Steven Naismith 'surprised' by Hearts star's latest injury comeback as he puts him in Jambos 'top category'

Hearts head coach Steven NaismithHearts head coach Steven Naismith
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith | SNS Group
The Hearts leader reckons his returning star deserves plenty of praise after his Premiership comeback.

Steven Naismith insists Barrie McKay deserves plenty of plaudits for returning from back-to-back knee injuries that left him deflated during his playing days.

The winger appeared off the bench against St Mirren on Saturday in a 2-1 win, a week on from his comeback against Kilmarnock. Minutes in Paisley proved to be just his sixth Premiership outing of the season in a campaign disrupted by a PCL injury, and then tweaking the knee again in December versus Hibs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Naismith knows all about McKay’s quality and how big a player he could be. There are not set targets for minutes between now and May but the head coach hopes the 29-year-old can contribute as much as possible. He said: "Last week was his first real game so he was on the bench.

“His performances in training have been good and he is getting back to sharpness, so he is available for selection. If we think he's ready to start then we will start him. If not, we will wait. There isn't any condition on his minutes.

"This season has been really frustrating for him. The injuries haven't been avoidable, they have just happened and they have set him back twice. Hopefully he can contribute enough from now till the summer that he looks back on it as a worthwhile season through the hard times.

“On raw ability, Baz is in the top category of anybody at the club. A guy like that coming back in will be good for the squad and good for him personally. Going back to competition for places, everybody needs to play well to stay in the team.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Having had such a frustrating campaign, Naismith is impressed by the mental fortitude the playmaker has displayed. Such blows rocked the head coach as a player, but instead, it has only made McKay work harder. Naismith added: "That's the frustrating part. Baz is now an experienced player and a leader.

“His day-to-day routine is all really good. The frustration is that he does all that, then gets an injury which sets him back for months. What chance have you got? He has been really strong. With this second injury, I've been surprised at how hard he has worked.

“When I did my second knee injury, I was really deflated. To have two really bad injuries that close together, there could be that element of: 'I'm writing this season off.' He is not. He has been the opposite. I would say he has worked harder this time than he did at the start, which tells you all you need to know about his character.

Related topics: