Hearts boss Craig Levein explains what Anthony McDonald must do to break into first team

Craig Levein feels Anthony McDonald is edging closer to having the required attributes to be a regular for Hearts.

Thursday, 18th July 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 18th July 2019, 7:30 am
Anthony McDonald in training
Anthony McDonald in training

The manager is a huge fan of the 18-year-old attacker’s natural talent and is excited about the way he is developing after he marked an impressive display in Tuesday’s 2-0 Betfred Cup victory over Cowdenbeath by scoring his first competitive goal for the club.

Levein explained that the teenager, who made his debut as a 16-year-old in December 2017, must improve the defensive side of his game in order to become a regular starter, but he is encouraged by the way he is progressing in that regard. Tuesday’s game marked McDonald’s first start for Hearts in more than a year after he spent the second half of last season on loan at Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

“Ant’s a talented boy, he’s very creative,” Levein told the Evening News. “I’m just trying to get him into the way of thinking of his defensive duties as well. For him to be an all-round player and play week in, week out at Hearts, he’s going to have to be able to do everything. He’s getting better. I’ve no question that he can create opportunities for himself and other people. He’s done that since he was 13-year-old. I think we’re getting there with him.”

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Another young attacker given a rare outing on Tuesday was Dario Zanatta, who made his first Hearts start in more than three years. The 22-year-old Canadian has spent time on loan at Queen’s Park, Raith Rovers and Alloa Athletic in recent seasons and now appears to be reaching a critical period in his career following four years at Tynecastle.

“I thought Dario had a good performance against Cowdenbeath,” said Levein. “He’s a bit older than Ant and he’s already had three loans so he’s got more physicality than Ant. He’s a threat, he’s creative and he didn’t do himself any harm against Cowdenbeath.”

Levein has loaned out several young players in recent seasons, but no decision has been taken on either McDonald and Zanatta yet, with both players being given the opportunity to impress. “I’ve not made any decisions with regard to loans,” said Levein. “I want to give everybody an opportunity.”