Hearts attacker explains positive change around club and addresses demands of Tynecastle support

Even though results haven’t taken a turn for the better at Hearts since Steven Naismith replaced Robbie Neilson as head coach, attacker Alan Forrest insists there’s still be a change in positivity around the club’s training base.
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The Tynecastle side made the decision to dispense of their former manager following a run of five consecutive defeats, which saw them slip from third place in the cinch Premiership for the first time in 2023. That run extended to a sixth game when Kevin Nisbet’s goal decided the Edinburgh derby at Easter Road last week.

Even though they’ve yet to see the fruits of their labour, the squad are working hard to put things right behind the scenes and are responding to Naismith’s demands to play with greater belief and aggression in the final third.

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“Even last week when he came in, in the build up to the Hibs game, it was positive about the place,” said Forrest. “Even the formation he went with, I felt it was a good, positive week and we were on the same page. Obviously, the result we never got but it was fine moments and they got the goal and we never.

Alan Forrest in action during Hearts' 1-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road last weekend. Picture: SNSAlan Forrest in action during Hearts' 1-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road last weekend. Picture: SNS
Alan Forrest in action during Hearts' 1-0 defeat to Hibs at Easter Road last weekend. Picture: SNS

“It has been another positive week and we are going into the game looking forward to it.

“There has been a lot of detail, not just in attacking areas but from the back as well. He wants us to play with positive passes into midfield, which will help everyone. It’s not just the front, it comes from all over.

“We feel as if we get that right, and we’re all positive and all on the same page, then it can all come together and we’ll start fast.”

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The problem facing the interim head coach is getting a squad to play with a smile on their face when there hasn’t been anything much to smile about the past couple of months. Naismith bemoaned the number of times Hearts had possession in advanced areas in the defeat to Hibs and didn’t try to ask questions of the home defence.

Confidence is at its lowest, but Forrest believes that will all change if they can just manage to get one positive result to halt the slide.

“There is no getting away from the run we’ve been on, it’s not been good enough,” he said. “We just need our luck to turn. If we can get the rub of the green and get a result, then we can kick on from there.

“It is not easy but as difficult as it is, it is done now and you can't change it so you need to have that brief and go into the next game feeling really positive. We would have loved those results to have gone differently but we can only think about Saturday.

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“I feel as if we are all together, which we have been in training this week and last week as well, then, in this league, if we can get a couple of wins then it changes everything.

“Every other team in the league has had that wee run, that wee sticky patch, and I feel as if we are going through that just now. But I do think we have the players in here that can turn it around.”

Hopes of finishing third for the second season in succession and once again sampling eight games in European football seemed all but dead after last weekend’s defeat, coupled with Aberdeen’s sixth consecutive win, meant the Dons opened up a five-point gap.

However, Rangers visit Pittodrie this weekend having won every game against clubs not named Celtic since Michael Beale took charge. If that trend continues and Hearts pull out a victory over Ross County the gap will be back to just two points going into the post-split fixtures.

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“We went on that unbeaten run when we were getting results and we were clear in third, and I feel that everything was pretty similar to what it is just now. It’s weird,” said Forrest.

“Because we were so far clear then we would be kicking ourselves if we never finished third. We know that results haven’t gone for us but we can't keep dwelling on that. We’ve still got games there where we can change it and we know it can turn on a couple of games so we’ve got to look at that.

“Saturday is a great one for us. I know it’s going to be a tough game and Ross County are fighting for their lives. We know we need to be at it but I think we have a good enough group in here to get a result.”

There will be an advantage to playing at Tynecastle where the home side have been dominant this term against the rest of the cinch Premiership below the Old Firm, but as witnessed in the 2-0 loss to St Mirren last time out, the atmosphere can turn toxic if struggles continue.

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Forrest, however, believes the onus is on the players to lift the fans and not the other way around.

“It comes from us,” admitted the 26-year-old. ‘We need to start fast in the game. It’s not up to the fans, it’s up to us to bring that energy at the start of the game. I don’t think it’s up to them, especially with the run. We understand how they’re not.

“So, it’s up to us to start fast and take the game to Ross County, and be positive. I think if we do that then the fans will come with us.”

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