Hearts are using the international break to get even stronger after surging to the top of the Scottish Premiership with a 100 per cent record. Assistant coach Austin MacPhee stressed today that players will reflect on how they can improve whilst some colleagues are off representing their countries.
The aim is to ensure Hearts resume domestic business at Motherwell on Saturday week still firing on all cylinders after four wins from four league games. MacPhee is deputising whilst Craig Levein returns from illness and oversaw Saturday’s 4-1 win against St Mirren at Tynecastle Park.
The manager hopes to be back in the dugout at Fir Park. By then, MacPhee wants Hearts to have brushed up on any weaknesses to maintain, or even increase, their three-point advantage over Celtic at the Premiership’s summit.
“We talked after the [St Mirren] game and I thanked the players and staff for their efforts this week,” the assistant told Hearts TV. “We’ve all mucked in to get to this point. I think it’s important that, over the international break, we look at ways to improve. We can look at the previous performances.
“I was delighted that there were still some small frustrations [on Saturday]. We were really disappointed to lose a goal from a throw-in near our own goal. We made some mistakes there and we always look to improve.
“On an international break, it’s nice to be top of the league.
“It’s somewhere we want to try and stay for as long as we can.” Steven Naismith was recalled to the Scotland squad on the back of his hat-trick against St Mirren. MacPhee revealed that the 31-year-old forward has been a major help to the Hearts coaching staff in Levein’s absence.
“In addition to what everybody inside the stadium saw, Steven plays a massive role at the club in the standards he sets for himself and the other players around him,” continued MacPhee. “He is almost like a coach on the pitch. His standards are high for the entire 90 minutes.
“Over the last week, he has been a great help to me. I’ve leaned on him quite closely along with the other senior players, just to make sure everything felt the way it would feel with the manager around.”
A crowd of 17,714 attended Tynecastle at the weekend and MacPhee insisted fans’ backing is vital to Hearts’ ambitions of staying top. “The attendance of 18,000 is a fantastic crowd. Their support of the boys in the early stages of [Saturday’s] game helped us get and stay on the front foot.
“They have been magnificent in the way they have saved the club. The feeling around the club is fantastic just now and it’s something that we want to develop – to keep that bond we have with them right now. That helps us win.”