Ryan McGowan reckons fellow Australian Nathaniel Atkinson can enjoy a ‘new lease of life’ under interim Hearts boss Steven Naismith.

Atkinson had fallen out of favour under Robbie Neilson before the manager was sacked last month.

The Australia internationalist joined the Jambos from Melbourne City in January last year but has struggled to make the right-back berth his own.

The 23-year-old was part of the Socceroos squad for the World Cup in Qatar last winter but made just his third start since then in Hearts’ 6-1 thrashing of Ross County on their last outing.

McGowan watched Atkinson earn a big reputation coming through the ranks Down Under and believes his countryman can make the most of a fresh start under Naismith.

The Aussie pair came up against each other as Hearts lost 3-2 to McGowan’s St Johnstone in a closed-doors game on Friday.

The 33-year-old said: “Atkinson was right-back and he looked like he had a bit of a new lease of life because it was probably similar to how he played when he was at Melbourne City.

“When Hearts had the ball he was very, very high up the pitch, either on the touchline or coming inside into that sort of inverted full-back region.

“He was another one who caused us a few problems because he just knows where that space is and it was more up to the Hearts midfielders to recognise where he was and try to get him on the ball as much as possible.”

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Meanwhile, McGowan believes Hearts could be catching Celtic at the right time this weekend.

The Hoops can clinch the Premiership title with four games to spare with a victory at Tynecastle on Sunday.

But, with the fallback of then sealing the league at Ibrox six days later, McGowan wonders whether Ange Postecoglou’s side might take their eye off the ball following Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final victory over rivals Rangers.

McGowan was part of the Hearts team that shocked Celtic at the penultimate stage of the cup in 2012, but since then the Jambos have managed just three wins in 42 meetings with the Parkhead outfit.

He told the Scarves Around The Funnel Hearts podcast: “You need to be aggressive at the right times [against Celtic], but you also need to stay in the game.

“There’s nothing more deflating than when Celtic come to Tynecastle, and I’ve been involved in those games, and they score after four or five minutes.

“You can just feel the energy getting sucked out of everybody.

“Historically, if you look back at any time when Hearts have beaten Celtic there is that pattern of not letting them score early, getting the first goal and getting the crowd behind you, playing on the front foot.

“You could also say it’s a pretty good time to play Celtic, if there is such a good time to play them.

“They’ve got the derby the week afterwards where they could secure the win there.

“They’ve had this massive high of beating Rangers, to possibly get the treble now, which is realistically what they’re going to do.

“If there is going to be a game where they’re going to tail down, it probably would be this one.”