Barrie McKay could be in line for his first start for Heart of Midlothian since August when they host St Mirren on Saturday at Tynecastle Park.

The 28-year-old has missed the majority of the season due to ankle and knee injuries. He had started the campaign recovering from the former before sustaining the latter in the Conference League play-off clash with PAOK Salonika in Gorgie.

McKay has since returned to first-team action and been part of the squad for the past three matches. Having appeared off the bench against Rangers for a short period, he was an unused substitute in the defeat to Aberdeen before playing nearly 30 minutes at Celtic Park.

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He came on in the centre of the pitch and it is a role he could be in line to play against the Buddies, as third face fourth in the Premiership, due to an injury to Jorge Grant.

Steven Naismith, speaking to Hearts Standard, suggested there may be doubts from some fans around McKay playing as a centre midfielder in the 3-5-2 system due to his deployment there in a chastening 3-0 home defeat to Rangers last season alongside Garang Kuol and Robert Snodgrass. But the Hearts head coach is confident McKay has the qualities to thrive in the role.

"Baz comes on in the midfield three on Saturday," he said. "I don’t think a lot of people would have said he could do it. A lot of folk would have questioned [it]. He played there against Rangers last season at Tynie and it was like a sieve, the amount of chances given up.

"Baz is a really intelligent player, brilliant footballer and it’s about asking him to do things he is definitely capable of but giving him the understanding of why we are doing it and what we need when we win the ball back.

"I think we have a squad of players who are versatile, it’s about being creative in the areas we might not think they are good enough. How do we help them in that respect? Is it a case of slightly tweaking it when you are out of possession or whatever that may be?

"A team with Barrie McKay in it is a good team."

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