DANNY WILSON admits Hearts’ performance levels have dropped recently, but the captain has no worries about his side being able to cope with their status as champions-elect.
Aside from 5-1 and 4-1 victories at Dumbarton and Alloa respectively, the runaway Championship leaders have generally been unable, over the last two months, to replicate the scintillating performances that became the norm in the early part of the season.
However, despite a perceived dip in form, the Jambos have still won ten of their last 12 league games and are in full command of the promotion race. With a title winner’s medal and a return to the Premiership looming tantalisingly on the horizon, Wilson insists Hearts are at a stage in the season when the priority has to be results over performances. “Sometimes we’ve found a level of consistency without really playing well,” he said. “You would rather have the results than the performances at times. Ideally, you would rather have both but we’ve hit a spell for maybe four or five weeks when we’ve not really been great. We lost a game and we were unhappy but for the most part we’ve had the results.
“Trying to keep going, it shouldn’t be a problem for us, when you’ve got the lead and you’re hopefully chasing down the title, your motivation should be there regardless.
“The manager always wants us to play well but it’s very difficult to be critical of a team that’s won 19 out of 23 games, drawn three and lost one. He does give us a blast when we need it and I think that’s important to prevent complacency setting in. I think it’s important when we’re not playing well that we do get a blast because we should be playing better. If we can continue to the rest of the season of not playing well but still getting the results, we’ll definitely take that.
“We don’t need anyone to tell us when we’re not playing great. But as long as you’re getting results you can say, ‘we got the result but we can play better’ and hopefully we’ll play better next week. That’s what we’re doing, we’re working even harder probably than what we were at the start of the season but sometimes it just doesn’t drop for you.”
Hearts made heavy weather of their 3-2 victory at Livingston last weekend when it looked as if they may have to settle for a draw before late goals from Kenny Anderson and Jamie Walker swung the game in their favour. Wilson is hoping for a smoother afternoon today, when the bottom-of-the-table Lions come to Tynecastle.
“You don’t normally play teams back to back, especially in the league,” said Wilson of a fixture which comes hot on the heels of last week’s clash, which was brought forward from April. “Any game we go into now, the result is the most important thing. We huffed and puffed a lot last Saturday and could have done a lot of things a lot better. Hopefully against Livingston we can turn a wee corner in terms of our performance and also have the same outcome with the three points.”
Having been clear at the top of the league virtually since the start of the season, Wilson senses other teams trying to unnerve Hearts. After contending with the adversity of a gruelling relegation battle last season, the defender is relatively unfazed by the task of trying to keep his team on course for the title this time round.
“Getting to this end of the season, we’re in a strong position and we know we need to keep going,” he said. “We just need to look after ourselves and keep pressing on. It’s sounds boring and cliched but that’s all we can do at the moment. I wouldn’t say it’s a slog. But since the turn of the year there have been a lot of outside influences saying this and that. It’s not us that’s putting that out there, it’s everyone else. It’s not difficult to be at the top but when you’re at the top you’re there to get shot down. You’ve got a target on your back.
“I would rather be in this position. Last season we lost 20-odd games in the league so I would certainly rather be in this position. We had a really tough time last year, there were times you would go home after the game and you didn’t want to speak to anybody.
“There is a different pressure this year but it’s one we should also enjoy because I don’t know when Hearts were last at the top of the league for this prolonged spell of time.”
Wilson was thrilled to see former boss Gary Locke, the man who handed him the captain’s armband at the start of last season, return to management with Kilmarnock. “I’m delighted for him, I have a lot of respect for him,” said Wilson. “I text him to say congratulations and good luck. I wish him all the best because he’s a great guy.”