It’s night and day – Aaron McEneff frustrated by fixtures behind closed doors

Celtic v Heart of Midlothian – Premier Sports Cup – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Steve Welsh)

Hearts midfielder Aaron McEneff admits he is frustrated by the prospect of playing Sunday’s game against Ross County behind closed doors.

All Scottish matches on Boxing Day will be played with a restriction of 500 spectators following Government restrictions imposed on Tuesday.

McEneff arrived at Hearts almost a year ago, at a time when supporters were not allowed inside stadiums due to Covid-19.

Having experienced the thrill of playing in front of full crowds for almost five months, he is demoralised by the thought of Tynecastle being empty for the Staggies’ visit.

He said: “We did it for long enough playing with no fans in the stadiums, and football’s nowhere near the same without them. It’s like night and day between playing in an empty stadium and playing in front of a packed house.

“When Tynecastle’s full, the atmosphere is amazing. We’ve had some great days there this year. When I scored against Dundee United, the place went mental and it was an amazing atmosphere.

“Just thinking back to last year when I scored and there was no one there, it was night and day.

“It’s really hard as a footballer to compare those two things now that we’re looking at that happening again. It’s frustrating.”

McEneff is relieved that the match against Hibernian has a chance of going ahead with supporters in attendance after it was rescheduled from January 3 to February 1.

He said: “I’ve never played in an Edinburgh derby before and if I was going to be involved in this one, I would much rather play it with a full house of fans.”

McEneff has been restricted to just two starts and 11 appearances in total this season as other midfielders have been preferred.

The Irishman said: “It’s not been easy being out of the team. It’s been frustrating at times but you have to roll with it.

“You have to keep your head down and keep working hard because if you don’t do that, the only person who will lose out is yourself. I’ve been getting involved a lot more recently and I’ll continue working hard to try and be involved more regularly going forward.”

McEneff explained how a tight-knit dressing room has helped keep his spirits up at a time when he has not had the game time he would like.

He said: “To be honest, if you’re not playing it’s frustrating and a lot of times you can fall out with the environment you’re in and stuff but this changing room is the complete opposite.

“All the boys get on and enjoy training and the games. When someone’s having a difficult period, there are always boys rallying round to help them out. It’s a really good group of lads and you can see that in those moments when people are genuinely happy for others if they score a goal.

“For myself, who’s been out of the team and the squad at times, when you’ve got lads like that around you, it makes you want to work hard to make sure you’re ready to go in and do your bit for the team.”

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