JAMIE HAMILL will return to Hearts’ midfield tomorrow to add a vital edge in combat against Celtic’s Scott Brown and Joe Ledley. Manager Gary Locke revealed today that the 27-year-old will be reinstated to a holding role having deputised at left-back in his last outing against Inverness.
Hamill is free of suspension after his red card in the Highlands was rescinded last week. Locke explained why his competitive edge will be necessary at Tynecastle against the league champions. “We certainly missed Jamie in midfield at Inverness,” said the manager. “He gives us that bit of composure and also that bit of dig which was maybe missing at Inverness. I’m pretty sure you’ll see him back in the middle of the pitch tomorrow and I’m looking forward to his battle with Ledley and Brown. In the past he has competed well against them and I fully expect him to do so again.
“I think you’ve got to compete against Celtic. If you don’t, they have the quality to hurt any team. You saw that in the Champions League qualifiers. If you let the likes of Kris Commons, Brown and Georgios Samaras dictate the game, then they’re fantastic players. We’ve got to make sure we don’t let Celtic play. We’ve got to make it competitive. When we get the ball, we’ve got to use it wisely and get it forward quickly to create a few chances.”
Brown in particular is a player Locke is wary of. “He is an energetic presence. You just need to get your players to compete as well as he does. The reason he is the captain of club and country is because of his enthusiasm and work rate and his desire to win games. I think that’s a great thing to have in any player. I believe we have players who can compete with him and who can play as well.
“I don’t think you can single just one Celtic player out. They’ve got quality throughout their team so if you worry about one player, you’re forgetting about the rest. The most important thing for me as the Hearts manager is to concentrate on what we do.”
As in most matches this season, the Hearts team will be significantly younger than their opponents. Locke stressed his youngsters will in no way feel inferior despite the difference in experience.
“I don’t think that’s a concern. That’s not the way they get brought up here,” he said. “We certainly don’t encourage them to be inferior to anyone. You go out with respect for people but you don’t fear anyone. All our young boys are confident lads and they all have strong beliefs in their own ability.”
Locke will have assistant Billy Brown beside him in the dugout after he received a suspended two-match ban for last month’s touchline altercation with Derek McInnes. The Aberdeen manager received the same punishment.
• FORMER Hearts manager Csaba Laszlo has left his job as coach of Lithuania. Lithuania sit fourth in World Cup qualifying Group G with just two wins from eight matches.