HEARTS winger Arvydas Novikovas insists there’s no point in picking over the wreckage of the past few weeks.
Instead, the Lithuanian says he and his team-mates must simply dust themselves down, puff out their chests and set about rescuing their season.
The Tynecastle side have been up against it on all fronts since the beginning of the campaign.
Manager John McGlynn has had to fill his side with unproven youth players after seeing key figures sold on or consigned to the treatment table. While the youngsters have done as well as can be expected, the Jambos have lost their last three matches – conceding nine goals in the process – and find themselves struggling in tenth place, eight points adrift of the top six.
Novikovas acknowledges that it would be easy for the players to become despondent but he is adamant it is time for all Hearts players to stand up and be counted. “We have lost two games at home in a row now and I think it’s time to show our heart and our spirit,” he said.
“The boys need to get back to playing football the way we know we can. There is no point in getting down because you cannot go back [and change things].
“The only way we can improve things is to go out and win as many games as we can. We don’t have any other options, a lot of our players have left the club and the young players have had to come into the side.
“They have to understand the situation and get on with it, learn from their experiences in the side and they shouldn’t get down. Andy Webster and Marius Zaliukas are also very good, they are like two coaches and are helping the young players to come through this.
“It’s a case of everyone keeping their chins up right now.” Tonight, Hearts visit Danny Lennon’s St Mirren in the hope of not only bagging a win that would help them claw back some ground in the battle for the top six, but also improve their wretched away form.
They have triumphed just once on their travels this season – a 3-0 success over Dundee United last September – but will travel without Marius Zaliukas, Jamie Hamill, Danny Grainger, Callum Paterson and Scott Robinson through injury, while Ryan Stevenson is serving the final game of his three-match suspension.
They also lost Ryan McGowan during the January transfer window and winger Andrew Driver to MLS side Houston Dynamo last week, and, with that number of changes, Novikovas feels his side need just a little more time to come good.
“Maybe the team need a little bit of time now because there have been a lot of changes,” he said. “Marius is out, we lost Ryan McGowan, Danny and Jamie have been out – that is a lot of people from the defence and it has made things very difficult.
“It is an important area of the pitch and all of these guys would be main players in any team’s defence. I suppose, though, this means now that there are a lot of spaces for the younger players to come in to the side and show the manager that they can do a job for him.
“I think we have been playing quite well but we have not been taking our chances.
“We just haven’t been able to put that finishing touch on to it, or find that final step to take us over the line. And we have been unlucky, too. We are working really hard in training and particularly on finishing and hopefully all of our work will be there for everyone to see tonight.
“Everyone knows that we have got a lot of young boys but I think they have been putting everything into the side and playing quite well.”
Tonight’s match is a dress-rehearsal for the Scottish Communities League Cup final on March 17. With the Hampden showpiece and an Edinburgh derby at Easter Road seven days earlier, looming large, the Hearts players will be desperate to stake their claim for starting places.
Novikovas reckons, however, that he and his team-mates cannot afford to look any further ahead than their next match.
He said: “The St Mirren game is the most important for us right now but obviously if you play well in the next few games then people will be thinking about the cup final.
“Like the manager says, if you do well in training all week then you have got a good chance of starting at the weekend.
“Every player in the squad is competing against the rest and we all want to play as much football as possible.
“There are a lot of games to be played this season and we would all like to be involved in every single one of them.
“You have to be on top of your game all of the time.”
Novikovas, however, is not just playing to impress McGlynn. He has failed to hold down a regular starting spot in the team and is one of a number of Jambos whose contract runs out at the end of this season. He knows therefore that he could be amongst those heading for the exit in the summer.
While his future is up in the air, though, he says he will see out the remainder of the season focusing on trying to prove his worth in every single match that he features in.
“I can’t say anything about what my future will be yet – time will tell,” he added. “I just have to keep training hard, playing well and see what happens. It is just a case now of waiting to see how things go.”