Robbie Neilson praised veteran midfielder Robert Snodgrass for his ability to dictate games for Hearts.
The 35-year-old former Scotland, Leeds, Aston Villa and West Ham player has become a key man for the Jambos since his arrival as a free agent in September.
Snodgrass underlined his importance to the team with another impressive display in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Kilmarnock.
“His influence is growing, his fitness levels are getting there now,” said Hearts boss Neilson.
“He’s a clever player, who has played at the highest level and you can see that, the way he controls the game and helps the rest of the players.
“I’ve been really pleased with him.”
Neilson believes Hearts’ creative players showed in Saturday’s impressive win that they have benefitted from a five-week break after a gruelling opening to the season in which they had to juggle Europa Conference League group-stage commitments with domestic affairs.
“We played 25 games in something like 13 weeks so it was relentless and with the amount of injuries, we had to ask guys to keep going,” said Neilson.
“These guys that play in these positions, they need a rest and need to come off just to keep that freshness.
“Getting that break and then Saturday-Saturday games, I think we’ll start to see the real quality we’ve got in those forward areas.”
Kilmarnock assistant Tony Docherty is “concerned” about an injury sustained by Innes Cameron in the warm-up that caused him to be replaced in the starting line-up by teenager Bobby Wales shortly before kick-off.
“Normally when you do a hamstring, you do it when you’re running and opening up but he did it when he was striking the ball so it’s a bit of a concern,” said Docherty. “He’s in a bit of a pain. We’ll get a scan done but it doesn’t look great.”
Docherty admits the late change was a blow to Kilmarnock, who produced a poor first-half display at Tynecastle before rallying after the break.
But the assistant felt 17-year-old Wales could hold his head high with the way he performed in his first senior start.
“When you set up all week and do your preparation for the game, and then lose the big man like that, it’s difficult,” he said. “Young Bobby’s been doing fantastic in the youths so we put him in so we didn’t have to change the system.
“He equipped himself well in the system and then when we changed to a front two with Christian Doidge beside him in the second half, I thought he did well and looked a threat.
“As difficult a situation as it was, it was an opportunity for Bobby and he showed up well.”