Craig Levein: I understand Hearts fans' anger - but my only focus is turning this around
Craig Levein admitted he can't become concerned by Hearts supporters demanding his sacking because his only concern is trying to win games. The Edinburgh club fell joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership after Wednesday night's 1-0 loss at St Johnstone, during which fans called for the manager to go.
Christophe Berra's second-half own goal leaves Hearts on eight points alongside St Mirren at the foot of the Premiership after just one league victory all season. Levein said he is frustrated but would not be distracted by mounting pressure from fans, who want club owner Ann Budge to remove the former Scotland centre-back.
He also stated that the picture for Hearts supporters would not get better for at least a few weeks as they strive to move up the table. "The league table does not look great and it’s not going to look great for the next few weeks even if we win matches," said Levein. "I’m not going to focus on that. I want us to try and win football matches and make the fans happy by firing on all cylinders.
"I released some frustration by shouting after the game. I understand the frustration of the supporters. Nobody want to win games more than I do. Nobody has more of a vested interest in wining than I do. I have no qualms in them voicing their frustration. My job is not to get overly concerned about that. My job is to win football matches.
"We are struggling with confidence so we need to work hard and do our jobs defensively, which I felt we did. It's the fact we lost a goal and then it took us until the last five or ten minutes to show any real intent to throw bodies forward."
On the fans' shouts, he added: "What doesn’t help is if the players go into their shells. You need your big players to stand up and be counted and get back into the game or score a winner. What irritated me was it took ages to get onto the front foot and we only created a couple of late chances."
Asked what needs to change, Levein said: "We need to play more as a unit going forward. We were throwing goals in earlier in the season but we have managed to stop that recently. In attack, players don’t want to risk leaving their positions to go ahead of the ball because they have to get back. My job is to fix that."
Hearts are struggling for morale ahead of Sunday's Betfred Cup semi-final against Rangers at Hampden. Levein insisted there should be no issue with motivation among his players despite league form. "It’s a semi final. I’d be surprise if anyone needed lifted. We have been very Jekyll-and-Hyde this season and I can’t put my finger on it. Steven Naismith will be probably on the bench on Sunday. He’s got three days more full training. Sean Clare took a heavy knock last night."
The St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright saw his team move from 12th place to eighth in the table after their deserved victory. It was their second in a row after the weekend win against Hamilton.
“We did talk about it with the players that we could move up as far as eighth if results went our way,” said the Northern Irishman. “It's a great win, that's two on the bounce, but we will keep our feet firmly on the ground. We get ready for Hibs next week now.
“There was a concern maybe that we wouldn't deal with big Uche Ikpeazu up top but our two centre-halves were magnificent. That gave us a platform to play football which we didn't really take until the second half. We didn't play enough in the first half but it was a well-deserved victory. I don't think Zander had a save to make all night.