Robert Snodgrass: Hearts interim boss Steven Naismith reveals friend's reaction

Steven Naismith has revealed how disappointed Robert Snodgrass was when told that his Hearts career was over, but insists the decision had to be made to “make it easier” for him as interim manager.
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The pair are former Scotland teammates and only a year apart in age, but Naismith made the decision on his first day in interim charge to tell the veteran midfielder that he was not part of his plans for the final seven games of the season.

It was a big call for the 36-year-old to make. Snodgrass was sent off in Robbie Neilson’s final game in charge, Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat by St Mirren, after which there was a 25-minute players-only meeting to discuss “a couple of things that need to be addressed”. Neilson was sacked as manager the following day.

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Discussions between the club and Snodgrass about terminating his contract, which runs until the summer, are ongoing, and are expected to be conccluded after he serves his one-match suspension against Hibs on Saturday. The former Scotland midfielder is understood to have returned south to spend time with family.

Naismith explained: “Snoddy is not going to be involved. That part of it is ongoing. I had a chat with him. Obviously there is a suspension [for the Hibs game] there. The decision has been made. If Snoddy is not involved, for me personally the job becomes harder if there are questions always about Snoddy. Speaking to Snoddy I had this conversation with him.

“All round I felt it was best that he wasn’t around for that, for no reason other than it makes everything easier for me. On that, Snoddy was really disappointed and it is hard for me, as someone who is his friend, his teammate and someone who has had a long relationship with him, to have that conversation, speak to him and see how disappointed he was.

“But Snoddy has really good attributes. He has been a fantastic player when I was his teammate. I only have really good things to say about him. But the decision was made. We’ll move on. It’s football. These things happen.”

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Snodgrass played 25 times for Hearts this season, scoring one goal, after joining in the days immediately after the summer transfer window had closed. He had been released by English Championship side Luton Town.

Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass training with Scotland at Oriam in 2018Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass training with Scotland at Oriam in 2018
Steven Naismith and Robert Snodgrass training with Scotland at Oriam in 2018

Naismith became Scotland assistant coach not long after playing and says that helped him manage the transition. He’s played with many senior members of the Hearts squad in a maroon shirt too, after retiring just two years ago.

“It's a difficult one because I played with half this squad, which has been brilliant for me so far because they know my character, they know how I act,” he added. “I am pretty blunt sometimes and I'm pretty hard and demanding but hopefully they are going to tell them 'he's actually an all right guy'. But I experienced that when I became a Scotland coach. I was half their team-mates.

“Inevitably you need to change your relationship. But it doesn't mean you can't be friends with them. You can be more honest with them and you can be sure they understand what you want and need and they can carry that message on to the guys we have not been around.”