Gary Mackay: We need quality in squad not quantity

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It’s extremely hard to get too excited about the future of the club while it’s in such a state of flux. Everybody’s hoping things take a positive turn, but this sort of stuff doesn’t sort itself out overnight, especially with the concerning level of debt we have.

It’s incredible that just four weeks ago we were talking about Hearts potentially challenging the Old Firm and now we’re in a situation where we don’t know what’s happening. Fans are talking about how worried they are, but we’re all on the outside looking in. You can only imagine what the players, who are right at the heart of it all, are going through. These guys have families to support and, aside from thinking about their football and when they’ll get paid, they’ll also be wondering what January will bring, in terms of who actually remains at the club. I read the statement on the website from Sergejus Fedetovas and they are talking about mixing some of the youngsters in with a bit of experience in the first team. It’s good to know that they seem to have a focus about how they will move forward until they find a buyer, but much will depend on how things are done.

We have to get the numbers down first and foremost. We should never have allowed ourselves to accumulate 55-60 players. This is no disrespect to any of the young players but there is no way a club of our size can justify having 33 youngsters on the books and then another 20-odd first-teamers. It needs to be reduced and I feel terrible saying that because that means players are not going to have contracts renewed.

Anybody who knows me will know that I have always had huge concerns about the size of the squad. We have to mend the error of our ways drastically and it’s imperative that the right professional people are charged with ensuring such mismanagement is never allowed to happen again at our football club.

If, as the club are suggesting, we are going to go down a route which involves less experienced players and more young players in the first team, we need to have a more professional set-up to allow the youngsters to flourish. People will ask why I’m always banging on about the youth set-up at the club, but the fact is Jim Jefferies, who showed in the past he wasn’t scared to play youngsters, and now Paulo Sergio have not felt comfortable throwing any of our current young players in big numbers. These are the guys who are working with the squad on a daily basis and they’ll know that the circumstances have to be right to put kids into the Hearts first team. If it is a route we’re going to go down, these young players will need to have enough professional knowledge and acumen to become first-team regulars at Hearts.

Another concern I have is that, if we get to January and the manager is told to play youngsters when he doesn’t feel they are ready for the first team, will this influence his thinking about his future? There is just so much going at the club just now that it’s hard to get your head round at times. That’s me speaking as a fan, so I can only imagine what it’s like for the players. Full credit to them, though. On Saturday at Tannadice, they played some nice football, with one or two players looking particularly lively, and all that was missing was a cutting edge. When these players’ futures are being discussed in the public domain, then you really have to applaud them massively for still trying to go about their business professionally. Yes, things are not great in terms of results and Motherwell are now well ahead of us, but, ultimately, given the present circumstances, we have to be content with where we are. Had we not done so well at home earlier in the season, we could quite easily have been around the bottom of the table. Sadly, that could yet become a possibility in the long run but, for now, we have to be thankful just to be in mid-table with all the off-field distractions the players have had to deal with. Come Saturday, I would call all Hearts supporters who can possibly get along to Tynecastle to turn up and support the players. I know it’s against Inverness and some fans will have it see it as a game we should win regardless, but, right now, these players need all the support they can get. It would give them a wonderful lift if there was a real groundswell of support for them and the football club in general.

The players will need the help of the supporters to ensure we don’t get dragged into a relegation battle because that is a possibility depending on how many players we end up losing in January. It is getting near the Christmas period and money is tight for everyone, but I would urge anyone who wakes up on Saturday morning with a choice to make about how to spend their weekend to get along to Tynecastle and back the players to the absolute maximum. Everyone involved with Hearts needs to do their bit to try and help the team.

Lewis, you surprise me . .

I’m delighted to see a late-developing Hearts supporter, Lewis Coult, doing well under two of my ex-team-mates, Colin Cameron and Lee Makel, at Cowdenbeath. I had Lewis as an 11-year-old boy at Tynecastle Boys Club and, although he’s a great lad, it came as little surprise to me when I read that he’d upset a Bo’ness player so much that he booted the ball at him as he celebrated his goal in the Scottish Cup on Saturday. Good luck to the big lad.