Hearts: Kev's got to expect JJ's 'hairdryer'

JIM HAMILTON knows better than most what it's like to be the recipient of a double-barrelled blast from Jim Jefferies, the big striker having had his fair share of run-ins with the Hearts manager during his first spell in charge at Tynecastle.

And he says Kevin Kyle shouldn't get too upset about receiving the occasional kick up the backside from Jefferies if it means he keeps producing the sort of form that not only helped Hearts win three games on the trot but also earned him a Scotland recall.

"How long have you got?" replied a laughing Hamilton, pictured, when asked if he was able to recall any particular occasion he found himself in the same position as Kyle heading into the derby clash at Easter Road earlier in the month.

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Disappointed with the striker's performance in the previous outing - a 3-0 home defeat against Kilmarnock - Jefferies decided to have a word with Kyle and, though the pair are "keeping mum" about exactly what was said, Hamilton has a fair idea how it would have went.

"I know exactly what it is like to receive a blast from Jim but I was one of those players who obviously needed a boot up the backside every now and again - and perhaps Kevin Kyle is exactly the same," he added.

"He's done well at every club he's played for and is an international as well. Maybe you sometimes start to feel comfortable when that's the case and, if so, then you can't blame a manager for trying to keep that player on his toes.

"Kevin is big enough and ugly enough to deal with that and there's no doubt whatsoever that both Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown know exactly how to handle their players.

"In my time at Tynecastle, Stevie Fulton was another one who needed a kick up the backside every now and again. Did that do him any harm? Not at all as he played some of the best football of his career in a Hearts jersey. On the other side of the coin, there are players who need a cuddle occasionally - but big Kevin doesn't look as though he comes into that category."

Jefferies certainly got the response he was looking for, Kyle having been outstanding in the wins over Hibs, Celtic and St Johnstone that have catapulted Hearts into third spot in the SPL behind the Old Firm.

As a targetman himself, Hamilton is a big Kyle fan, revealing he'd almost choked when he heard St Mirren's Michael Higdon being described as "the best targetman in the SPL outside of the Old Firm" during TV coverage of the Paisley side's clash with Celtic last weekend.While not wishing to undermine the job Higdon does for Danny Lennon, having previously filled a similar role just as successfully for Falkirk, Hamilton, a retained firefighter in Bathgate these days, reckons it's not even a close contest between him and Kyle.

"No disrespect to Michael but Kevin is a much better targetman," insisted Hamilton, currently on Arbroath's books after having spells at a number of clubs, including Dunfermline and Livingston, since he moved from Hearts to Aberdeen for 300,000.

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"He's such a handful when he's on his game, as I discovered when I played against him for St Mirren a few seasons ago after he had first signed for Kilmarnock.

"He's the main striker Hearts have been crying out for in recent seasons. He was immense in the recent game against Hibs and if he keeps getting good service then I can see him getting close to 20 goals this season.

"I was surprised he didn't get off the bench for Scotland against the Faroes on Tuesday night but there's no reason why he can't stay in the squad if he keeps playing the way he has been for Hearts,

"Scotland have players like Kenny Miller who will buzz about the pitch all day but you need a physical option as well and, for my money, there's no one better to provide that at the moment than big Kevin."

In addition to leading the line with great aplomb, Kyle has also been identified by Jefferies as one of the players who have helped lighten the mood in the dressing-room at Riccarton, where the team train, and on match days.

"You definitely need a good atmosphere at a club and Jim and Billy Brown have always had that, no matter where they've been," noted Hamilton, a member of the Scottish Cup-winning side against Rangers at Parkhead in 1998.

"While I'm not having a go at foreign players, they can sometimes end up in a clique and I know for a fact Jim and Billy won't let that happen at Hearts.

"Gary Locke, too. He'll be buzzing about the place never shutting up. The players will be sick listening to him but, at the same time, that's exactly what's needed."

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On the back of those three straight wins, coupled with recent performances from new wing king David Templeton, Tynecastle should be buzzing tomorrow for the visit of Hamilton, who Hearts beat 4-0 at New Douglas Park in the second game of the season.

"It's great to see Hearts on a high at the moment and long may it continue," said Hamilton of his former club. "David Templeton has been great in the games I've seen him play and, like Kevin Kyle, he's earned deserved international recognition for the Under-21s. He's a young boy still learning his trade and I am sure there will be times when Jim and Billy have to take him out of the team for a spell. But just look at the players who they have waiting in the wings."They've got Calum Elliot, Andrew Driver, Gary Glen and also David Obua for striking options while Lee Wallace has also to come back in defence when he's recovered from his injury.

"All in all, I think Jim and Billy have got the squad at the moment that the Hearts fans have been looking tor at Tynecastle for the last few years. Put it this way, when Hearts are struggling to make the top six in the SPL then there's a problem.

"There's no doubt at all in my mind that Hearts are the third biggest club in the SPL and they should certainly be challenging for that position every season.

"It was great to see them follow up the wins over Hibs and Celtic by also beating St Johnstone away, which was probably the hardest game of the three, and now it is important they keep up the good work against Hamilton,

"Hearts never have any problems getting themselves up for games against Hibs or the Old Firm but they only need to look back at the 3-0 defeat at home to Kilmarnock three weeks ago to see what can happen if they don't show the same attitude and determination against other teams. If you want to be successful, these are the games you need to win and, most of my time at the club, we managed to do that.

"Hamilton will be hurting after their poor run recently and both Billy Reid and Andy Mirren will be heading to Tynecastle hoping they can get a result that might kick-start their season.

"It may also be the case that their defenders, who are big and strong, will fancy the physical challenge they'll get against Kevin Kyle than having to deal with an opponent who's more nippy.

"However, Hearts have done all the right things in their last three matches and hopefully that will continue in order for them to make it four wins in a row tomorrow."

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