Gary Mackay: League position is fine but there are issues Hearts must look at
Considering injuries and considering the extra workload from European football, I think the Hearts squad are doing fine overall this season. There is as solid a base as we could probably expect in the league after coming back from European games plus the injuries we have had to deal with.
Craig Halkett returning on Saturday was a big positive because he has been a major miss. It's been very unfortunate and we haven’t really had much consistency of selection in the team. That has to be looked at in every sense. The training schedule should be looked at, the recovery schedule and all these things after the European exertions.
I think where we are in the league is probably the correct position in relation to our form. Hopefully this break will galvanise the Hearts group and inspire some who are taking part in the World Cup, plus also inspire people to achieve even more when the domestic business resumes.
Normally you wouldn’t get a five-week break in the middle of the season. The guys who are here will get time to physically and mentally recover from a tough period. The players who are away will hopefully benefit from playing for their country or just being part of the World Cup spectacle, even if they don’t get any minutes. They should then be able to come back and hit the ground running at club level.
For Cammy Devlin, Nathaniel Atkinson and Kye Rowles, this is the biggest stage in the game and what an honour it is for them to be involved. I hope to see all of them on the pitch for Australia at some point, and I hope they realise that Hearts have played a part in getting them to Qatar.
Now that these players have dipped their toe in the water at Tynecastle, they will realise how big a club it is. Pasquale Bruno, Gilles Rousset, Stefano Salvatori, Rudi Skacel and other people like that were probably the same. They were probably a little bit ignorant of Heart of Midlothian when they arrived.
They embraced the football club and, if you do that, it allows you to go on and have a really positive relationship with a great fanbase. It should always give you inspiration running out in front of that support week in and week out.
Hopefully the World Cup exposure the three Australian lads are getting will allow Hearts to attract other players of similar standard during forthcoming transfer windows. I’m sure the manager, Robbie Neilson, and sporting director, Joe Savage, already have a few names in mind that they would like to bring in during January.
I would qualify that by saying that I would still like to see more youth players out on the pitch playing for the first team. I hear people saying some of our younger age-groups in the academy are looking good, but it needs to be carried all the way through.
We have had a couple of young lads introduced from the bench and Connor Smith has started some matches recently. However, nobody has forced their way into Robbie’s thoughts to become a regular starter. As a football club, I think that needs to be addressed. It doesn’t matter what era you are in, youth development should always be a major factor at Hearts.
Special Message: I’d like to pass on my condolences to Jimmy O’Rourke's family following his death at the age of 76. My thoughts are with them all. Jimmy was a lovely man who will be sadly missed.