ROBBIE NEILSON has told Kevin McHattie that he will regain a starting place with Hearts should he remain patient and motivated.
The young left-back has been left out of the past four matches in favour of Adam Eckersley but Neilson stressed McHattie’s chance will come again. Hearts are facing a defensive reshuffle next month, with right-back Callum Paterson suspended and captain Danny Wilson struggling with a groin injury. Their absences could create openings for McHattie, Jordan McGhee or Brad McKay.
Crucial games against Raith Rovers, Falkirk and Rangers are looming and Neilson insisted McHattie must take his opportunity when it arrives.
“Adam’s come in and done very well. Kevin is a good player and he just needs to keep working hard and he’ll get his opportunity,” said the head coach, speaking to the Evening News.
“He’s been playing in the under-20s so he’s getting the chance to play. If he does well, he’ll get himself back in the team.”
Neilson revealed he has had discussions with McHattie and others about showing character when left out of Hearts’ starting line-up.
“I spoke to Kevin about this. It’s a test for them all,” he continued. “Previously, there hasn’t been a lot of competition for places. At every big club, you have competition and you can be in and out of the team. It’s how you handle that. It’s another challenge for them all.
“The guys who are out of the team have to try and get back in. There has to be competition. There has to be pressure every day in training to do well.”
• HEARTS Under-20s are in action tonight in the SFA Youth Cup. They face Whitehill Welfare at New Victoria Park, Newtongrange, in a 7pm kick-off.