Gary Mackay: The three key games which are Hearts' yardstick as they prepare to rise to big Tynecastle crowd again
Three games from now we should have a decent idea of how Hearts will fare back in the Scottish Premiership.
A win against Aberdeen at Tynecastle on Sunday would be massive to set us up for a tough trip to Tannadice to face Dundee United, and then another home game against Hibs after the international break. It’s these fixtures the team will be judged on, largely.
Having a crowd of maybe 15,000 or so would be brilliant to see after such a long time. Aberdeen fans love coming to Tynecastle just as ours enjoy a trip to Pittodrie. There will be a real atmosphere and an expectation from supporters that the players respond to the backing they get.
This weekend will be a real marker for both teams. Aberdeen are coming off a really disappointing result in the Premier Sports Cup, losing to Raith Rovers, and then they have a European trip to Azerbaijan before coming to Tynecastle.
They seem to have recruited very well and look to have put a strong group together. However, Hearts are facing a team coming back from a long away trip in Europe. You need to therefore lay the foundations for your game in the first ten to 15 minutes.
It’s not a case of sitting back and waiting. You have to be in their faces, getting the ball wide, delivering crosses and making things happen in the opposition penalty area. It’s important the supporters see the desire to win the football match.
For Hearts, can they show that they can challenge a team which has finished high up in the Premiership for many years? They are the marker that we are trying to reach just now in my opinion.
When there is a big crowd at Tynecastle, I think we just have to focus on going for it. Hearts supporters want to win football matches. If that’s with free-flowing football, great. If it’s with passion and fight, then that’s also fine. It will change from game to game.
It might be a bit of everything this weekend. You would hope there is some free-flowing football but Hearts will certainly need to match the fight and passion of a team led by Scott Brown. The one thing you are certain of is that Aberdeen will not lack spirit.
Overall I’m quite encouraged by where the team are right at this minute. If you had told me before the start of the season that we would have such a positive start, I think we would all have been pleased. Last weekend was a disappointment after a Premier Sports Cup defeat where we laid less than a glove on Celtic in the first half.
Celtic are full of confidence at this moment but I thought Hearts’ style was the complete opposite of how we played them at Tynecastle two weeks previously. Nothing much had changed in the Celtic back line but that’s the manager’s prerogative.
When you start making changes at half-time and then see how well you do in the second half, I think it shows you that you haven’t set your team up in the right manner for the first 45 minutes. However, it’s done and dusted and the players now have to pick themselves up for three important league matches.