JOHN McGLYNN today told Jamie MacDonald he can be Hearts’ first-choice goalkeeper for years to come following an impressive display and clean sheet against Aberdeen yesterday.
The 26-year-old became a father for the first time last Wednesday before facing Liverpool 24 hours later in the Europa League play-off. He then defied Aberdeen at Pittodrie with some expert shot-stopping to leave Hearts unbeaten in domestic competition this season.
McGlynn, the Hearts manager, explained that MacDonald’s consistent performances make him difficult to drop and that he has the capability to remain in goal at Tynecastle for however long he wishes.
“Jamie made an exceptional save in the first half yesterday and another couple in the second half,” McGlynn told the Evening News. “Obviously, when you’ve just become a father then you’re on a high. He did very well against Liverpool last week and followed that up yesterday. We’re very grateful for Jamie’s performance.
“He’s taken some time to establish himself at Hearts but he had some fine opposition, with Craig Gordon initially and then Marian Kello. At 26, Jamie still has many years ahead of him. It’s really up to him. He’s playing particularly well at the minute, but he can be the Hearts No.1 for as long as he wants to be if he continues to perform like that.”
While MacDonald’s display was a major bonus for McGlynn, there was concern after the match over captain Marius Zaliukas. The Lithuanian, still suffering with a dead leg sustained against Inverness Caledonian Thistle nine days ago, was substituted at half-time and is now doubtful for Thursday’s European return leg at Anfield.
“He’s had this thigh injury that he got against Inverness Caley Thistle,” explained McGlynn. “He took a jag on Thursday night to play in that game and he did the same yesterday. Leading up to half-time he felt it, and at half-time we felt it was best to take him off. We’ll have to wait and see how he progresses, whether he’ll be available for Thursday night or not.”
Zaliukas was replaced by Denis Prychynenko yesterday, with Darren Barr reverting from midfield to centre-back alongside Andy Webster. Barr is primed to fill that role against Liverpool should Zaliukas fail to prove his fitness in time.