Hearts’ Assistant Head Coach Austin MacPhee expressed his delight at seeing John Souttar return to action in the 3-0 victory over East Fife.
The central defender played the first 45 minutes of Saturday’s Betfred Cup tie, marking his first game back since rupturing his achilles at Celtic Park on January 29th.
The 20-year-old put in a solid first-half display, showing great composure on the ball in a game where the Jambos dominated possession. Speaking to the press post-match, Austin took time to praise the defender’s attitude during his lengthy injury lay-off.
“It’s been frustrating for him being out and he was a massive loss for us last season. It came right at the end of the January transfer window and the reality is we never really replaced him,” said Austin.
“We’ve got a great medical team here. Karen Gibson and the team have worked tirelessly with him over the last seven months.
“His attitude has been most impressive and I think he can go right to the top of the game. Sometimes these things, such as the injury he’s had, are sent to test you and for him to get back and look so comfortable is a credit to both him and the medical team.
“John gives us so much comfort on the ball coming out from defence. He’s one of the few players who’s really good to watch on the ball in the defensive third of the pitch, so to get 45 minutes of competitive football into him today bodes well for the future.”
The game itself was won thanks to a Kyle Lafferty brace and a Christophe Berra header and Austin insists there’s plenty more to come from Hearts’ number 9.
“Tynecastle can be a tough place to play for a striker but Kyle’s got the personality to handle it. Isma’s the same, they can miss chances but they’ll keep coming back to try again. I think the fans will really warm to the two of them playing up top.
“There were a number of good individual performances today. Jordan McGhee’s just come back from Middlesbrough and we’ve been very impressed with his attitude and also with how he played today.
"They had a go at us in the first 15 minutes of the second half. In games like this it’s important to defend well too and I think both Jordan and Jack Hamilton did very well. You’ve also got new guys like Michael Smith and Rafal Grzelak settling in and I thought they were solid.”