Hearts should model their club on Hibs, says Gary Mackay

HEARTS have lessons to learn from Edinburgh rivals Hibernian both on and off the pitch, Gary Mackay said yesterday. The record-holder for appearances with the Tynecastle club, Mackay thinks Hibs' financial prudence and their record of producing first-team regulars are admirable and enviable.

"The model at the other side of the city is the one that Hearts should look at as to how the football club should be run," Mackay said yesterday. "Hibs are debt-free, and the Hibs supporters can be negative towards (chairman] Rod Petrie all they want, but he runs a football club that anybody, not just in Britain, but anybody in the world would be delighted with.

"Hibs are debt-free, own their own academy and produce players on a regular basis – and I mean players that have gone on to play over 100 games for the club. That is exactly the kind of club that the Hearts supporters are looking for. They have a good manager who has worked wonders to lift them again, and you don't wonder what are the long-term prospects for the football club."

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Having praised the Easter Road side and manager John Hughes, Mackay was quick to add that he was pleased by the recent progress Csaba Laszlo and Hearts have made. The 1-1 draw in Sunday's Edinburgh derby stretched Hearts' unbeaten run to five matches, and Mackay thinks the club's directors should agree to Laszlo's plea to sign at least one experienced striker.

"The supporters are at the stage where they have to show their frustrations if the manager is not backed by the directors and owners in the transfer window. I wasn't sure if Csaba was looking for a way out himself after the way things started, but he has identified players and that does not matter if it is strikers or full-backs but he has got his head down and turned things around. The manager has shown that he is capable of managing a team to compete in the SPL again and it is only right that he is given some support.

"I was always banging on about transparency in the previous regime and it is the same at this moment in time. The Hearts fans are deserving of better knowledge of what is the end game for the football club.

"I can understand Csaba's frustrations even more now than I did eight weeks ago when I thought he was trying to talk himself out of being the Hearts manager. The results that Hearts have got over the past six weeks should speak more for Csaba than any talking he has done."

Although encouraged by recent promising performances from youngsters such as Scott Robinson, Gordon Smith and David Templeton, Mackay thinks that the Hearts Academy has some way to go before it can be deemed a complete success. "If we are going to turn things round full circle and start demanding that Hearts produce players from their academy, then we have to make sure that the guys that come through are good enough to play 30, 40, 50 and 100 first-team games and not just three or four. That for me does not constitute first-team players."

Although prepared to be critical of his old club when he deems it necessary, Mackay has been encouraged by their recent recovery. And, while agreeing with Laszlo that reinforcements are required up front, he has been impressed by the other departments of the team over the past month.

"When you see the way Hearts have bounced back in the last few matches then it has been great. After the start they had I was critical of individuals and of the manager particularly after the Dinamo Zagreb European tie which I thought was winnable. The last few results have been magnificent and Csaba has got them battling again, particularly after the Hamilton game when everybody wanted to focus on the negative aspects of Hearts.

"The back four at Hearts now is as imposing as I can ever remember a back line at the club. In my day we had Alan McLaren, Dave McPherson, Craig Levein, and against Falkirk Hearts had Ismael Bouzid, Marius Zaliukas, Lee Wallace and Jose Goncalves. That is a physically imposing back four.

"In the middle of the park Eggert Jonsson has been a big influence. His energy has allowed Michael Stewart to focus on being a more creative footballer."

Mackay believes Stewart was one of the stand-outs from Sunday's derby clash, something he attributed to the midfielder being a childhood Hearts supporter who was brought up amid the atmosphere of the cross-city clash.

"The Edinburgh derby has an atmosphere all on its own and the top performer for me was Michael Stewart in Sunday's Edinburgh derby and that shows me that people who know what the Edinburgh derby is about, because they were brought up in that environment, retain a passion for that football match," said Mackay.

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