London Hearts Supporters Club

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8 of 016 Craig Sives 41 ;Mark de Vries 63 ;Dennis Wyness 81 Other Cup H

McAllister to use derby baptism to prove worth


HEARTS defender Jamie McAllister admits that today’s Festival Cup game against rivals Hibs is an ideal opportunity to lay claim to a regular starting berth in what is an important month for the Gorgie club.

The Scotland international, who joined in the summer from Livingston, has yet to make his full competitive debut, with an injury picked up against Fulham in pre-season restricting him to only two substitutes’ appearances.

However, with fellow defender Alan Maybury on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, and Steven Pressley and Andy Webster in the Scotland squad, McAllister is set to be granted a derby baptism in today’s second Festival Cup clash against Tony Mowbray’s side at Tynecastle.

And the 26-year-old hopes pinning down the left-back position at the club will give national team coach Berti Vogts food for thought. McAllister was on stand-by for last month’s shambolic 3-0 defeat at home to Hungary but has now found himself completely frozen out because of his lack of first-team football.

"I picked up an injury in the Fulham game and it kind of cost me my starting place in the first game of the season," said the Glasgow-born player, who won his only Scotland cap in the victory over Trinidad and Tobago at Easter Road in May.

"I am back fighting fit now so I am pushing for a place in the first team and this game gives me an opportunity. Hopefully there are places up for grabs for the Rangers match next week. We have a busy schedule this month with the European games against Braga, and we also have the CIS Cup tie against Kilmarnock. Hopefully I can do enough to establish myself in the Hearts team and then hopefully on the international scene, that would be nice."

By joining the Edinburgh club McAllister brought to an end manager Craig Levein’s arduous search for a reliable left-back, a position that has troubled the head coach since the departure of Frenchman Stephane Mahe.

It was the defender’s form in an administration-hit Livingston side last term that won him international recognition.

He was forced to leave the West Lothian side because of their off-field problems but again finds himself at a club in the middle of a take-over bid.

Levein has defied the odds by guiding his team to successive third-place finishes despite the club’s soaring debt and McAllister insists it is a side of the game footballers have learned to accept.

He added: "I think it is part of life in the SPL now, all this talk of take-overs. A lot of the clubs in the league have struggled, and some are struggling now. You just have to put that to one side and concentrate on the field. If we do our stuff on the field then hopefully everything will be okay off it."

Meanwhile, Levein insists today’s match against city rivals Hibs will be anything but friendly, despite reports that Hearts fans will boycott the tie.

The pressure group Save Our Hearts has urged supporters not to attend the game in protest against the board, and the home nations’ international games have also taken the edge away from the cup, which Hearts won at Easter Road last year courtesy of a solitary Andy Webster goal.

Levein said: "There are a number of things that this game is good for, one is Mark De Vries is just coming back from injury.

"If we didn’t have this game then he would be looking towards being involved in the Rangers game without any match practice whatsoever, which I would not be 100 per cent happy with. Michael Stewart also needs games, as does Neil Janczyk, Jamie, Neil MacFarlane and Dennis Wyness.

"From my point of view it is a friendly match, but it is more like a first-team match than any other friendly match would be. I don’t think you could ever put a Hearts-Hibs game on and expect it to be friendly."

Young centre-half Craig Sives is set to be handed his debut in the absence of Scotland duo Pressley and Webster, while De Vries is expected to start from the bench. Sives, a local boy who has grown up a Hearts supporter, will partner Christophe Berra as part of a youthful central defensive pairing.

Meanwhile, Hearts and Hibs supporters have joined forces to send a petition to Setanta urging them to reinstate the traditional New Year’s Day derby. Just under 500 fans have signed the online petition after the game was switched to 2 January by the subscription television channel.

The original SPL fixture list published was well received by supporters from both clubs when it threw up the first 1 January showdown between the Edinburgh clubs for seven years.

Levein has already voiced his anger over the switch. He said: "We are basically slaves to television these days. I prefer the traditional New Year’s Day derby and always have done. But if the clubs take the money then we have to go along with their way of doing things."

Frank Dougan, treasurer of the Hibs Supporters Association, said: "It’s a disgrace. It’s another footballing tradition which is disappearing."

Taken from the Scotsman

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