Any Hearts players planning a summer exit need a reality check, says Conor Washington

Conor Washington is eager to help Hearts survive, starting with a win at St MirrenConor Washington is eager to help Hearts survive, starting with a win at St Mirren
Conor Washington is eager to help Hearts survive, starting with a win at St Mirren
No chance of big moves if club are relegated come May

Like every Hearts player, Conor Washington has not had the season he envisaged. The possibility of relegation is preying on everyone’s mind, there have been countless injuries and, for Washington and other forwards, not enough goals.

He is clever enough to see ahead, though, and warned anyone thinking they can simply jump ship from Riccarton in the event of a demotion.

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Any Hearts player with an exit strategy should think again, is Washington’s message. Anyone thinking they are too good, think again. Anyone counting down the days to a summer transfer, think again.

Washington survived a relegation fight at former club Queens Park Rangers but knows the reputational damage it causes.

Those in the Hearts dressing room have an obligation to drag themselves and their club out of this potential catastrophe. It might not have been what they expected, but it is what they must face up to. Nothing else should matter ahead of tonight’s vital league visit to St Mirren.

“I don’t think anyone at this football club should be naive or stupid enough to think they are going to get a good move based on being in a team that gets relegated. I think you would be crazy to think that,” said Washington, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.

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"Even if you want to think of it from a selfish point of view and look at your own career, never mind the club you play for, you can’t be in a team that gets relegated. We need to feed off that and use the pressure to make sure it doesn’t happen.

“I’m hopeful nobody is that naive but you see it every year with teams. Players don’t get the moves they think they are going to get. Look at the teams who came down to the Championship from the English Premier. A lot of players in those teams probably thought they would get moves and haven’t. It happens year in and year out.

“I’m not sure if players do have that attitude or not, to be honest. I know personally that you can’t. Not for one minute would I think ‘I’ll get to the summer and be alright’ because that just won’t be the case.”

‘Frustrated’ is not a big enough word to sum up the Northern Ireland internationalist’s emotional state just now. Since joining Hearts last summer, almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

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“I came in under Craig Levein and Austin MacPhee. They knew exactly what I was about and the sort of player I am,” he recalled.

“I was just getting going, scored in consecutive games, did well away on international duty, then came back and tore my hamstring. I had nearly four months out and the team hasn’t been great. You are coming back in with a lot of pressure from outside.”

Levein was replaced as manager by Daniel Stendel, who has utilised Washington’s versatility. “I haven’t really played in my position since I came back from injury, which is frustrating,” said the striker. “With the situation we are in, I don’t have the luxury of whining or moaning about it. You just have to get on with it and do the job you are being asked to do.

“My strengths are playing up top and getting in behind from a central area. That’s not the way we’ve been playing, which is fair enough. I’ve had it at other clubs and you just have to try and help the team wherever you can.”

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Two goals in 18 appearances is a record he is desperate to improve. “I definitely should have scored a few more before I got injured. Since I’ve come back, I can’t even remember too many chances to be honest. That’s really frustrating as a striker. Being out of position might have affected that, but the good thing is the team are scoring goals now.”

They are also conceding them. Last weekend’s 2-2 home draw with ten-man Hamilton Academical increases pressure further with Hearts still bottom of the Premiership. “I don’t think you can avoid it. I think you need to use it to motivate you even more. You need to be able to shoulder the pressure, take on the burden and use it in the right way,” said Washington.

“This is obviously miles away from the season I expected to have after coming in, both personally and as a team. We need to get on with it and make sure we are not in this position at the end of the season.

“The manner we are conceding goals, you can’t really put your finger on why it’s happening. We were 2-0 down against Hamilton and showed character to come back but we should never have been in that position in the first place.

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The quality of tonight’s game in front of the BT Sport cameras matters little to Hearts. They simply need to bite and scratch out some points by whichever means necessary.

“I think so, yes,” agreed Washington. “I’m not sure how the management or the other players feel but I’d say we just have to make sure we win.”