The new-look Hearts team continue their battle to win over their disillusioned support when Hamilton Accies visit Tynecastle on Saturday.
After a run of five games without a win in all competitions, failure to defeat the Premiership’s second-bottom side this weekend will merely crank up the acrimony in Gorgie.
Christian Nade can empathise with the nine January recruits currently enduring a baptism of fire amid a grim start to Ian Cathro’s reign as Hearts head coach. In the Frenchman’s first season at the club, at a time when chaos levels under Vladimir Romanov’s rule were peaking, Hearts plummeted into the bottom six. The backlash was fierce, with Nade and a raft of other new faces from Eastern Europe bearing the brunt.
The 32-year-old, who now enjoys a good relationship with the Hearts support, has warned the recent recruits they need to stay strong mentally and ensure they are giving everything for the cause if they are to ride out the storm.
“When you move to a different country, it is always difficult, especially when you are going to a big club like Hearts where the fans expect a lot,” Nade said. “You’ve got to be ready for it. When you sign the contract, you should do your research to see what kind of club you are going to and what the expectation is like. Hearts are a great club to play for but the fans expect the team to win most weekends. When you don’t win and don’t perform, that’s when you are open to criticism. I remember getting abuse when things were not going well.
“It’s hard mentally, especially when you’re younger. You can be scared to touch the ball. Sometimes you try and look like you’re working hard but you run somewhere where your partner can’t pass you the ball. That’s because of fear. When it’s like that you need to get help from the club, the coach and team-mates and try and put yourself in a bubble where you can’t hear what the fans are saying. You just have to work hard to put your game together and try to forget about it.”
Hibs, Inverness and Ross County have all put up strong resistance at Tynecastle in recent weeks, sparking varying levels of disenchantment from the home support. Hamilton will be aiming to do likewise. “The players have to stick together and help each other,” he said. “The Hearts fans expect a lot from their players so they are very quick to turn when things don’t go well. But when things go well, they are great fans to play for. They get right behind you and that gives you confidence. But to get that, you have to give everything. Losing games is part of football but if they can see that you have come off the pitch and have given everything you could, they won’t complain so much about that.”
Nade admits he was guilty of underestimating the demands of playing for Hearts when he arrived in summer 2007. He suspects a few of the new recruits may have done likewise.
“At Hearts, pretty much every team is desperate to beat you because they want to be in your position, playing for Hearts,” he said. “They give 110 per cent against you because they want to show they are better than you. When you play for Hearts, you need to know that a lot of players would love to be in your position, so you need to give 120 per cent. When I came to Hearts I thought it would be easy so I probably didn’t give 100 per cent. I was young then, though. I wish I knew then what I know now because I would definitely be better equipped to play for Hearts now.”
Nade believes everyone at Hearts will benefit if the fans stay united and rally behind their beleaguered team. “They have good players so it will come good, but the fans need to try and stick by them,” he said. “They’ve brought in nine new players so it will take time.
“I saw some of the games when they were playing with confidence and you could see they were very good. Those players just need to be confident again. If the fans stick with them, that will come back at some point.”