam Boyce setback

Between vying for third place, competing in Europe and targeting domestic cup success, Hearts players have plenty to occupy themselves with in the weeks and months ahead.

But Gary Mackay-Steven insists they now have another important job on their hands following the news that striker Liam Boyce suffered a torn cruciate ligament in the weekend win over St Johnstone that will keep him out for much of the rest of the season.

Mackay-Steven says it is up to the players to help their stricken team-mate through the recovery process and keep his spirits high.

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"It's our jobs to make sure he’s okay and to pick him up once he gets his head round it," said the former Celtic, Dundee United and Aberdeen winger.

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“Every day is a long slog for him but we’ve got a massive responsibility to keep his head positive and keep him fighting through, because it’s a long road for him.

“We’re all devastated. It’s a downer when you hear about your team-mates getting injuries. It’s the worst part of football and you hate seeing that.

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“For us, as team-mates, he’s a big personality in the dressing room and we’ll make sure he doesn’t get too down and he comes back stronger, which he will anyway.

“He’s been in a position like this before and he’s a great pro so he will, but we’ll certainly be there for him.”

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Gary Mackay-Steven (left) celebrates with Hearts team-mate Liam Boyce, who scored in the 3-2 win over St Johnstone before being stretchered off. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Hearts will also be without defender Kye Rowles when they face Kilmarnock in the Premier Sports Cup at Tynecastle on Wednesday night after the Australian was confirmed to have suffered a fractured metatarsal and faces six-to-eight weeks out.

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Stephen Kingsley returns from injury and Craig Halkett has an outside chance while Toby Sibbick and Alex Cochrane are back from suspension.

Mackay-Steven insists the cup provides a realistic opportunity of success for Hearts this year.

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"We want to be winning silverware, it's important. These are massive games and we want to do well as players. This is a good place to be right now and the most important thing is finishing the season with something to show for it.

"Nobody remembers who finishes second, it's all about winning it. Hopefully that can change this season as we feel as though we have the personnel within the building to do that."

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Hearts follow the midweek cup tie against Killie with a league trip to Livingston on Saturday before their opening group fixture in the Europa Conference League at home to Istanbul Başakşehir next Thursday.

By the time the international break comes around in mid-September the squad will have been tested across 11 fixtures in 35 days but Mackay-Steven insists Hearts are well-equipped to fight on all fronts – and the players are relishing it.

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"It's exciting as it's the favourite part of being a footballer to play games. Having two games a week for however long is great.

"All of these exciting games are never a problem, it's just about making sure that everyone is ready.

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"Eating right, recovering right and making sure you are good to go when the time comes. There are all sorts of different games to look forward to and Tynecastle has been great with the supporters recently and long may that continue as the players are relishing every game."

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