John Souttar hailed 'world class' as Rangers-bound defender rises above Hearts noise

John Souttar’s Hearts team-mates already rated him highly but Tuesday night’s pressurised performance reinforced their opinion, as the Rangers-bound defender managed to shut out the verbal abuse from the stands to turn in another accomplished display and help the team to three points against St Johnstone.

Hearts' Josh Ginnelly celebrates making it 2-0 with John Souttar during the win over St Johnstone at Tynecastle (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Hearts' Josh Ginnelly celebrates making it 2-0 with John Souttar during the win over St Johnstone at Tynecastle (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

"Our focus was three points and the fans will be happy that we got the three points and we are delighted too,” said Josh Ginnelly, who scored his second and third goals of the season to separate the sides and bring some much-appreciated light to the obvious shade.

"Fans are allowed to show frustration and we all understand that and that's the way football is now. But not many people can walk out on a pitch in front of 20,000 fans like that and play that way.”

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Out of contract in the summer, the Scotland international has agreed a pre-contract with the defending champions, prompting demands from slighted Hearts fans to jettison him immediately. But, the Ibrox club have not offered suitable remuneration to accelerate the switch and Hearts are convinced he is worth more to them if he stays until the end of the season and helps them to book their place in Europe.

It made for an awkward night of boos and chants on Tuesday. Not that it visibly affected Souttar or his team-mates.

"He was brilliant and it speaks volumes for John,” added Ginnelly. “He's gone out there and he was the loudest man on the pitch as per usual. He's just a world class player.

"You have to give him credit. Of course something has happened with him but we are just so happy he is here. He's massive for us so a huge well done to him.

"We are a tight-knit group in the dressing room anyway and John is one of the main players. We love him and I am happy for him at the same time.

"I've seen first hand what he had to go through. This happens in football and I think what we should talk about is that he has gone out there and put in that performance and he helped us to a clean sheet.

"I don't think there's any limit to how far he can go [in the game] to be honest. I've had a couple of games in the Championship and I've seen big centre halves there and I think he's got everything to his game.

"He's been quite unfortunate with the injuries he's had but in terms of the mental side, I know for a fact that if I had been through what he's been through I wouldn't be here today.

"Massive credit to him, he's just a top guy and a brilliant football player."

Ginnelly also played a pivotal role as the club opened up an eight-point gap in third, but the makeshift striker said the credit for his two goals should go to Barrie McKay, who played him in on both occasions.

"No one has really seen anything from Baz yet. He's a massive player for us. I'll probably get some headlines after the goals, but I'll give them all to him. He's a brilliant player and he turned it on.

"Honestly, Baz can do anything with the ball. He's going to be massive for us."

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