Gary Mackay: Wrap Steven Naismith in cotton wool and even send him on holiday because Hearts need him

Striker is so pivotal to club's fortunes and knows what his body needs

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 6:00 am
Steven Naismith at Scotland training, flanked by Stephen O'Donnell and Callum McGregor
Steven Naismith at Scotland training, flanked by Stephen O'Donnell and Callum McGregor

Part of the reason for Hearts’ success in scoring five goals last weekend was the return of Steven Naismith after two months out injured.

He has been a hugely pivotal figure and that has never been more apparent than when he hasn’t been playing, both this season and last.

He is now away with the Scotland squad and we can only keep our fingers crossed that he returns to Tynecaslte unscathed and ready to play against Kilmarnock a week on Saturday.

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If you were ever going to wrap someone in cotton wool, it would be him because he is so influential. If it means sending him on holiday Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday every week to ensure he stays fresh, then that’s what you need to do.

At this stage of his career, he will know his body better than anyone. It’s more than apparent that, when Naismith plays, he bosses things. Whoever gets the Hearts manager’s job already has a boss on the pitch if he keeps Naismith fit. We saw that at the weekend.

He was roaring at people and cajoling people and it’s great to see things like that as a Hearts supporter. Hopefully we get to see it every week from now until the end of the season, as that would mean no more injuries for our talisman.

I’m hoping there will be a freshness about Naismith because he is just back from injury. With the number of players Hearts have, we really shouldn’t be so reliant on Steven Naismith. It has become that way. It’s not just his natural ability. It’s the knowledge of what it takes to play for Hearts in front of a very demanding crowd. He has had that at Rangers, Everton and so on.

At a club which should be vying for third place with Aberdeen, you can’t put in a performance one week out of four. Alex MacDonald used to say: “I don’t want you giving a nine-out-of-ten performance one week in four, I want a seven-out-of-ten performance four weeks out of four.”

That’s the demand on these Hearts players right now and Naismith fully understands.