Gary Mackay: Hearts hitting form at perfect time

Hearts players celebrate after mauling Motherwell. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Hearts players celebrate after mauling Motherwell. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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You can’t beat what Hearts did against Motherwell on Saturday. Outstanding – there’s no other word to describe the performance.

No-one would have envisaged at the start of the season that, without Jamie Walker, Juanma and Sam Nicholson in the starting XI, we’d be capable of steamrollering the form team in the league like that.

This wasn’t a game for focusing on the negatives of the opposition, it was all about the positives from Hearts. Everybody played on the front foot from the start and getting a positive start allowed the confidence to flow. It was another complete team performance and we were still going strong at the end. It was great to be able to bring on a player like Juanma in the second half because he’ll be feeling he has a point to prove after dropping on to the bench. We also had a Nigerian internationalist on the bench, which underlines the strength in depth we’ve now got.

Early in the new year is a great time for us to hit form like this. We had a brilliant win over Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup and we’ve built on that against Motherwell. The players will have an extra spring in their step because of being drawn against Hibs in the Scottish Cup. They’ll all want to be in the team for that one, which augurs well for our next two games away to 
Hamilton and Inverness.

There is a real desire evident in this group of players. In past Hearts teams, there have been players you felt might not go the extra yard for the team if they had a wee niggle or anything like that. But that certainly couldn’t be said of the current squad – they all look like they want to play in every game, and as a result there’s a real competition for places.

A lot has been made recently about Hearts being a “big, physical team”, and I don’t see anything wrong with that. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of physicality in the back four, in particular. However, no-one should be using it as a stick to beat us with because the players showed on Saturday that they can play with as much fluency and freedom as anyone in the league. If anything it’s a badge of honour if our supposed physicality allows us to play in such a swashbuckling fashion.