Revitalised Brad McKay back in Hearts picture

Brad McKay (centre) is put through his paces at training (SNS)

Brad McKay (centre) is put through his paces at training (SNS)

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HAVING shown more confidence in training and under-20 matches recently, the Hearts defender Brad McKay is poised for a recall to the starting line-up against Dundee United tomorrow.

Manager Gary Locke revealed that the 20-year-old has forced his way back into the reckoning after dropping out of the team in late October.

McKay was dropped following the 2-0 loss to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on October 26 and has been given time to recover his confidence. He played in Hearts Under-20s’ 4-2 win over St Johnstone in midweek and Locke explained today that he is now looking more assured. After watching his defence lose seven goals to Celtic last weekend, Locke is eager to make changes for the league trip to Tannadice and McKay is a strong contender to step in.

“Brad did okay for the under-20s during the week. I felt he just needed a wee breather from the first team,” said Locke. “You get young boys who come in and do really well initially and then they take a wee dip in form. It’s important you can take them out of the team and that’s what I’ve tried to do with Brad.

“He has trained better and he’s starting to look like he’s gained a little bit of confidence again. He’ll certainly be one that will come into contention for a place tomorrow. I think we have to make one or two changes.

“In normal circumstances, if you’re coming off the back of such a poor result like the Celtic one, you would make maybe five or six changes and bring players in to make the team stronger. We have young lads doing well for the under-20s but let’s not forget it’s a huge step from the 20s to the first team. We haven’t got scope to change a lot but we will try and change one or two things to make us a bit more difficult to play against.”

Locke could deploy McKay at right-back or centre-back and has the option of selecting either Kevin McHattie or Jordan McGhee at left-back. “It would be nice to give Jordan a breather but sometimes needs must,” continued Locke. “I’ve said there are players you would maybe like to take out of the firing line so they can get a rest, but we’re not going to have that option. I’d like to protect the young players. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to do that.”