Gary Mackay: Former Hearts captain says club could 'absolutely' be relegated

Hearts v Celtic
Hearts were much more competitive in their defeat by Celtic than they had been against St Johnstone

Hearts currently look like a side that "absolutely" could be relegated this term, says former captain Gary Mackay.

The Tynecastle club are 11th in the Scottish Premiership, above Hamilton Academical by just a solitary goal.

Head coach Daniel Stendel has lost his first two games, against St Johnstone and Celtic, and takes his team to Hamilton on Saturday knowing defeat would leave them three points adrift.

"Absolutely," Mackay said when asked if Hearts looked like they could go down.

"If we go into Christmas sitting bottom, which in reality could happen, then there will have to be a lot of soul searching done by everybody within the football department and boardroom."

Owner Ann Budge told the club's AGM on Thursday that no contingency plans had been made in case the club dropped down a division, but confirmed most players' contracts contain relegation clauses.

The defeat by St Johnstone, who were without an away win in 16 matches stretching back to 29 December last year, was greeted with outrage at Tynecastle.

However, there were more encouraging signs despite the 2-0 defeat at the hands of league leaders Celtic on Wednesday.

Stendel's side end the year with the Edinburgh derby against Hibernian on Boxing Day and a home match against third-place Aberdeen, and Mackay believes the squad have to cope with the pressure.

"If they go to Hamilton with the same attitude as they showed against St Johnstone, there's only going to be one outcome and it's not a Hearts draw or victory," said Mackay, speaking before the Celtic game.

"They have to show more passion for the jersey they're wearing and understand that there's not many clubs that can turn out 16,500 supporters when you're sitting bottom of the Premiership.

"Some of the players just looked like they weren't capable of handling that pressure. Hearts are a pretty experienced squad, it's not as if they've got young lads there. For me, they have to handle it."

Top Stories

Around Scottish sport