Steven MacLean intends to relish tomorrow’s Edinburgh derby having waited six months to play in one.
A suspension for grabbing Celtic’s Eboue Kouassi in a delicate area ruled the Hearts striker out of October’s meeting with Hibs, so he is now desperate to get on the pitch at Easter Road.
“I’ve not played in an Edinburgh derby yet. I missed the last one, I was suspended for some reason. I can’t mind what for,” he joked.
“Listen, I’ve played in big derbies before. They’re good games, the games you want to play in. It was horrible just sitting watching that last one. But it’s one of these things.”
MacLean joined Hearts in the summer from St Johnstone and is now overdue a derby debut. “Tomorrow is a great game, one we want to play in,” he said. “Hibs got a great result at Ibrox and they’ll be buoyed by that.
“We’re four points ahead of them. A win would take us seven clear. At this stage of the season, that would be very good for us. They’re just great games. They’re why we play football. We’ve both picked up again. They got a good result against Celtic and a point against Rangers at Ibrox.
“So they’re on an upward curve – and hopefully that’s us getting back to our best, as well. Hopefully it will be a good game – but a win for Hearts.”
The 2-0 victory over Hamilton on Boxing Day gives Hearts some encouragement after a downturn in form. The return of Steven Naismith from injury is a major boost for everyone at Tynecastle, not least MacLean.
“We’ve got to take that forward to Saturday now,” said MacLean. “Steven Naismith is a big part of that because obviously it enabled us to go back to our old shape. I think we all knew our roles. It was back to what it was like before all the injuries.
“Steven brings quality andexperience. It was good to have him playing up alongside me again. You hear him talking all the time. He wants me talking all the time too.
“That means we always know where we’re going to be, in relation to each other, on the pitch. It’s a big help.
“We look forward to Saturday now – and then we’ll get even more bodies back, which means we’ll only get stronger going forward.”