Robbie Neilson explains Steven Naismith's Hearts role and why he won't lead the forward line

Hearts captain Steven Naismith is playing a deeper role this season because management want him to influence games rather than lead the attack.
Hearts captain Steven Naismith will continue in a deeper role.Hearts captain Steven Naismith will continue in a deeper role.
Hearts captain Steven Naismith will continue in a deeper role.

The 34-year-old is mainly operating as an advanced midfielder to ensure others around him benefit from his experience.

His versatility means he is able to play at centre-forward, out wide, as a No.10 or in midfield. Hearts intend to continue with him in the No.10 position or as part of their midfield, depending on which formation they use.

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Although he spent much of his career playing as an out-and-out striker at both club and international level, Naismith’s role at Tynecastle now is to effect games from deeper.

Manager Robbie Neilson explained his thinking to the Evening News. “I think he does most of his good work a wee bit deeper,” he said. “We are asking him to get into the box but just arrive a wee bit later.

“You kind of lose his influence on the game if you play him right up top. Sometimes the striker just leads the line and doesn't get a lot of play. I see Naisy as being that wee bit deeper.”

Neilson hopes to add another striker to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Winger Gary Mackay-Steven arrived on Friday and signed a two-and-a-half-year deal.

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Naismith joined Hearts on a four-year contract in August 2019 following two previous loan spells with the Edinburgh club. He was appointed captain by Neilson’s predecessor, Daniel Stendel, in January 2020.

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