Hearts plot a route to long-term success needing patience from club's fans, players, staff and board

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Edinburgh club are still striving for on-field consistency as they gradually improve

Beating Motherwell at Fir Park earned Hearts some deserved respite after an awkward few weeks. Results have been slightly erratic in Gorgie whilst Steven Naismith and coaching staff work to develop a consistent playing style. Their project remains at the embryonic stage but there are signs of gradual improvement. Saturday was the latest building block.

The 2-1 victory lifted Hearts to fourth in the Premiership table and leaves them just two points behind third-placed St Mirren entering international fortnight. On the face of it, they sit in a decent position right now. These two weeks will, like previous breaks, be used wisely on the Riccarton training pitches. Ball retention, decision-making, shape, formation, defensive drills and attacking combinations will all be worked on repeatedly.

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Naismith is determined to get his message across and is content with the long-term prognosis. What he wants and needs most is patience to further develop his ideas. Hearts' last two league games against Livingston and Motherwell have seen them dominate possession with goal attempts in double figures. The statistics offer some evidence that they are heading in a positive direction.

"The win is obviously the bigger thing but the performance was really good at Fir Park. It looked much closer than it was," Naismith told the Edinburgh News. "If you look at all the stats, we dominated in most areas. If it wasn't for a couple of decisions from refereeing or VAR, the game would have been done or we would have had a couple of opportunities to make it 3-0. That would then have changed the dynamic of the game."

Hearts cutely saw the game out by keeping the ball in the corner for several minutes, demonstrating an understanding of the situation in stoppage-time. "Motherwell got a penalty and, as much as you don't want the game to be like that, it's something I've said we need to be better at," admitted Naismith. "When we have conceded, we lose focus which then leads to losing a second or third goal. I think we showed in the last 10 or 15 minutes how we should be managing games when it does get back to being closer, so that was pleasing."

Does Saturday show why patience is required from all concerned? Naismith is not flustered in the slightest by recent calls for managerial changes from some fans. He is confident of support from above via senior colleagues like sporting director Joe Savage and chief executive Andrew McKinlay.

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"That's why I'm pretty comfortable with everything. All the people internally, the squad, the people I'm reporting to, all still have a calmness and they do understand it," he said. "I'm pretty clear and open with the way we work. Anybody internally who wants to come and be around us day to day, our door is always open. I've made that abundantly clear.

"It shows the hard work we are doing, it shows the detail we are going into and how we are trying to develop the squad. I've been at this club for a long time. I think the thing that has been missing is that foundation part where everybody understands what is expected, how we go about our business, how we play in each game, what we want to do in and out of possession no matter who we play.

"That base needs to be there for everybody, whether it be academy players coming through or whether it be new signings. That gives you longevity. When somebody drops out through injury, suspension or moves on, the next person coming in understands what is expected.

"That comes down to the club having a clear vision and path for where they want to go, not just getting five results in a row by playing five different ways with no real principles. That isn't going to give you long-term success. I keep saying it and that's what I firmly believe.

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"I'm very calm and I understand it will take a bit of time. In the past I've been at clubs where managers have changed and the whole concept of what is being done has gone from one extreme to the other. It takes time, it doesn't happen overnight. You might get a wee nugget of success or a good performances, but then you will also get a wee bit where there is bad decision-making and some negatives. Hopefully, by the end of the season we will look back and go: 'Right, we are in a much better place.'"

Whilst striving to impose this identity and gain impetus each week, the head coach cannot become distracted by cravings for instant success. Demand in football has never been greater as supporters of many clubs seek a quick fix. Judging by calls for change across the country every few weeks, some would seem to prefer one giant merry-go-round of coaches, managers and players. Of course, that simply won't work in the long-term.

"No, it won't. That's the hard part for the club," admitted Naismith. "The demand and hunger for success is there in abundance, but it's very unlikely to happen straight away. That's why you need that understanding that we are going to have good points and some negatives.

"It's not for the want of the players trying to do the right thing, but it's like everybody in every walk of life. When you try to do something new, you make mistakes and you learn from them. You come back and you don't make the same mistakes over and over. That's where the progression comes.

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"In modern-day football, that is the demand, not just at Hearts. That's modern life, that's social media, that's the generation coming through. I think it's a phase in football which will probably stabilise to a point of being realistic. The world we are in, the way people live their lives, it's about getting everything right now. Everything is at hand and at your fingertips and football is just an extension of it with 'we need success now'.

"I've got a clear understanding of what I believe we should be doing to be successful. It's all about taking time, people making mistakes, learning from them, and understanding what we are wanting more and more with each week that we work together. I'm seeing progress. I've seen progress from the end of last season to now. It comes in all different areas.

"In the last couple of league games against Livingston and Motherwell, the way we have dominated the game has shown similarities in our decision-making to minimise the risk when we have possession so that teams can't hurt us. I have seen aspects of positivity about, but we need to continue doing it week-to-week."

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