Gary Mackay: Why Austin MacPhee is so important for Hearts against Celtic

Austin MacPhee is one of the most important people at Hearts ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Cup final.

Friday, 24th May 2019, 6:30 am
Austin MacPhee is the man behind Hearts' set-pieces

A lot of top teams nowadays have not only good footballers but big, strong and athletic guys. Celtic don’t have a big physical presence for a team of their quality. That’s where set-pieces become so important, so that means the assistant coach becomes more important.

Everybody waxes lyrical to me about how diligent Austin is with his set-pieces. He works very hard at them and they will be a huge part of Saturday’s game from a Hearts perspective.

We don’t score too many goals from open play. We did score a lovely one last week against Celtic from Jake Mulraney and that will help the confidence. However, a lot of our goals come from set-plays and things which have been worked on at training.

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That is a part of the modern game. It’s something I’m sure we will be well prepared for. I reckon it will be a case of trying to use our physicality at free-kicks, throw-ins and corners. We will try to put Celtic under pressure. That’s what led to the goal on Sunday, even though that wasn’t a set-piece. We took advantage of the situation.

These opportunities don’t come along too often against the better teams so we need to capitalise when they arise. That’s vital tomorrow. Austin will no doubt prepare set-pieces for the guys who are going to start the game and anyone who might come off the bench.

If Uche Ikpeazu is fit enough to play, I wouldn’t expect Hearts to be running in behind Celtic. Certainly not continuously for 90 minutes. I’m sure they will be working on set-pieces to utilise his strength.

The gulf within the league indicates Hearts don’t have much of a realistic chance of winning the cup. What you have to hang on to is that Hearts have shown in one-off games that we can match the best over recent seasons. We have done that against Celtic, particularly in the 4-0 game at Tynecastle.

I think that will have come into play during the preparations this week. If we are going to lift the trophy, that’s probably the way we will do it. Get in about Celtic from before the first whistle to after the last. That takes legs and energy on a big Hampden pitch.

I just hope that the backing the supporters have given the club, through administration to the present day, is rewarded with a positive performance. Hopefully that leads to a positive result.