Robbie Neilson explains why Gary Mackay-Steven and Armand Gnanduillet need time to hit form at Hearts

As recent Hearts signings Gary Mackay-Steven and Armand Gnanduillet become fitter, manager Robbie Neilson expects they will still require more time to reach peak performance.

Thursday, 25th February 2021, 7:00 am
Gary Mackay-Steven joined Hearts in January and is still getting fitter.

Both players went several weeks without proper training before arriving at Tynecastle Park last month. As such, they are working on match sharpness and endurance by playing games for their new club.

Winger Mackay-Steven played from the start in six of his seven Hearts appearances to date. Striker Gnanduillet has managed one start plus three substitute outings and scored twice on his debut at Raith Rovers.

Both men are likely to feature tomorrow night when Hearts take on Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Highlands in front of the BBC Scotland television cameras.

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Neilson explained to the Evening News that he will give the players more time to hit optimum fitness. The Edinburgh club have ten Championship fixtures left plus additional Scottish Cup ties.

“Gary came in having not played since the start of December. He'd had weeks and weeks of absolutely nothing at all, so we can't expect him to be absolutely on fire after a couple of games,” said the manager.

“This is kind of like a pre-season for him at the moment. I thought he looked sharp for the first 30 minutes last Saturday, getting in behind people like we want. He will get stronger and fitter and we will see the best of him.

“Armand is exactly the same. He hadn't played since December as well so you need to keep them ticking over and try to improve them. They just need to train as normal and play games.

“Some players take five games to get up to speed. Some take six or seven games. Gary has done alright. We all know there is more to come from him, we just need to be patient with him.”

The versatile Aidy White will be back in Hearts’ matchday squad for the trip north after recovering from a hamstring complaint. He is predominantly a left full-back but Neilson has mostly used him in an advanced role on the left flank so far this season.

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