Gary Mackay: Shaky ground but a massive week lies ahead

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It’s never great when a football match is relegated to sideshow status and I don’t think all the pre-match stuff involving the two managers did the game at Kilmarnock any good as it took the focus firmly away from the game itself.

Having said that, I do have a degree of sympathy for both bosses with regards to how they found themselves embroiled in this row.

I have met Kenny Shiels on several occasions, and I think it’s clear that he’s the type of man who will always answer openly and honestly if he’s asked a question. For me, that has to be admired in football. Occasionally, though, you do have to be slightly guarded because when you start talking about matters at other clubs, you’re stepping on territory you probably shouldn’t be on. I don’t have any gripe with what Kenny has to say, though, because I think everyone at Hearts should be concerning themselves with why Marian Kello is not playing. It’s ironic that this furore surrounding Kello has blown up at the same time as he’s picking up the Player of the Year award from the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs. Once again, why is the player not in the team? It’s ridiculous.

Paulo Sergio he has been magnificent in the way he has handled everything that has been thrown at him since he became Hearts manager but, sadly, it looks like his hands are tied when it comes to the Kello situation. Even though I understand the reasoning behind what Kenny Shiels said, I also understand entirely why Paulo reacted the way he did.

Paulo is a proud man and felt it wasn’t right to shake hands with Kenny. They’ve both stuck to their principles and are entitled to act as they see fit. I can understand and sympathise with the actions of both men whom I have lots of respect for.

As for the football, a return of one point from two games over the past week has not been ideal in terms of our challenge for third place. On Wednesday night against Celtic, everyone came away talking about the goal that wasn’t given and how that might have changed the game. I’ve got no doubt it would have made a big difference. It was poor officialdom that meant we didn’t get the goal, but after that, we were very soft in allowing Celtic to steamroller us. It was a very disappointing night. There’s no doubt Ian Black was missed and he showed on Saturday what a difference he can make as he produced another impressive display in midfield at Kilmarnock.

The main positive from Saturday’s game is that we showed enough spirit and desire to keep going deep into stoppage time. Hopefully, the manner we earned that point will give us a lift to carry into what is going to be arguably the biggest week of our season so far. We’ve got St Johnstone in the cup and then Motherwell in the league.

The cup game tomorrow is huge because there’s a chance that things could open up nicely if we can get past St Johnstone. Apart from Dundee United and Celtic, who face each other at Tannadice, all the other sides will be delighted with their respective quarter-final draws and will feel they have a chance of making the semi-finals. It’s now a case of really focusing on tomorrow’s game and making sure we get into the quarters. The manager left out Scott Robinson and Ryan McGowan on Saturday, so he now has the option of bringing in two younger players to freshen things up. These guys were probably due a rest, but it will be nice to have them available to bring back in tomorrow.

Then we have Saturday’s trip to Fir Park. and that’s one that we simply can’t afford to lose. If Motherwell were to beat us, I fear that would see them verging on holding an unassailable advantage over us in the race for third. It’s a massive couple of games for Hearts.