Hearts midfielder Malaury Martin admits even ending Celtic’s unbeaten run this Sunday would not atone for a sub-standard campaign at Tynecastle.
The Frenchman says he doesn’t care about the Parkhead club’s title plans because he simply wants to win to serve Hearts’ own cause. Becoming the first Scottish team to inflict defeat on Brendan Rodgers may not stop criticism, though.
Hearts sit fifth in the Ladbrokes Premiership and have won only five of their last 18 matches in all competitions – a run that has incurred the wrath of some supporters.
Martin conceded that beating Celtic would not be enough to make up for the poor run of form.
“I don’t know and honestly I don’t care. People will love us one day, and they won’t another,” said the 28-year-old.
“This is part of the game and we all know that. When you win it is fantastic and when you play badly, you must take the responsibility for that. That is the case and we must look forward, work hard and fight.
“Honestly, it is not disrespectful for me to say I don’t care what Celtic are coming here for. We are in fifth position now and it is vital for us to take the three points. I think they always try to have a party when they come here. Of course, this time is more massive, but it is always a big game to play Celtic or Rangers. We want to win the game and show we can make it difficult for them to come here.
“Why can’t we be the first team to beat them? Why not? That is what we work towards. Everyone can see, how good they are. But this is one game and for us this is like a cup final. We believe we can do something special.”
A win would give Hearts the ideal start to a week which could define their season as they meet Celtic, St Johnstone and Dundee. “For us, it is really important, for the fans and also for our own confidence,” said Martin.
“It is a tough week and this could give us momentum to pick up more points. If we start on Sunday and have a bad game, then you go to St Johnstone and it will be tougher. If we start well on Sunday then, after that, it is more positive.
“We want to show character and show the fans how proud we are to defend our home, our castle, and not let Celtic come and take the trophy.”
Repeating the performance which earned Hearts a 4-1 win over Rangers at the start of February would give the Edinburgh club a fighting chance this weekend.
“Rangers and Celtic are two different games with different challenges, but it is a good example of the qualities we have, and we have to repeat that performance,” added Martin.
“It is not easy but, of course, that is our aim; to put them under pressure, close down the space. They are used to a bigger stadium, more space and we will try to put a lot of pressure on them.
“What can I say about Celtic’s run? It is fantastic ... chapeau! But we are not there to admire them and say: ‘Ooh, you are so good. Haven’t you had a fantastic season?’ We are there to beat them.
“The longer that run goes on, the more special it will be for one team to end that unbeaten run. However, we are focused on winning the game, and not so much on Celtic.
“At home we need to show character and say ‘you will not come to our stadium and win and celebrate the Championship here’. It is not easy but we will do everything.”