Craig Levein has warned Hearts not to allow Partick Thistle’s lowly league position to lull them into a false sense of security ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Firhill.
The Jags sit second bottom of the Premiership with only two points from their six games so far. However, Levein is adamant Alan Archibald’s team should have had far more to show for their performances this term and believes that strong back-to-back displays against Rangers in the league (2-2) and Betfred Cup (3-1 loss to Rangers after extra-time) over the past week hint at a team ready to take off. “Partick are due a win,” said the Hearts manager. “They’re dangerous. They’ve played very well in their last two matches against Rangers and, although they didn’t get their just rewards, I think they’ll take some confidence from those games. I’ve watched all of their matches and they’ve been unfortunate on a number of occasions. Archie will be sitting there wondering why his team only have two points as they have played very well in spells in all of their games.
“They have been unlucky on a number of occasions that they haven’t managed to pick up more points. I hope that misfortune continues against us. We are expecting a tough game.”
Hearts make the trip along the M8 for tomorrow’s 4pm kick-off with renewed confidence after strong back-to-back performances against Aberdeen and Hamilton Accies since Levein became manager three weeks ago,
“Confidence is a big thing,” he said. “It’s hard to quantify. We gained confidence from the Aberdeen game, when we got a point and the performance was good. Then we got three points from a pretty scrappy match last week, so the players are feeling better about themselves. I was pleased with the win against Hamilton because if we had won 4-0 I would not have learned anything. It was a hard game. It was horrible but rewarding.”
Levein has challenged his players to maintain the work rate they have shown in recent matches.
He said: “You work as hard as you can and I will support everybody to the end. If you don’t work hard then ...
“For me, it’s simple. Our supporters expect the team to give everything they have got and, if they do and even if we lose, I will have no complaints. That is the minimum, and I expect them to play well.”
Levein, who first took charge of Hearts between 2000 and 2004, explained that the biggest change in his management style since then is that he is now more hands-off and willing to delegate more work to his trusty assistants Austin MacPhee, Jon Daly, Liam Fox and fitness coach Tom Taylor.
“I suppose everybody changes and evolves as they get older,” said the 52-year-old. “I’m different now to how I was at the start of my coaching career here. I’ve got more trust in my staff – I don’t need to do absolutely everything. That has been quite a big benefit, to let Jon, Foxy and Austin do what they’re good at – and just keep an eye on things.
‘That’s been the biggest change, I think, in how I work. It’s not hard to be less hands-on. I think the director of football thing has helped with that. I’ve been standing back – and I feel comfortable doing that. When I’m standing back as director of football, watching coaches, I think: ‘They’re doing all right.’ We’re all working together, so it’s never a matter of me stepping in.
“We’ve all got responsibilities – Jon, Liam, Austin and Tom. I say what we’re going to work on this week, and they come up with the training plans. Years ago, I would have done absolutely everything, but I feel all right about this. Pretty much the beginning of the week belongs to everybody else. We do video analysis, of course – we go over things that have happened in previous matches.
“I’m always there at training, every day. But the people who are working are good people, they’re coming up with good ideas, so I let them get on with it. I feel like Thursday, Friday and Saturday are mine – I come into it on a Thursday and Friday, and a match day.”