Gary Mackay: Subs bench underlines Hearts' strength but players must fight back

When I arrived at Tynecastle about quarter past 11 on Sunday, someone asked me how I thought the game would go.

By Gary Mackay
Wednesday, 15th September 2021, 12:30 pm
Barrie McKay replaces Ben Woodburn to make his Hearts debut against Hibs.
Barrie McKay replaces Ben Woodburn to make his Hearts debut against Hibs.

I asked to see the team first, not so much because of the starting line-up but because I wanted to look at the substitutes’ bench.

It looked really strong and I felt comfortable when I saw the names listed on it. And you have to remember that’s with players like Jamie Walker and Aaron McEneff not even stripped. That shows the strength in depth available to the manager.

The biggest thing in football is how you deal with setbacks, what kind of character you are. If you are left out of the team, you need to respond and fight your way back in.

Back in my playing days, I was fortunate to have a mentality that was developed by Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine. Their approach was that you gave it your best shot one week, if it wasn’t good enough then you hopefully did it the next week. If not, then you were left out and it was up to you to get back in.

That ultimately stands for the players on Hearts’ bench on Sunday as well as the guys who weren’t in the squad. Robbie Neilson went through that process at Hearts himself and you have to deal with it. If you don’t want to deal with it, you will sink.

If you take the fight on as an individual, then it makes for a really competitive group and that’s what you want. It’s that type of desire from everybody that yields a positive outcome at the end of the season.

The one player you desperately want to avoid losing to injury is Craig Gordon: Club captain, brilliant shot-stopper and a guy who gets others out of trouble if they make a mistake. He is just a calming influence who tidies everything up. You can only respect the quality he brings to the side.

He is such an important figure in the context of what Hearts are trying to achieve. Again, he proved that against Hibs on Sunday and I’m sure he’ll continue to do so.

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