Gary Mackay: I now have genuine optimism after Hearts' magnificent display against Rangers

Victory can give Hearts impetus

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:00 am
Uche Ikpeazu celebrates with matchwinner Liam Boyce at the end of the game against Rangers

It’s been a long time since a Hearts performance and result at the weekend has left me feeling this good about my club midway through the week.

You try not to get too far ahead of yourself in football because it’s such an unpredictable game, but after several years of drudgery, it now feels like we could genuinely be in the process of turning a corner under Daniel Stendel. It remains early days of course, but it seems like our new manager has already realised that at our football club there must be a desire and intent to play on the front foot and try to hurt teams.

Every single Hearts supporter was fully engaged and enthused by the performance on Sunday, and it’s not often we’ve been able to say that in recent years. There were so many positive aspects to the performance that even if we had ended up losing 1-0, having played the way we did I would have taken a lot of encouragement from the match because nobody really expected us to win it.

Sign up to our Hearts newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

There were sporadic moments under Craig Levein when the team did well in big matches but the thing from Sunday that makes me believe there has been a fundamental change is when you look at the number of attacking players on the pitch. Five of the seven subs were attack-minded players and there now looks to be real competition in that area. Big Uche Ikpeazu looked like a man possessed when he came on - if players are going to buy into Daniel Stendel’s philosophy like that then what a chance we’ve got of kicking on.

There will inevitably be bumps along the road as we go but if we can perform as we did against Rangers, then we should certainly be capable of picking up our fair share of points against the lesser sides in the league. That has to be the aim going forward.

We’ve now got a tricky trip this weekend to McDiarmid Park, where we haven’t done particularly well over the years. The atmosphere at away stadiums will not always be as intense as it was at Tynecastle but if the team take the same approach into away games as they did on Sunday and show a willingness to attack they will certainly enjoy the unstinting backing of a fired-up and appreciative travelling support. There will certainly be a good few thousand Hearts supporters in Perth which should help, as should the presence of experienced players like Steven Naismith and Liam Boyce in attack as they should both help us get further up the pitch. We’ve pushed the boat out to get Boyce and there’s speculation that Craig Gordon could be on his way, but sometimes you’ve got to speculate to accumulate, especially when you’re in the position Hearts found themselves in over the winter break. If we can kick on and finish the season with a flourish, then we could be looking at record season-ticket sales, so in that regard the Boyce investment would be well worth it on several levels.