Robbie Neilson on Lawrence Shankland Hearts captain decision, Craig Gordon update, Callum Davidson's lament
The club’s top scorer wore the armband in the 3-2 victory at St Johnstone, a game where he opened the scoring from the penalty spot, taking him to 16 goals for the season. Even when Craig Halkett, who has previously deputised, returns from injury the striker will remain captain.
"He's a leader within the group,” Neilson explained. “I think there is an opportunity with him to develop further. Craig Gordon will remain the club captain but we need an on-field captain, day to day and on the pitch and that will be Lawrence. I spoke to a few of the senior players and he was the main candidate for us. Really pleased with him.
"I think you could see it improving his game, that leadership. The main thing for me is there is development there within him. I can see him becoming a real good on-pitch captain. He's got the attributes, he'll play every week, top goal scorer. He's got a bit about him as well.”
Craig Gordon derby influence
Neilson was delighted to finally end the hex with a win at McDiarmid Park, the first in the league since 2010, joking he had “long hair the last time we won here”. The Hearts boss was pleased with the first-half performance but felt the team “huffed and puffed” after the interval with their passing bringing unnecessary pressure onto the team.
It was also confirmed that Craig Gordon will return for the Edinburgh derby amongst the group.
"Just to see him, get him with us,” Neilson said. “Last time the boys saw him was him being stretchered off. Just to get him back about the group, talking. The boys can have a chat with him which is very important.
“He's already talking about how long it is until the first game of the season, where he is going to be at that point. There is a long way to go, we just need to support the big man. It's about taking the next step and the next step. The first step is the operation, the next is going home to his family, then it is getting up on his feet, walking about and taking the next step.”
On Zander Clark’s first start for the club, he added: “I knew what I was going to get - an international goalkeeper. He has made some big saves but he brings a calmness and a steadiness with his presence. I'm really pleased with him.”
St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson lamented the team's performance in the opening stages.
“It was maybe a little lesson for us tonight,” he said. “I thought we were really poor for the first 25 minutes. Against a team like Hearts you can’t give them a two goal head start then you decide to start playing.
“After that it was an entertaining game but we can’t play like we did in the first 25 minutes against the third team in the league and expect to win the match.”
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