JORDAN McGhee declared he will not let Hearts down if asked to deputise for captain Danny Wilson against Dumbarton tomorrow.
The 18-year-old is certain to step into central defence if head coach Robbie Neilson opts to rest Wilson, who has a minor hamstring strain.
A rare opportunity in his favoured position appeals to McGhee, who has played mostly at full-back since breaking into the Hearts first team in May 2013. He regards himself primarily as a centre-back, but has been unable to break up Wilson’s partnership with Alim Ozturk this season.
Tomorrow could be the first time Neilson names a Hearts team for a league match without Ozturk and Wilson as a partnership in central defence.
McGhee is the most obvious candidate to deputise for Wilson given Brad McKay has not featured in any of the club’s last six matches. “It’s not certain whether I’ll be in or not but, if I do get a chance, I’ll be ready to do my best and hopefully stake a claim in my best position,” said McGhee today.
“Full-back isn’t my natural position, as a lot of people will see. I’m not the best at going forward from full-back, but I’m more than capable of defending. As a full-back, you need to be able to do both. Defending is obviously my game so, if I do get my chance at centre-back, I’ll be looking to take it.”
McGhee found himself substituted at right-back by Callum Paterson just after half-time against Alloa last weekend as Neilson wanted more attacking impetus down the right side. “I think that’s what it was because Callum is more of an attacking full-back,” continued the teenager. “He plays as a right wing-back half the time rather than a full-back. It seemed to work because we won the game, so it’s been a good decision obviously.
“It was hard to get forward from full-back last season because there wasn’t quite the same quality in the squad. It wasn’t as gelled last season as it is this season. Now we have a few new players in the middle of the park so it’s a lot easier to get the ball, give it back to them and trust them. It’s not long balls any more because there’s always an option when you get the ball. It’s not as daunting as it was last year.”
A final decision on Wilson will be made by Neilson before kick-off tomorrow, but the head coach is likely to rest his captain to ensure he faces Hibs in the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road next weekend.