Gary Mackay: Young team showing great spirit

Danny Wilson, right, and manager Gary Locke. Gary Wilson, the Hearts captain, has impressed Gary Mackay. Picture: SNS
Danny Wilson, right, and manager Gary Locke. Gary Wilson, the Hearts captain, has impressed Gary Mackay. Picture: SNS
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After the massive disappointment at Ross County, this young Hearts team have once again shown remarkable spirit to bounce back and knock a dangerous Queen of the South side out of the League Cup and then pick up a point from Dundee United in a game many people would have expected us to lose.

We could have been going into October in a far worse position than we are currently in. At the start of the season, many people would have predicted we would be out of the League Cup and already doomed in the league. It’s a credit to the players and the management that we’re still very much alive and kicking in both.

Saturday’s result was a really good one for Hearts because there were times in the game when Dundee United really impressed me, particularly Stuart Armstrong who once again looked the part in their midfield. United created their fair share of chances on Saturday and probed right to the end, but, as we saw when we beat Aberdeen earlier in the season, the game is not always about who creates the better chances. Spirit and organisation can take you far in this league, as we are finding.

I’ve praised Jamie Hamill plenty times this season – and once again he didn’t let us down. But the one who really stood out for me on Saturday was Danny Wilson. He’s a looking like a real quality young player and is doing a magnificent job of marshalling the defence. Alongside him was Dylan McGowan, who showed that he is more comfortable at centre-back than he is at right-back. There were lots of positives from ­Saturday.

We can grumble about the disallowed goal – and it was a bit of a sore one – but I think, over the piece, we should be happy just to take a point from such a tough game against an impressive United side.

After progressing in the cup and then picking up a really good point, we are now perfectly set up for our biggest game of the season so far against St Mirren on Saturday. You would expect Aberdeen to beat Saints tonight and keep them within our sights, but football’s such a crazy game and it might not pan out like that. Regardless of what happens tonight, though, Saturday’s game, for me, is bigger to Hearts than last season’s League Cup final against St Mirren. Make no mistake: this game is of cup final proportions to Hearts.

Hearts’ season has taken on extra spice with us being given a trip to Easter Road to face Hibs in the League Cup. Aside from crunch league games against St Mirren, games don’t get much bigger than a cup tie against your local rivals, so it’s one everyone at the club will be relishing.

The remarkable thing is that some of these players – probably mostly Hibs players – will be preparing for their third derby cup tie in as many seasons. In my whole time at Hearts, I think my only cup tie against Hibs was the Wayne Foster game at Easter Road in 1994. We’d certainly settle for a repeat of that this time round.

On another positive note, I was delighted to see the Big Hearts community programme run by Alan White being picked as the best of the 42 clubs in the country. As we can see with the way the fans are rallying to the cause, Heart of Midlothian is all about the community and helping everybody as much as possible, so it’s great to see Alan earn such recognition for his efforts. Hearts’ community programme is the template that’s needed on a larger scale for the running of the actual football club.