Gary Mackay-Steven explains his new Hearts role ahead of Raith rematch

Gary Mackay-Steven has been brought to Hearts as an attacking outlet.Gary Mackay-Steven has been brought to Hearts as an attacking outlet.
Gary Mackay-Steven has been brought to Hearts as an attacking outlet.
Gary Mackay-Steven is clear on his Hearts remit: Beat full-backs, deliver crosses and score goals. Fairly standard expectations of a winger.

The new signing is still finding his feet at Tynecastle Park and needs more games to reach peak fitness. His role has been explicitly defined by manager Robbie Neilson and he aims to tick every box.

“Attacking play, getting at the full-back all the time and creating chances. Chipping in with goals as well,” said the 30-year-old. “We play on the front foot here and he [Neilson] wants us to attack as a team. He just wants me to be creative.

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“Having spoken to the gaffer before, it was just a big, fresh challenge that excited me. Looking at the squad, I saw myself in this team and kicking on again. I'm delighted with my decision and I'm happy it's at Hearts.”

He has joined a team carrying a potent scoring threat, exemplified by 48 goals from 19 matches in all competitions so far this season.

The flip side is that they are also conceding too many. Saturday’s 3-2 defeat by Raith Rovers at Tynecastle took Hearts’ goals against column to 25 from those 19 fixtures.

“There's a lot of goals in the team. We had chances on Saturday but their goalkeeper was on fire,” said Mackay-Steven, acknowledging the performance of Jamie MacDonald.

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“Two or three I thought were certain goals but he's got fingertips to it so fair play to him. We're confident we have a lot of firepower in our team and we'll do alright.”

The same two teams meet again this evening in Kirkcaldy. It is another opportunity for Mackay-Steven to improve match sharpness having not played or trained for a month after leaving the American club New York City.

He joined Hearts two weeks ago and has since featured against Alloa Athletic and Raith. “It's been a brilliant, positive couple of weeks and I'm delighted to be back [in Scotland],” he said.

“I haven't trained all that much to be honest with different things, but I got 45 minutes last week and 90 on Saturday.

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“That's my first for a while but that's only going to do me good going forward for fitness, so I’m delighted. It's a disappointing result but it's good that we've got a quick turnaround with another game tonight.

“I didn't think I'd have 90 in me but it was good. You get your match fitness from playing games. I got a half last week and a full game this week and there's plenty of games to come so I’m not too far away.”

The demands of the Scottish Championship are as clear as the winger’s own job definition. Hearts find themselves in a dogfight for the title and have a six-point advantage at the top of the league despite their weekend reverse.

“There's no quarter given and I knew there wouldn't be,” said Mackay-Steven. “There are good teams, you have to work for everything and if you're not on it and taking all your chances, teams will punish you.“Raith are a good team, they score goals and their keeper had an amazing game as well as them missing a penalty. We hold our hands up, Raith deserved it. We weren't at our level but we go again tonight.”

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