First team

Naismith: Keeping Craig Key

09 February 2024

Steven Naismith highlighted the importance of keeping club legend Craig Gordon at Tynecastle as he looks ahead to Sunday’s Scottish Cup trip to Airdrieonians.


Hall of Fame member Craig will remain a Hearts player until at least 2025, after penning a contract extension this week. Keeping the captain was a no-brainer for Naismith, who emphasised Craig’s importance both on and off the pitch.  


“I don’t think it was ever in doubt, it was a very easy one to sort,” he told the media ahead of the game.


“From the moment Craig returned to the club, you felt he was going to be here until he decided to be finished. He’s someone with experience, who’s won trophies.


“That knowledge and understanding of demand, he’s one of the key people about the place. You probably get that mentality from playing for the Old Firm. He’s a key figure to have around the club and he’s a brilliant one to get signed on and keep as part of the group.


“There’s a lot of people around this club: backroom staff, office staff, that have been here for twenty or thirty years and it’s important these guys speak and get across what it means to play for Hearts. Craig’s another extension of that.”


A cracking cup tie lies in wait for the Jambos on Sunday as round five action takes Hearts to Airdrie for a meeting with Rhys McCabe’s Airdrieonians in front of the BBC Scotland cameras at the Excelsior Stadium.


Naismith’s friendship with his opposite number stems back to their days as teammates at Rangers, with the boss highlighting the importance of maintaining a level head going into a potentially challenging cup tie.


“A lot of credit goes to Rhys,” he explained. “Similar to myself, he probably took the job earlier that most people would expect him to. He’s probably doing the part which is tougher – in the sense that he’s coaching and still playing.


“The work he’s done is excellent and I’m delighted for him. I’ve got a good relationship with him from his time as a young player at Rangers. It’s credit to him that he’s still playing and keeping his fitness levels up whilst carrying the burden of being a manager.


“We know it’ll be tough because they’re a good footballing team. We’ve been to Hampden once this season and were obviously disappointed not to go further. We don’t go into any game expecting to win.


“I think most of our performances have had that understanding where we realise, we need to work hard, watch their threats, and be good in possession. It’ll be two good football teams on Sunday, which should make it a great cup tie.”