Gary Mackay: Hearts suffer from lack of competition

Paul McCallum leads the Hearts players off

Paul McCallum leads the Hearts players off

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The weekend started off in a wonderful manner for myself as I attended the 1874 Fighting Fund sportsman’s dinner at Bainfield Bowling Club.

It was great to see guys like Rudi Skacel and Paulo Sergio in attendance and it reminded us all of better times for our proud football club. Unfortunately, all Hearts supporters who attended the event were swiftly brought back to reality by Saturday’s result.

We can’t be too harsh on the team, though, because they weren’t lacking in spirit or work ethic or anything like that. It was just simply another case of the limitations of the young squad we have been left with once again being exposed.

Last week we rued the loss of a prolific striker we had let go in John Sutton; this week it was a striker we were on the verge of signing in Kris Boyd. The difference either of these players would have made to the front area of our team would have been massive.

It would have ensured increased competition for the likes of Callum Paterson and Dale Carrick, which is always a healthy thing, and it would have helped the wingers at the club to have had proven centre-forwards like Sutton or Boyd to aim for in the penalty area.

The absence of competition for places is a massive factor in Hearts’ struggles this season. I remember having to fight for my place with other team-mates and it helps maintain standards, but some of the current team know they will start every week regardless. Only the very best professionals can maintain high standards without competition for their place.

When Gary Naysmith broke through he had to oust an experienced campaigner in Neil Pointon and it meant he had to be ultra-consistent. Gary would also have learned from Neil in the process, while Lee Wallace would have done likewise with Takis Fyssas.

These players are not benefiting and they could certainly do with having some more experienced campaigners to learn from. I have massive sympathy with the fans who are turning up every week to watch us endure some difficult times, but my biggest sympathy lies with Gary Locke who is having to try and deal with this ultra-difficult situation in his first managerial job.