Hearts had a nightmare on “quality” gem who could’ve cost £0

Heart of Midlothian will be looking to use the international break as a chance to regroup and work out what has gone wrong over the first few months of the season.

A promising start under Steven Naismith – including an aggregate victory over Rosenborg in the Europa Conference League qualifiers – looked like it could spur the Jambos on to reach the group stages of the competition for the second year in succession.

It wasn’t to be, however, and since the start of September, Hearts have won just five games, including just four in the Premiership and a recent League Cup semi-final defeat to Rangers has piled the pressure on the former Scotland forward.

There could be a few reasons why the Tynecastle side are struggling. Lawrence Shankland netted 28 goals last term, yet this season, he has only scored five league goals. Two of these efforts have come against Celtic and Rangers, but Naismith needs to see more from his captain.

The Gorgie side didn’t exactly enjoy the best of transfer windows, losing Josh Ginnelly, who had registered 20 goal contributions during 2022/23, for nothing, and his replacements haven’t set the heather alight as yet.


Summer arrivals Kenneth Vargas and Kyosuke Tagawa have scored just twice between them, while attacking midfielder Alex Lowry – on loan from Rangers – has shown glimpses of talent, but isn’t quite the finished article.

Could Hearts’ attacking options have been bolstered with the signing of Jamie McGrath? The former Hearts target is currently shining for Aberdeen since moving to the north-east in the summer, having spurned the Jambos’ advances in the process.

Why Hearts didn’t sign Jamie McGrath

Back in July, the Edinburgh side were weighing up a move for the attacking midfielder after he enjoyed a wonderful spell on loan at Dundee United during the 2022/23 season.

The Irishman returned to Wigan Athletic facing an uncertain future having made just four appearances for the Latics since joining from St Mirren in 2022.

Just a few weeks later, Wigan announced that McGrath had left the club by mutual consent and this put Hearts on high alert.

With the player now available on a free transfer, it looked like Naismith could secure someone who had shone in the Premiership previously and without having to shell out a transfer fee.


The Dons had exactly the same idea, however, and just a few days before the transfer deadline, they secured his signature on a two year deal, with manager Barry Robson clearly delighted to bring him on board, saying:

“His creativity, quality of passing and goal contributions will add another dimension to our midfield, and he has the right mentality to fit into our squad.”

Judging by his career statistics and current form at Aberdeen, Naismith has suffered a nightmare by failing to lure the 5 foot 8 gem to Edinburgh.

Jamie McGrath’s career statistics

McGrath made his name in his homeland, impressing at both Dundalk and St Pat’s before securing a move to Scotland in 2020, joining the Buddies.

With 21 goals and 20 assists during his professional career in the Republic of Ireland, St Mirren had signed a wonderful attacking talent, and it didn’t take him long to settle in at the club.

During his only full season in Paisley, McGrath scored 14 times and grabbed six assists, which was no mean feat considering the club finished seventh in the Premiership table, while the midfielder’s ten league goals counted for 27% of St Mirren’s total league goal tally.

It’s no wonder Wigan came in for him last January and while his spell down south didn’t quite go to plan, his loan stint at Dundee Utd last season certainly restored his confidence.

His return to Scotland was praised by journalist Josh Bunting, who said: “There’s going to be pressure on Dundee United to perform this season,I really like their squad and I think Jamie McGrath is a quality addition back into the league. He’s been backed heavily Jack Ross can’t say he wasn’t. McGrath is excellent at getting on the ball and carrying it.”

High praise indeed, and it was certainly vindicated. Across the whole United squad in the league, the 27-year-old ranked second for goals and assists while also ranking first for big chances created and key passes per game, demonstrating how effective he was, despite the club suffering relegation.

Jamie McGrath’s market value in 2023

Aberdeen have benefitted from signing the former Wigan gem as his current market value is now sitting at €1m (£870k) according to Football Transfers, and this figure will only rise, especially due to his wonderful performances.

McGrath scored against PAOK in Aberdeen’s recent Europa Conference League tie, proving he can step up on the big occasions and his displays in the Premiership have also been impressive.

Jamie McGrath’s stats in the Premiership






Shots on target per game



Key passes per game



Big chances created



Successful dribbles per game



Stats via Sofascore

Across just eight league matches, the 27-year-old has not only scored four times, but he ranks second in the squad for shots per game (1.5) along with first for scoring frequency (a goal every 133 minutes) and second for goals and assists (four), indicating that it hasn’t taken him long to settle in at the Dons.

Hearts could’ve done with a player of McGrath’s quality, especially considering the entirety of their midfield has scored just six goals throughout the season so far.

McGrath could have definitely added an extra attacking dynamism to Naismith’s side, and it will feel like a wonderful talent has slipped out of their grasp.

Although Aberdeen haven’t quite clicked as yet, they have still reached the League Cup final and if they can go on a consistent run of form, they could finish third in the table.

Hearts have suffered a nightmare by missing out on the Irishman and the longer the season goes on, this mistake in the transfer window will become more apparent.

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