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Derek McInnes | Hearts Preview

December 29, 2017 1:00 pm Author: AFC Media Team

“Absolutely delighted to get Niall.

“It was first mentioned a few weeks ago about Niall being a free agent and we decided we would be keen to have him with us. At that stage we were aware there would be other clubs interested, as when good players become free agents there’s normally more than one club after him.

“We had been given plenty encouragement that he was keen to come back and work with us and pick up from where he left off. That’s what we’re hoping for and we’re absolutely delighted. I think it’s a brilliant signing for us because when we lost players in the summer I wanted to keep all five lads that left and continue to work with them because they’d done well for me. Niall has certainly done well for myself and Aberdeen with his goal and assist return and consistency in performance.

“When you get a free agent with 50 caps for his country it’s not always easy to get those types, but his affection for the club and the way we work here has played a huge part in him wanting to come back. I think it’s a huge boost, not only for the staff, but for his teammates and also the supporters. I’m sure they will welcome him back with open arms and Niall will hopefully in January be ready to pick up where he left off.

“I don’t know how strong other interests were and I’m pretty sure there was a case there, but I’m not sitting here gloating we’ve won one over other clubs. Niall’s took his time to consider everything, but what we had in our favour was he would know how the supporters would respond to him and we know how happy he was here, not just at the club, but living in and around the city. We always had that card, but still delighted to get him.

“It was a challenge for him going to Korea and obviously something completely different. We did keep in touch and it was more out of concern for how he was doing. There was also a chance that if it didn’t work out as perfectly as he wanted then we were able to pick up the pieces and help him get his career going again.

“He’s had a procedure on a little hernia complaint that’s been bothering him for the last while and I think that played an impact on his time out there. He’s had that tidied up three weeks ago so he’s on schedule to be in full training when we’re back from our winter training camp. He’ll be with us over the next few days, get two or three days at home and then come back and work with the physio along with Greg Tansey and Stevie May on the 4th of January. Hopefully then just progress that rehabilitation and we don’t anticipate any issues with that and then be there or there about’s when we go to the winter training camp. Hopefully he’s available for St Mirren and that’s the ideal scenario for us.

“What was clear when we got into negotiations with Niall was not so much the financial part of it, more the longevity of the contract. You don’t often see that length of contract for a 30-year-old, but we know Niall and he hasn’t picked up many injuries in his time with us and we know he’s a fit boy.

“He’s a 30-year-old internationalist with still loads to prove and loads of his career ahead of him and if that was what helped get the deal done then we were happy to do that. We feel we’ve secured Niall and I know Niall, he plays his best stuff when he’s got also that security. I always felt when he resigned, and I gave him two or three contracts, that stability was there, and he performed even better. Hopefully that continues with the length of contract and it’s a good bit of business.

“There was an eagerness from the board and myself to get this done and we’re grateful to get this sort of signing for the supporters. I’m sure we’ll enjoy working with Niall for the next few years.

“Without doubt this can benefit the group. We’ve got wide players here and have been searching for that consistency from everyone and I think as a team we’ve been doing well to a point where we feel there’s still more to come from us in the second part of the campaign.

“January is a difficult month to make good signings. Sometimes it’s just to get bodies in, but we’re fine with numbers. When you get the opportunity to bring quality into the squad then you’ve got to try and do that and that’s what we’ve done with Niall. There’s no doubt he’s got that quality for us and he’s shown that in the past. The signing of Niall just bolsters that squad.

“He was strolling about here yesterday and this morning as if he’s never been away. There’s not a problem and it won’t be a problem. I think from the football side of it he’s not had as much football as he’d have liked so we might be sympathetic to that for a week or two.

“There’s no pressure on tomorrow. There’s an eagerness to win the game and I think we’ve been in decent form. The Celtic game apart, even though it was a decent performance, I think we’ve had some good results of late and I’ve been really pleased with what the players have given us.

“If we can get to 45 points after the first part of the season I think that would suggest good work being done. With the early start in Europe the players now get a chance to recharge with a week off after the Hearts game and then hopefully kick on as we done last season. I thought we came back from the winter break strongly and hopefully the players that we signed are more aware of what’s expected of them here. Hopefully we finish the second half of the campaign strongly, but first and foremost it’s about getting to 45 points.

“We’re up against a team that have only lost two goals in their last eight games. Craig’s put his stamp on the team and they’re far more competitive and defending with resilience so we’re going to have a job on our hands to win the game.

“The pessimistic part of me looks back on the games where we should have done better in and everyone’s talking about how competitive the league is, if we can get to 45 points at this stage then that is serious good work.

“It’s a credit to the players in how hard they’ve worked and the focus they’ve had on each game.

“There’s still more to come and we all feel that we’re trying to find more consistency in our performances. Some players are playing at a really good level and still some players are looking for that consistency and hopefully we see that in the second part of the campaign.

“I’ve always thought Hearts have had good players even under previous regimes. What’s clear is they’ve got a manager who with experience knows exactly what he wants from his team. They look well drilled and only losing two goals in eight games suggests the work that’s been done there.

“That gives them a platform to try and win every game. While they haven’t won all those games, they still carry that goal threat. They’ve got players that can score from dangerous situations, so we’ve got our work cut out for that side of it, but also got to try and breach a strong defence. The biggest difference between them now and before is how competitive they are, and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for it.

“Maynard is back today after he reported ill the other night, but we’ve managed to settle that down and get him back in today so hopefully he’ll be back in with the squad. Andy (Considine) and Greg Stewart both came off with knocks and stayed with the physio and trained today so we feel they’ll be fine for tomorrow.”

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