Hearts’ Steven Naismith speaks out on fan pressure, Craig Levein and why his team are ‘miles off’ it

Steven Naismith today spoke out on mounting pressure at Hearts and delivered a brutally honest assessment of why his team are underperforming.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 6:00 am
Hearts forward Steven Naismith, far left, joined up with the Scotland squad ahead of Fridays Euro 2020 qualifer against Russia

Insisting players are behind under-fire manager Craig Levein, Naismith said fans’ demands are here to stay so every individual must look himself in the mirror if the underachievement is to stop.

The Scotland forward gave a candid interview to the Evening News as he prepared for international duty against Russia and Belgium. With his club joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership after four matches, he urged everyone to take collective responsibility for the malaise after just four league wins in 2019.

Levein endured most of the criticism at the end of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hamilton Academical at Tynecastle Park. Supporters unhappy with results and performances for months vented their pent-up anger. However, Naismith offered a more in-depth view and explained that players feel responsible for the manager’s abuse.

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“The manager is the guy who takes the flak because he is the guy doing the press and leading the team. However, we have a right good squad in there which is underachieving so far this season. That is the bottom line. It’s a collective,” said the striker. “Every one of us need to have a look and get better. We now have this international break, which lets us reset a bit. It lets us take in what happened on Saturday, take in how the crowd were at the end of the game, and understand what’s required at Hearts.

“The pressure isn’t going away. We won our first nine games last season and then played Livi at home. We were drawing 0-0 at half-time and got booed off. That pressure is here because that’s the level expected. As a collective, we need to understand that’s it and thrive on it. That’s something I learned in my Rangers days - you need to win every game. I enjoy that pressure. We need to start to grasp it.”

Naismith said Levein still retains players’ backing. “We are 100 per cent behind him. We stand behind him and he leads us. Throughout the week, there is so much more that happens with the coaches and experienced players, so it really is a collective which must be better.

“To be honest, overall Saturday wasn’t good enough. We were miles off where we need to be. Defensively, the whole team were shocking. That’s not something associated with a team like us. Since I’ve been here, the defensive side has been the most consistent. Saturday was miles away from being good enough as a team. Defensively we were too soft, they were taking second balls and we were naive at times. Then you don’t manage the game well enough.

“You get the lead and try to push on. Hamilton get a goal which, in our eyes, is shocking. When we take the lead the second time, we should manage the game and play the right way. Don’t give away any chances, don’t play risky passes.

“It’s just choice of pass. Do we need to shoot from outside the box at 2-1 up? Then they go up the park and hit the bar. That can’t happen. That’s where we need to learn quick. Aberdeen was the same. We get into the lead and then don’t manage the game well enough. That’s a problem.”