Michael Smith believes Hearts are equipped to soar into the Ladbrokes Premiership’s top three after coming through the most challenging start to a season he’s ever encountered in relatively good shape.
The Jambo sit in seventh place but are just five points behind third-placed Rangers despite playing no games at Tynecastle and eight of their nine matches away from home.
Smith is adamant Hearts have started well in the circumstances and expects them to get even stronger now that they face a run of nine home games in their next ten matches, including seven in a row at Tynecastle.
“Some people say we haven’t started well but we have not played a home match yet and we are going well in the league,” said the Northern Irish full-back. “People forget we’ve not played a home game yet. Murrayfield is not our home.
“We are looking forward to getting back to Tynecastle and we will play with a lot more freedom then as the fans will get right behind us. We will be a real force then.
“This is the most difficult start I have ever had as a player as we haven’t played at home and we have come through it.”
Hearts have lost only one of their five games under Craig Levein’s management – a 2-1 defeat at Dundee in which they were undermined by the cheap concession of two goals from corner kicks.
“The Dundee game was the biggest disappointment but we were undone by two set-plays,” said Smith. “Nobody has opened us up. Since Craig came in we have been a lot more solid and we are feeling a lot more confident on the pitch.”
This confidence extends to Smith, who joined from Peterborough in the summer, believing that Hearts, who face St Johnstone, Hibs and Rangers over the course of the next week, are ready to surge up the table.
“We are all working together to achieve our goal of finishing in the top three,” he said. “That is an achievable target – 100 per cent. That is why I joined the club as they have real ambitions to be in Europe and that is still my aim. We are on the right track and we will see where we are placed after these three matches. We have been okay so far but we will get better and better.”