With the new football season almost upon us, all the pre season games, good or bad, can now be put to bed. Managers should hopefully have their starting elevens fresh in their minds, players will have worked off any extra pounds they may have gained over the summer, and fans across the country will be counting down the minutes until this weekends big kick-off.
Hearts have had a fairly productive pre season campaign, one that has allowed their ‘youthful’ first team some valuable game time against a mixed bag of opposition. I’m personally not one for looking too much into pre season results and believe the only value of them is players fitness and managers trying out new ideas. However I must admit that I’ve been encourage by the way certain players have developed and also the vibe that’s coming out of the Hearts camp with regards to over coming the 15 point deduction.
No doubt the talk amongst many Hearts fans in workplaces and pubs over the next few days will be about who should be playing where and what formation. With a threadbare squad, but one that has potential, I think that the best formation would be 4-3-3. Jamie MacDonald would be in between the sticks, with a back four in front of him of, from right to left, Jamie Hamill, Brad McKay, Danny Wilson and Kevin McHattie. My three in midfield would be Callum Tapping, Dylan McGowan and Jason Holt. And in the final third I’d have Callum Paterson on the right, Jamie Walker on the left and Ryan Stevenson as a long striker. Granted there will be suspensions, injuries and other issues for the players and management staff to contend with, but I personally think this is Hearts strongest eleven.
Jamie MacDonald has been rock solid since he was given the gloves on a regular basis and the new club captain Danny Wilson will be one of the first names on the timesheet. Jamie Hamill has received a lot of negative reviews from fans in recent weeks, but I it’s a bit unjust. People are forgetting that he was out for an extended period of time with a serious knee injury and only played a handful of games last season. All our bodies are different, and some take longer than others to recover, not to mention regaining confidence. I’m not making any excuses for him, I’m just saying he should be cut some slack until he’s had a decent amount of competitive games under his belt. Kevin McHattie has slotted into the left back position very well. My only concern is when he’s up against someone with pace, but he’ll learn to position himself better with experience and I have every faith in him. Brad McKay has been one of the standout performers in pre season from what I’ve witnessed and read. He’s a big guy for his age and has that ‘never say die’ attitude that Hearts really need at this moment.
Callum Tapping has been another top performer in pre season and one which has surprised me a little. Last season I thought he was a bit too lightweight, but he appears to have come onto a game at the right time. Dylan McGowan could be used in the ‘Darren Barr’ type role, although his preferred position is at centre back, I feel that McKay and Wilson have that position covered. I’m hoping for big things from Jason Holt this season and he could just offer that creative spark that will be vital with Hearts short in numbers up front. I was really impressed with Callum Paterson last season and he’s another young guy who is built for the SPFL. Jamie Walker on the other flank has a really bright future in the game and I’m hoping to see him perform more consistently for the full 90 minutes this season. And Ryan Stevenson will have the added pressure on his shoulders to score the goals that Hearts will need if they are to climb up the table. I’d also be happy to see Paterson and Stevenson swap over if/when a game requires it.
The other youngsters who I haven’t mentioned will definitely get their chance to show the manager and fans what they can do. With a season when every match will be like a cup final, a packed out Tynecastle Stadium is vital in lifting spirits and moral around the whole football club.