'He's asking us to play more offensively' - Hearts defender Clevid Dikamona reveals the differences between Daniel Stendel and Craig Levein, plus the joy at being at the club
The Congolese defender is a popular figure amongst the Hearts fans
More than once during Hearts' goalless draw with Ross County on Wednesday night the 740 travelling fans broke into a Clevid Dikamona chant.
The Congolese international filled in at right-back with Sean Clare, Michael Smith and Aaron Hickey all unavailable, and put in an assured defensive performance.
Dikamona produced two key interventions, in each half, to deny Ross County promising opportunities before leaving the field with an injury.
Signed in 2018, the 29-year-old has developed into a popular figure around the squad and amongst the Hearts support. He may have only played 31 times for the club but the fans have taken to his personality and committed approach on the field.
The defender's appearance at Ross County was just his second under new boss Daniel Stendel, but having been signed by Craig Levein, he is well placed to provide an insight into the changes which have been made since the German's arrival.
Attack, risk, positivity
In an interview with Get French Football News, he said: "The first thing a new coach tries to do is to breathe new life into the team, a new perspective into the situation and some freshness, which is what he’s brought us. I think we needed some positivity at this stage of the campaign; there was negativity all around us before that, be it in the results or in the mood of the squad.
"What his arrival has done is allow us to see things from another point of view. He’s been asking us on a daily basis to communicate a lot between ourselves, to create a solid group because in the face of adversity nothing is better than unity. His vision of football is different to what we had with Craig [Levein].
"He’s asking us to play more offensively, to be further up the pitch and to press at any time during games. He sees things in a positive rather than negative way. Attack is the best form of defence, that’s why he asks us to press opponents as much as possible.
"Before, we had a style of play where there was no risk taking, and the objective was just to get one goal more than the opposition. While nowadays the message we have is to take more risks in order to score goals
"Even if this might give the opposition more chances to score, generally by taking risks we are the ones who create more chances. It’s our responsibility if we have three chances on goal to score all three, even if it means conceding two as well."
Recognised as a squad player capable of filling in at centre-back or right-back, Dikamona's deal expires at the end of the season. While not thinking too much about the future past this campaign the defender has been fully positive at being part of the club and the squad.
"When you look at the internationals who are in the squad, I’m lucky to be able to play alongside them," he said. "Whether it’s during games or in training, you learn a lot from them and you grow as a player.
"We’re feeling good here, but then again right now the priority is to work as hard as possible get the club out of the situation I’ve had a part in putting it in. I feel responsible for it, just as the other players in the team. So right now I’m not thinking about the future but what needs to be done in the present, which is to get our heads up and start a positive run."