Hearts should take note ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League qualifier with Paksi SE.
The Falkirk midfielder had a six-month loan spell with Ujpest Dozsa in 2009 and returned to Scotland with a healthy respect for Hungarian footballers’ skills. But he thought they were a bit soft. Millar, a Celtic youth academy graduate, is a feisty sort. Diminutive he may be, but hard tackling is a major part of his combative approach.
“Their players are good technically but they don’t like the rough stuff,” said Millar. “They always want time on the ball and they don’t take kindly to hard tackles. That was one of the main things I noticed during my time with Ujpest. If you put in a heavy tackle, the players would all go crazy and lose the plot.
“Guys like Ian Black love going into challenges for Hearts and they will be really important. If they get on top of the Paksi midfield in the first leg, I don’t think Hearts will have too many problems. They have quality players but they are also strong physically. That will be vital. I am surprised Paksi are in Europe because they were never one of the better teams in Hungary when I was there. If they get even a draw in Hungary, they will go through. I fancy them to win comfortably at Tynecastle.”
Millar’s main note of caution for Jim Jefferies’ side was related to the stifling Hungarian heat. His spell at Ujpest coincided with Willie McStay’s period as manager, and he was left gasping for breath during his first summer training session.
“The heat and humidity can take a bit of getting used to,” he said. “In our first session, I raced away during one of the longer runs and everyone else took it easy. Later on, I could hardly run. The other players paced themselves but I was done in. Hearts will need to watch that. They like to play at a high tempo but they should maybe conserve energy. The pressure is on Paksi to get a result, so Hearts can sit in and wait for a chance.”
Millar also expects Hearts to receive a special welcome from the Paksi supporters. The fixture is being played at Videoton’s 14,000-seater stadium due to the smaller capacity at Paksi’s own ground and Millar expects bedlam in the stands.
He said: “Hungarian fans are wild, there are loads of ‘ultras’ and they go crazy for their team. It’s unreal at times but the Hearts players are used to big games so they should cope.”
Hearts midfielder David Obua, meanwhile, was last night given hope of making the clash with Paksi after getting his hands on a new passport. Now all the Ugandan needs is to secure a visa before the Hungarian Embassy closes at noon today. As his team-mates flew to Budapest, Obua had to fly to London after being told there was no more space in his passport for stamps.
Jefferies said: “Because of where he comes from he has to get it stamped and it was full. We’ve got people at the club who should be dealing with that, but it could cause us not to have him available. That would be a blow because in pre-season games and on Saturday he did well, but there’s a lot of versatility in the squad.”