Hearts assistant manager Austin MacPhee has hailed Steven Naismith’s influence at Tynecastle, and insists the Scotland internationalist has helped ease Craig Levein’s absence.
The on loan Norwich City player netted a hat-trick and set up Olly Lee for the other as the Gorgie outfit beat St Mirren 4-1 last weekend to maintain their flawless start to the Premiership after four games.
Naismith, who has netted seven goals in eight appearances this term, also earned a recall to the national team for this evening’s friendly against Belgium and Monday’s UEFA Nations League clash with Albania.
The build-up to the Saints clash was far from normal for the squad after Levein was hospitalised at the start of that week due to a heart problem, although he is expected to return for next Saturday’s trip to Motherwell.
And MacPhee insists former Rangers and Everton forward Naismith’s presence on and off the pitch was hugely beneficial.
He said: “In addition to what everyone saw inside the stadium on Saturday, Steven plays a massive role at the club in the standard he sets for himself the other players around him.
“He is almost like a coach on the pitch and his standards were high for the entire 90 minutes on Saturday in how he wants things done.
“He was a great help to me during the week, I leaned on hm quite closely along with the other senior players just to make sure everything felt like how it would feel with the manager around.
“I think it’s the first hat-trick since 2015 for a Hearts player and he also assisted the other goal with an intelligent header, and it was a fantastic performance.”