Hearts boss Craig Levein: We are out of intensive care – but still in the ward

Craig Levein stressed Hearts must continue reinvigorating their league campaign at St Mirren today by warning: “We’re out intensive care, but we’re still on the ward.”

Friday, 27th September 2019, 11:29 pm
Updated Sunday, 29th September 2019, 1:10 pm
Hearts manager Craig Levein
Hearts manager Craig Levein

The manager is encouraged by successive wins against Hibs and Aberdeen but insisted there is plenty more work still to be done. Those two victories propelled the Edinburgh club to eighth in the Premiership and into the Betfred Cup semi-finals.

Levein has stressed for weeks that, even whilst bottom of the league, Hearts’ form would soon improve. He he does not feel vindicated yet because he wants the winning to continue in Paisley this afternoon.

“Listen, I sit here and say those things because I believe them. People ask why we’ve been struggling and my experience tells me we’ve been struggling for certain reasons,” he said.

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“These aren’t excuses. I’ve just been trying to explain what I think, explain the problems and say how we can fix them. Having faith in the players is something that gives me a lot of confidence to talk about these things in a clear and concise manager.

“My role in the last few weeks has been not to look down on the players, but to be underneath, supporting them. Because they’ve been struggling.

“One of the things about having done this for a long, long time is recognising situations that have happened before – and understanding that it was maybe dealt in the wrong way by me, pushing the wrong buttons or whatever.

“We’re out of intensive care, I think. But we’re still on the ward!”

“We’ve scored nine goals in the league and we’ve been away to Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibs in the first six games. So scoring hasn’t been a problem. There wasn’t a lot wrong - and I’m not saying we’re out of the woods yet.

“If you’re giving goals to the opposition and changing the dynamic of a match, giving the opposition hope, you’re fighting really hard to get back into the game but don’t do it, then it definitely causes confidence to be dented.”

Hearts expect a different type of challenge at St Mirren than they got in high-octane affairs against Hibs and Aberdeen. “It’s very different and the players will be tested, without a doubt,” remarked Levein.

“Without all the bells and whistles that went with the last two matches, it will be tough. We’re back to the bread and butter, the grind of league football.

“We’ve really tried in the last couple of days to keep our focus on this match, not get too excited about what has happened in the recent past. It’s about finding a mental fortitude to go out and find the focus, the energy required to go again.”

Hearts don’t have any fresh injury concerns despite the demands of extra-time and penalties in midweek. The manager reported progress with various injured players, although none are expected to be available today. “Steven Naismith is improving. I’ve said he is two or three weeks away because I’m fed up saying he should be okay for next week,” laughed Levein.

“He is out on the grass, as are Peter Haring, Ben Garuccio and Craig Wighton. John Souttar and Jamie Walker are a wee bit behind but the rest are on the grass.”