Gary Mackay: Steven Naismith’s influence on Hearts means he can name his price

Steven Naismith’s influence on Hearts right now is scary. The last two games are something of a microcosm of what has happened this season. We lose to Dundee when he is suspended, then we beat St Johnstone with him on the field.

Tuesday, 29th January 2019, 5:30 am
Steven Naismith is Hearts' talisman at present. Pic: SNS

The number of points we have won without Naismith in the team compared to when he is in the team is notable. Him remaining fit and free of suspension for the rest of the season is massive.

When you look at players having a case for a new contract, the ball is firmly in Naismith’s hands. We all know how important he is to Hearts. The desire to keep him will be huge on the club’s part. I doubt that will mean the wage structure goes out of sync but he could virtually name his price.

It’s a huge positive when he is there, but hugely worrying when he isn’t playing. We seem to be pretty reliant on him being in the team to gather points. We have won four out of our last five games but Friday is massive down at Kilmarnock.

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The momentum they have right now is frightening and you have to take your hat off to Steve Clarke. Especially when you look at how their crowds and budgets compare to other clubs near them in the league table.

This is a huge game for Hearts because it’s an opportunity to cut the six-point gap between ourselves and Kilmarnock down to three. What we don’t want is a club that isn’t Celtic, Rangers, or perhaps Aberdeen, stretching nine points clear of us at this stage in the season. That would be a difficult gap to overhaul.

Hearts should definitely be competing with Kilmarnock for the top-four places. We were much better on Saturday against St Johnstone after losing to Dundee, now we have to take that performance with us to Rugby Park.