AUSTIN MacPHEE has whisked Hearts away to St Andrews for a short training camp as the Jambos prepare for a ‘cup final’ against St Mirren.
The Jambos yesterday trained at their temporary Fife base on Wednesday afternoon and stayed in a nearby hotel overnight.
They will be put through their paces again on Thursday morning before returning to Edinburgh.
MacPhee, who is aiming to stake his claim for the Hearts job permanently after replacing Craig Levein on an interim basis, is hopeful the opportunity to build camaraderie and work on tactics will pay dividends.
His first match in charge ended in a chastening 3-0 defeat against Rangers in Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final, however Saturday’s visit of St Mirren provides a more realistic chance to get a maiden victory on the board.
The fixture has swiftly become a crunch clash in the battle to avoid the drop, with the pair locked on eight points at the foot of the Premiership. Hearts are ahead of the Buddies by virtue of a superior goal difference.
MacPhee told Hearts TV: “We want the players to feel like a cup final for the players. We haven’t won at home for far too long.
“Coming here [St Andrews] allows us to train more, have time with the players and make sure they are crystal clear in what we want them to do on Saturday.
“We are building up to a massive game for this club – our last home game for a period – and it’s vital we give the supporters a performance.”
Meanwhile, Michael Smith is a major doubt for the fixture after limping out of the Hampden defeat against the Gers with a quad injury.
The Northern Ireland international took no part in training yesterday and is considered touch and go for the weekend.
Glenn Whelan suffered a hamstring strain at the national stadium and had to be replaced after just 38 minutes. However, the veteran midfielder took part in a light session in St Andrews as he seeks to prove his fitness.
Winger Jake Mulraney was also back on the grass for the first time since being sidelined with ankle ligament damage. He carried out some running drills and is well ahead of schedule in his recovery – having initially been ruled out for six weeks just a fortnight ago.