Craig Levein: Hearts on cusp of becoming really good team
Craig Levein told Hearts they are on the verge of becoming a very good side in the wake of their 3-1 defeat by Celtic at Parkhead. The manager addressed his squad in the dressing-room and stressed they are heading in the right direction despite the loss.
The result leaves Hearts joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership after three games, and the Edinburgh club believe they contributed to their own downfall in Glasgow.
Defenders Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett claimed they inadvertently got the final touch to Vakoun Bayo's first and second goals respectively. In between, Callum McGregor punished slack defending to put the hosts 2-0 up.
Conor Washington reduced the deficit from a rebound after Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster parried his late penalty kick. Levein admitted afterwards that his overriding emotion was frustration because he is adamant Hearts will find momentum with just one victory.
"My message to the players after the game was: 'We're nearly a really good side.' Everybody just needs to do a wee bit more and we will take off," he said. "I've been here loads of times and lost by three, four and five goals. I felt we had a really good chance this time after our performance against Motherwell in the Betfred Cup.
"The way we play, this particular system, helps when we play Celtic. With a fair wind I felt we had a chance of getting something at Parkhead. We made mistakes but they were such critical mistakes that we ended up losing goals. Losing goals means you lose energy and that gives the opposition energy.
"We will do analysis over the next few days and I know there will be lots of really good things in it. Andy Irving had a smashing game, Conor Washington had another really good game, Aaron Hickey was excellent and I thought our centre-backs were good. It was good to get Glenn Whelan 90 minutes, too."
Whelan made his debut in a holding midfield role on a day when boiling heat of around 28 degrees left players on both sides exhausted. "The frustration is that we've lost 3-1 and I didn't feel that's what our performance merited," added Levein.
"I'm a big believer that football is about how you feel a lot of the time. Christophe and Halkett were hell of a frustrated because they both had really good games."
Hearts medical staff will assess the hamstring injury suffered by Michael Smith over the next few days. The right-back was substituted after 18 minutes complaining of tightness in the area.