Hearts coach predicts new signing Glenn Whelan will be a key player as he prepares for first-team debut

Glenn Whelan could make his competitive Hearts debut against Celtic on Sunday
Glenn Whelan could make his competitive Hearts debut against Celtic on Sunday
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Glenn Whelan is pushing for a competitive Hearts debut against Celtic after impressing during his first 90 minutes in maroon.

The Irish midfielder played on Tuesday as Hearts' reserve side began their league campaign with a 3-1 win against St Mirren at Riccarton. Afterwards, the club's reserve coach Andy Kirk sung Whelan's praises and predicted he will become an influential figure in the first team.

Whelan signed a one-year contract at Tynecastle Park last week and was an unused substitute in Friday night's Betfred Cup win at Motherwell. Hearts visit Celtic on Premiership duty this Sunday and the 35-year-old is now in contention to start.

"He is experienced, he has played at the top level. He knows what it's all about with the ball and without the ball," Kirk told Hearts TV. "You could hear him communicating to the younger boys and that is vital. It's a learning experience for them. They can hear him doing it so there is no reason they can't take some of his experience and start adding it to their game.

"He kept things simple for us and he produced a couple of very good passes. He was just a very calming influence on the players. He will be a big player, I'm sure, for the first team."

Although the visitors scored first through Lewis Jamieson, Hearts replied in the second half with goals from Euan Henderson, Anthony McDonald and Connor Smith.

"It was difficult at times to try and break St Mirren down," admitted Kirk. "They sat quite deep in the game, were very organised and worked really hard to close the lines off. I was pleased with a lot of the play. We tried to keep doing things the right way and move the ball as we ask them to. We just felt we got caught trying to play through the lines too much when the space wasn't there.

"Once the boys figured that out and we got them touching the sides of the pitch, it became a different game. We were disappointed to concede the goal, which gives St Mirren something to hold on to. It took a wee bit of time coming but we felt, if we could get the first goal, we could push for a second.

"The disappointing thing for me was the performance after we got the second goal. It just seemed to drop and we stopped doing the things that got us joy. That's what we spoke about after the game."