Hearts reveal Barrie McKay's fitness levels for Edinburgh derby as new signing pushes for debut against Hibs
Hearts intend to use new signing Barrie McKay cautiously until he reaches full fitness and may restrict him to a cameo debut this weekend.
The Edinburgh derby at Tynecastle Park carries all sorts of connotations and is expected to be an intense affair between two teams sitting joint-top of the cinch Premiership.
Hibs tried to sign McKay just a few days ago but the free agent opted for a two-year contract with their city rivals after leaving Swansea City in June.
His fitness levels are not sufficient for a full 90 minutes because he has not done a proper pre-season workout, so Riccarton coaching staff will build him up gradually over the coming weeks.
Manager Robbie Neilson told the Evening News that the new recruit may still have a part to play on Sunday when Hearts take part in their first game as a fan-owned club against their biggest rivals.
“I think Barrie will take a wee bit of time fitness-wise to get fully up to speed. He hasn’t been doing a pre-season anywhere, he’s just been working with a personal trainer over the summer,” explained Neilson.
“His fitness is alright. It isn’t quite match-ready but he still has a good half an hour in him just now. He has trained with us this week and actually done really well so we just need to build him up for the rest of the week. It’s a good start so he will be there or thereabouts for Sunday.”
The significance of the game is not lost on Neilson. Foundation of Hearts gained ownership of the Gorgie club on behalf of supporters less than two weeks ago, and there is the added incentive of becoming outright Premiership leaders for the victors.
“It’s a massive game and we know that,” added the manager. “Any derby is big but both teams are joint-top of the league, so whoever wins goes clear at the top. It’s a chance to put a marker down and we’re excited about it.
“There will be a full house at Tynecastle and it’s Hearts’ first game under fan ownership, live on TV, Sunday lunchtime, we are really looking forward to it.”