Simplified football is what Hearts players want under Craig Levein. Midfielder Arnaud Djoum today welcomed the new manager’s guidance as tactics and preparations are streamlined ahead of today’s meeting with Aberdeen.
Djoum and his team-mates have endured a tumultuous, at times chaotic, start to the 2017/18 campaign and understandably want stability. After starting pre-season working to Ian Cathro’s methods, then spending four weeks under interim head coach Jon Daly, Levein’s decision to combine both director of football and manager jobs should bring some steadiness.
No-one can rectify the delayed completion date for Tynecastle’s new main stand, which has forced a switch to BT Murrayfield. Aberdeen visit there today, with St Johnstone due on October 21 and Rangers on October 28. Hearts should return to Gorgie in November.
Levein’s brief is to settle everyone down and minimise disruption over the next few weeks. Djoum explained how his more simplistic approach has already found favour just over a week since the 52-year-old stepped back into a tracksuit.
“It’s really important to get back to basics, do simple things. We need stability, not a lot of changes,” said the Cameroon internationalist. “He [Levein] was there from the start and he knows what he’s talking about. With him it’s a good call to be there and I think he will do good things.
“The way we wanted to play at the start of the season, you had to think a lot about details and little things. I understand he wants now to be more basic, simple football and don’t try to think so much when you play your game.
“I understand that and, in the last two weeks, we’ve tried to do that, whereas before some players were maybe confused about what they needed to do. With him, I think it will be back to normality.”
Djoum spent much of the past fortnight in Africa on international duty. He only caught up with Levein after arriving back at Riccarton on Thursday morning.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things about the manager. It’s an important call the club made to put him in charge and the players have a lot of respect for him. He has got a lot of experience, he played football at a high level, too, and we’re looking forward to getting started.
“He tries to give some advice when he can because he knows a lot about football and we have respect for him. Sometimes he comes on to the training field and speaks to the players about how they feel and he gives some advice for the game.
“He was always very close to the team and he’s been there for a long time so he knows the club and the team. He knows how I play so that’s why I think it’s a good decision. When you take someone else, you need to get to know the players but he knows everyone already. I think it will be better.”
Murrayfield provides plenty of intrigue for supporters, with around 7,000 travelling fans expected to back Aberdeen inside the home of Scottish Rugby today. Hearts fans are also expected to turn out in their numbers.
“I’ve never been to Murrayfield but I live very close to it,” said Djoum. “Every day I see the stadium and it looks really huge. I’m always impressed when I drive by it so I’m really excited to play in it. When I first arrived I thought it was Hearts’ stadium. I asked and they said: ‘No, that’s the rugby stadium.’
“I’ve been involved with the national team and played in a stadium like that. It’s really good. All the players want to play in this kind of stadium so it will be a good experience for me and the team.”
Unlike his recent African sojourn. Cameroon’s results against Nigeria have ended their chances of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.
“It was no so good, we lost the first game 4-0 to Nigeria and then we drew at home. Now we’re out of qualification for the World Cup. It’s disappointing for me and my country but that’s football. We have to look forward.”
Looking forward means focusing on Hearts after some intense summer speculation about the 28-year-old’s club future. He is thankful the transfer window is now closed.
“When I went to the national team I wished nothing would happen. I was really focused on the national team. There was a lot of talk but I’m happy everything is done and the window is finished.
“The speculation is over and now I’ll be really focused on our next games. Even before, it was not a big deal. It was more the people around me.
“My family saw some messages and they’re not so happy. Sometimes people can say some bad things about me because they think I want to leave the club. Sometimes they write some stupid things. I was personally okay but it affected those around me. That’s why I’m happy it’s over.”