Stephen Kingsley explains how he has mastered the art of free-kicks for Hearts
Stephen Kingsley’s free-kicks are becoming a dangerous weapon for Hearts, but it’s not happened by chance.
The 27-year-old defender has spent years honing his technique, but never got the opportunity to take them on match days at his previous clubs.
Hearts have given to him and he has grasped it. A superb goal away to Ross County earlier in the season showed what he is capable of, and Saturday’s effort in the 2-0 victory over St Mirren at Tynecastle was even better.
A corker from 30 yards into the top corner, it was a moment of sublime quality which Hearts needed to see off a well-organised Saints team who made life very difficult for Robbie Neilson’s men.
Gary MacKay-Steven broke the deadlock only after a hat-trick of typically-superb Craig Gordon saves, and Kingsley’s rocket sealed the three much-needed points.
Kingsley practises his free-kicks the day before a game, focussing on consistent, clean ball-striking. This wonder strike, however, was a bit further out than he is accustomed to on the training ground.
“It was quite far out,” he explained. “My preferable distance actually is the one I sclaffed, the second one, so I’m a bit annoyed with that.
“With free-kicks, if you get the technique right then you’ve got a chance. That’s all you can do and thankfully it resulted in a goal.
“It’s always something I practised and tried in training. The more you do that in training you get more comfortable.
“Everyone’s technique is different, so it’s just about practising and finding out what suits you and just working on it. Getting consistency is the most important thing.
“There’s no point in having one in 20 shots in training that is brilliant, you film that one and put it on Instagram or something. It’s about getting it consistently good.
“On a Friday I’ll get some mannequins up and take two from the left, two from the right and two from the middle and try to get that technique right.”
Kingsley has always practised free-kicks but never got the chance to actually take them at Swansea City, Yeovil, Crewe or Hull City.
“I don’t think I scored any free-kicks before coming to Hearts because I was playing with such talented players down south,” he said. “I was practising on my own. So, coming here and getting the chance to actually take them has been brilliant.”
The goal was the icing on the cake for the left centre-back, who put in another solid performance in a back three bolstered by the return of Craig Halkett.
Kingsley has been a model of consistency in that position this season, but insists he isn’t really thinking about the prospects of a Scotland call up.
With left midfielder Andy Halliday carrying a knock in the second period, Kingsley became something of an overlapping centre-back in the second half, playing the role Kieran Tierney has mastered so well for Scotland.
“It is something I want to keep in my game, breaking the lines and running forward,” he added. “It does ease the pressure on the midfielders who have someone up behind them when coming for the ball. It’s something I like doing.”
Hearts fans like to see that too. They will certainly like to see Kingsley again when he lines up his next free-kick.
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