KEVIN McHATTIE today received a vote of confidence from Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson, who told him: “Be ready when we need you.”
The left-back found himself relegated to the substitutes’ bench when Juwon Oshaniwa arrived at Tynecastle, but Neilson is advising him to stay focused and wait for another chance. Oshaniwa should start tomorrow’s league match with Partick Thistle at Tynecastle. However, McHattie is in contention to play against Forfar in the League Cup on Tuesday night. Neilson explained why it is important for the 22-year-old to prepare himself for a recall to the starting line-up.
“It’s difficult for Kevin just now. It’s hard when somebody else comes in but it’s up to him to fight, continue to train well and play in the under-20s. He has to be ready when we need him,” said Neilson. “I speak to all the players who aren’t involved. We speak about their situation, what they need to do and how they need to work. We also talk about what they can do to help the team. They have to train professionally, prepare professionally, make sure they warm up professionally to get the team ready. It’s about the team and the squad. Kevin is in the same position as Gavin Reilly and there are a few boys who, over the season, will come in and out of the team. They have to make sure they’re focused and help get the starting 11 prepared for each game. Then they need to be ready themselves. When they come on, they have to be ready to make an impact.”
Nigerian internationalist Oshaniwa has enjoyed a confident start to life in Edinburgh, helping Hearts record wins against Dundee, Motherwell and Ross County. He is already established as the first-choice left-back, although Neilson expects him to improve over the coming weeks.
“I’m really happy with him,” admitted Neilson. “He’s starting to settle in and starting to get fit as well. I spoke to him on Tuesday and he’s feeling a lot better. He’ll hope his fitness gets up over the next couple of weeks.
“It’s really difficult for guys like him to come in. He’s coming from a totally different continent, different culture, different lifestyle, different food, different surroundings, different weather. For him to arrive and play as well as he has proves he’s a very good player. When he gets settled in, I expect him to get even better.
“There’s more to come from Juwon and all of the other players, I think. The younger ones are starting to get fitter as the season progresses. I believe we still have a long way to go.”