"I just didn't want to go the full season without doing anything!"

Barrie McKay produced a sparkling performance in the 3-0 win over Dundee at Tynecastle Park, recording his first assists of what has been a hugely frustrating campaign. It was just his 14th appearance of the season, just his fifth from the start and third in the league.

The 29-year-old has previously spoken in detail about the impact of ankle and knee issues that have plagued his season. How it is the first time he has had to deal with missing so much game time and what he has had to do in the gym and away from the pitch to recover and rehab.

READ MORE: Fitness frustration and what Shankland doesn't get credit for - Barrie McKay Q&A

Hearts head coach Steven Naismith believes fans won't see him back to his very best until next season with a full pre-season under his belt.

"He’s a brilliant asset to have," Naismith said after Saturday's game. "Baz isn’t fit, you can see that, he’s been a long time out. He’s got unbelievable quality and he’s good at managing himself within that game and lasting 80 minutes. He started against Livingston and came up with some big moments. Against Dundee, his quality’s good again. What we get out of him this season is a bonus. He’ll be really important next season.

"It’s always tough for players when you miss a big chunk of the season everybody is at their peak and you’re trying to cling on to get there, I've been there myself. We’ll not see him at his prime and best condition until after preseason I think but he’s still contributing so that shows you the quality he’s got."

This summer is important to McKay. He will be able to go through his usual routine, put in the work he does every year before returning for pre-season. Something he wasn't afforded 12 months ago due to the aforementioned ankle issue.

"I think probably just train as hard as I can in the off-season," he said of his plans for the summer. "Usually I'd take a bit of a break. Because of how many games I have played recently, I don't think I need it this year. I probably need a lot of fitness work, strength work and making sure I am in a good position come pre-season.

"I work with a guy in the summer. Last year I never got that because I had the operation on my ankle. Came back from that and did my knee. Came back from that and did my knee again. It's been a frustrating season but if I can get to the summer and get a bit of a break, then get ready to go next season."

He added: "You speak to people who have been injured and sometimes they say it can be however long you are out, that's how long it can take you to get back. You need to try and get through the bad times and hopefully good times come."


McKay is different to anyone else Naismith has at his disposal. The player made reference to that himself. Kenneth Vargas, Alan Forrest and Yutaro Oda are quick individuals who like to run with the ball or run in behind. Jorge Grant provides creative solutions but in a different way to McKay.

When he is in the team players can make runs and know there is a player who has the vision and talent to find them. 

"I know when I play I can help the team," he said. "I think I am different to the other wingers we have got. In that sense, I see different passes.

"I think I can help the team in that way, players maybe make different runs when I am on the ball. Thankfully against Dundee I could show that."

McKay also believes he can help take some responsibility away from Lawrence Shankland when it comes to the build-up of play.

"Shanks is such an intelligent player and I don't think he really gets the credit he deserves for the difference in his game," he explained. "He is known as a goal scorer but he does have a lot more.

"His game intelligence is top and he always seems to be in good positions. Maybe now, he'll stand in a position because he knows I'll find him with the pass. It's about building those connections again."