Gary Mackay: Hearts in Europe will raise the hairs on your neck

It’s been such a rollercoaster ride following Hearts over the last ten years. Nothing is ever easy so to get the chance to follow the team abroad is brilliant for all the fans.

My first European trip as a player was Paris in 1984 and the support there that night was fantastic. It will be the same this time, either in Dublin or Zurich.

It’s great for players to experience different football cultures but also for supporters. The different countries and cities are tremendous to see so I’m delighted for everybody concerned that this adventure is now about to start.

What a lift it will be for some of the players who have come in. You think the atmosphere at Tynecastle for an Edinburgh derby, or against Celtic or Rangers, is electric, but wait till they experience a midweek European game under the floodlights. Then you will really see the ground come into its own.

That sort of thing gets the hairs up on the back of your neck as a fan or a player. I was at the Lokomotiv Leipzig game as a supporter in 1976 and saw a great 5-1 victory amid a brilliant atmosphere.

As a player I was fortune enough to be involved in some great European matches. I remember coming out the tunnel against teams like Slavia Prague and Bayern Munich. These games stick in your mind. You can fail to be inspired on these occasions.

Players are out there bursting to give their best and part of the reason for that is the atmosphere generated by Tynecastle. It just fills you with energy and I’m sure it will do that for this season’s team.

Overall, I’m hoping Hearts have a really good European campaign, enjoy the experience and give a good account of themselves. I would also point out – and I don’t doubt Robbie Neilson and the coaching staff are well aware of this – that the bread-and-butter league matches are still the priority.

European nights at Tynecastle are memorable occasions.

Piking up points regularly gets you up the table and into Europe and that’s where the club want to be regularly. It will be a busy and hectic time but exciting as well.

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