HEARTS manager Gary Locke stressed today that he is working his players relentlessly on defensive drills at training, but warned that mistakes are inevitable with such a young squad.
The Edinburgh club have conceded 11 goals in their last two matches – a 7-0 defeat by Celtic and a 4-1 loss at Tannadice. Locke wants to stop cheap concessions ahead of Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s visit to Tynecastle this weekend.
He explained that defensive shape and organisation is a huge part of Hearts’ weekly training schedule. However, he also admitted some players are having to learn their apprenticeship in the first team when they should really be playing under-20 football.
“We are always trying to work really hard on defensive shape, with and without the ball. We’re pretty religious on shaping things up every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We go over everything,” said Locke. “I think a lot of the players we have are attack-minded. We haven’t really got a couple of natural defensive midfield players. The likes of Callum Tapping, Scott Robinson and even Jamie Hamill like to get forward.
“The younger guys are improving and they’re learning all the time. Unfortunately, you’re really looking for them to be making their mistakes in the under-20 team. They can’t get the sort of upbringing they should be getting because one or two of them should be playing in the under-20s at the moment and making their mistakes in there. Instead, they’re making them in a first-team environment where there is so much at stake.
“It’s difficult, but all we can do is keep working with them all the time. Training sessions are pretty repetitive to be honest because we have to repeat doing the same thing. We want to stop losing silly goals and make sure we’re as tight as we can be at the back. Then we need to have our midfield protecting the back four and the strikers protecting the midfield.
“We don’t just lose goals because the back four aren’t defending well enough. You have to defend as a team and that starts with the two strikers. Because we don’t have a lot of experienced players, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s important the younger boys learn from their mistakes but they are going to make them. That’s the unfortunate thing.”