Steven MacLean explains why Hearts fans deserve praise, not criticism

Striker aims to put in performance supporters can relate to

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 11:40 am
Daniel Stendel. Pic: SNS

Steven MacLean insists Hearts fans deserve credit for turning up every week to watch their struggling team - not criticism for getting on the players’ backs.

A lot has been made of the tense atmosphere inside Tynecastle as the Edinburgh club have endured a long-running malaise, culminating in them sitting joint-bottom of the table ahead of tonight’s clash with Celtic.

Both manager Daniel Stendel and goalkeeper Zdenek Zlámal spoke on Saturday about how the anxiety from the stands hadn’t helped the team in their defeat by St Johnstone.

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MacLean, however, is adamant that the Hearts players should simply be thankful that their fans continue to show up in such impressive numbers despite their poor form.

“The key to getting the crowd onside is to win games,” said the veteran striker. “I think initially if we put in a performance, they’ll come back to us. But to be fair, I think the crowd have still been good. People say they’ve not been great, but they’ve still been coming! The way we’ve been going, the stands could be empty, so fair play to them.

“They always get behind us to start with but after that it’s up to us to put a performance in that they can relate to so we can keep them with us. Hopefully that starts against Celtic.”

MacLean has enjoyed his first week under Daniel Stendel and insists the new manager’s pressing style should be straightforward for players to take on board. “I know what he wants,” said MacLean. “Before he came in, I’d looked a bit at what his teams had done before. I wouldn’t say I researched it but I had a look. I’m really enjoying his stuff. It’s a bit different but it’s really good.

“It can be difficult working on new things when we’ve got so many games but at the same time the way he wants to play is not too different from the way I’ve played in other teams before. When I was at Sheffield Wednesday and even at Rangers as a kid, we didn’t sit off teams. We went and got after them. Even at Cardiff, their fans don’t allow you to sit off. We’ve done it at Hearts before as well. It’s just about knowing when and how to do it.

“It’s maybe new for some of the boys but it’s football, eh. We’ve all pressed and played in different formations at different times in our career before so we should be able to take on board what he wants us to do. If we don’t do it in the next few games, though, he’ll be looking for new players in January. Time will tell whether the players are here to do what he wants to do but I certainly think everybody’s trying to buy into it. The new manager will decide in January what he wants to do but all the boys are certainly on board with him.”