Gary Mackay: International break has come at good time for Hearts
After a demanding run of fixtures in which Hearts have fared very well, I think the international break will come in pretty handy. Less than a handful of our first-team squad are heading off to play for their countries and the time should help the squad over the next couple of weeks as we prepare for the winter.
Only John Souttar, Steven Naismith, Michael Smith and Aaron Hughes are leaving Edinburgh on international duty and, after Sunday’s defeat at Ibrox, we now have a chance to regroup.
It would be nice to get international recognition for more Hearts players but the other side of the coin is they can stay here and work on things.
They can get a rest first, which is important after a good run in the league and Betfred Cup. Then they can get back to training together. That gives time to work, improve and also to do some stuff socially together as a group. It keeps the team spirit up and reinvigorates everyone before another demanding game at Tynecastle against Aberdeen a week on Saturday.
The one good thing about that match is that it’s a home game. We know Tynecastle has been pretty full-on all season so far and it will be again for Aberdeen coming to town. They will bring a good travelling support themselves so I’m already looking forward to that match.
Unfortunately for Hearts, our unbeaten run came to an end at the weekend against Rangers and we have to spend the international break reflecting on that. It was a frustrating afternoon in many ways.
There is still plenty to be encouraged about, though. If we thought that, on October 7, we would go to Ibrox knowing we’d stay top of the league no matter the result, we would have bitten people’s hands off. We have to take that positive. We went and had a go at Rangers, but the negatives were that we made three errors in the game which were costly.
The one thing I’m surprised about is that, with the physicality we have, we see fit to run out at a set-piece. It only takes one individual not to get it right, or not be switched on, and it costs you. Unfortunately, that’s what happened at Rangers’ first goal. That puts you on the back foot after only a couple of minutes.
Rangers were there to be tested after playing Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday night. Any player will tell you, when you have come off a draining European experience, the important part of the next league game is how you start.
We gave Rangers their start, really. We helped them become invigorated, have confidence and go from there. That happened again at the second goal and when it gets to 3-0 then it’s about game management.
Hearts played with a certain amount of freedom but you can certainly do that at 3-0 down because the worst has already happened. We already looked like we would get beaten. However, we still tried to play and create chances. The only thing in our way was Allan McGregor. He was in great form and pulled off some really important saves for Rangers.
I’d say there are some things to learn but overall we have had a strong start to the season. What’s important for Hearts now is to come back strongly, start winning again and make sure we stay in contention at the top of the league for as long as we possibly can.