RYAN STEVENSON insisted today that the Hearts players must not hide behind the club’s off-the-field problems or use them as an excuse for recent poor results.
The Tynecastle side have won just one of their last six matches, the biggest blow coming last weekend when they were knocked out in the fourth round of the William Hill Scottish Cup at the hands of Hibs.
The club has faced the threat of closure in recent weeks as a result of unpaid tax bills and financial hardship, but Stevenson believes that the players should be able to put that side of things out of their minds and focus simply on the football.
The former St Johnstone and Ayr United player quit Tynecastle in January because of uncertainty over wage payments, so you might expect him to be one the first to react badly to recent developments, having re-signed to the club on deadline day in August.
However, he is determined that he won’t go down that road and said: “Do you want to look at yourself and use that as an excuse? I don’t.
“I will not hide from it. I’ve not been playing as well as I can play. I’ve not been scoring as many goals as I should of. Do I want to use that as an excuse and say it’s the money situation, it’s this, it’s that? No. It is what it is, it’s not great, but we’re football players and our job is to play.
“We love playing football and that’s why we do it. Everyone at Tynecastle is trying hard to make things right. The fans pay their money to come and watch us play and we need to step up to the plate and make sure – nothing to do with the money – that we are doing well on the pitch. After Sunday it’s maybe hit home a bit more.”
And Stevenson admitted that he feels a sense of personal responsibility for the goals drought that is currently affecting the team.
The 28-year-old is used to weighing in with a few goals of his own, but has yet to hit the back of the net this season.
He’s hoping, though, that will change over the coming weeks, and added: “That is a big part of my game. With Callum playing on his own up on his own, I’m looking to myself to help out and score goals.
“It’s one of these things. It happens. People go through droughts and people go through stages where they don’t score.
“I’m not going to let it affect me. I am not going to let it get me down or put a negative on me. I will just keep doing what I always do and, sooner or later, it will come.
“It’s not a great position that we are in right now, but, if you can turn it on and win three or four games, then the whole thing turns on its head.”
Stevenson admitted that the Hearts players have had to lift themselves this week following their cup exit, but he insisted that the squad could not afford to feel sorry for themselves in the wake of that disappointment.
The Tynecastle side take on Aberdeen today and Craig Brown has his side – and Niall McGinn in particular – firing on all cylinders.
Stevenson continued: “It was difficult after the cup game. I think it was a game that we never really felt uncomfortable in, or felt that we were going to lose, but these things happen.
“At the end of the day you are always going to experience lows and that was a massive low for us.
“But the games are coming round thick and fast for us over the next few weeks and we have got a huge game to look forward to on Saturday against a good Aberdeen team.
“You have to lift yourself. If we sit and feel sorry for ourselves or go into the Aberdeen game feeling sorry for ourselves then we won’t play to the capabilities that we can play to. Then, if you get beat, you find yourself in a worse position than you were the week before.
“We came in on Tuesday after the game and it was difficult because obviously everyone was disappointed, but you can’t change what has happened – it’s in the past.”
With everything that has gone on at the club in recent months, manager John McGlynn has come in for some criticism from his own support, but Stevenson reckons that, instead of getting on their gaffer’s back, they should be praising him for the time and effort that he puts in to making sure that the club is as strong as it possibly can be in the circumstances.
Stevenson sees just how many hours McGlynn gives up for the cause and said: “I would hate to be the gaffer’s wife because I genuinely don’t think she would get to see him.
“He’s working all the time. We do the video analysis and he covers everything with a fine-toothed comb. He is looking at everything he possibly can.
“Everyone can go on about the money worries, this, that and the fact we’re using young boys. The experienced boys have to carry more on their shoulders because we’re here to help the young boys. Its a football club and we now need to start winning football matches.”