Hearts captain Steven Naismith speaks out on running battle with Celtic's Scott Brown after Scottish Cup final
The pair had a running battle with a number of incidents at Hampden Park, including one which may prompt retrospective action against Naismith when he stood on Brown.
The Scotland forward said he relished the challenge and, despite Hearts losing 4-3 on penalties, was immensely proud of his team-mates.
“It was a battle and that’s it. Broony is the type of player who tries to impose himself. As a player, he is what he is,” said Naismith. “On top of that, he tries to enforce and intimidate players and stuff like that.
“For me, it was about giving as good as you get. Some of Broony’s reactions showed that in recent times things have been a bit more nervy. Every game you play it is a battle. It’s stuff that’s just left on the pitch.
“As players you do anything you can to win, effectively, and that’s what everyone was trying to do.”
Brown was seen goading Hearts players after the shootout, although Naismith focused on the guts shown by the Tynecastle side. They were 2-0 behind and 3-2 behind but drew level twice to take the final to penalties.
“The manager has instilled that in the boys this season,” stated the captain. “The players he’s brought in, they’ve all bought into that. These are things that in the coming weeks we’ll look at and they’ll be big positives.
“We’ve gone toe to toe with the team who have dominated Scottish football and taken it into extra-time and then to penalties. That is a positive but we’ll be disappointed in the short-term because of how close it was.
“When it goes to penalties it’s a bit of a lottery, but at one point we’re two penalties away from winning the Scottish Cup.”
Naismith stressed Hearts will now return their focus to winning the Championship title and gaining promotion after a controversial summer relegation. He explained that the squad at Riccarton has proved it can compete with the best in the top flight.
They knocked Hibs out to take their place in the Scottish Cup final and then matched a Celtic team which has now won the last 12 domestic trophies in Scotland.
“It wasn’t a case of us defending for 90 minutes trying to take this game to penalties,” continued Naismith. “We scored three goals in a cup final which shows we were a threat.
“We accepted from the start of the season we are favourites for the league and we need to get a job done. We believe we’re bigger than the league we’re in. Overall we have the quality in the squad and you could see that with the guys who came off the bench.
“We know that’s the biggest thing for the club, being back in the Premiership. That goes without saying. When we go back into training we’ll revert back to league business. When the next Scottish Cup draw comes around we’ll tie that into this season.”