Stephen Kingsley speaks on Hearts contract talks and harsh words in dressing room

The intensity, the ambition, the pressure, the swashbuckling victories, the gritty wins, the demanding fans. This is why Stephen Kingsley joined Hearts.

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 10th December 2021, 8:41 am
Stephen Kingsley is still in talks with Hearts over a new contract.
Stephen Kingsley is still in talks with Hearts over a new contract.

The club are sitting third as a newly-promoted Premiership side and European qualification is the target. Kingsley arrived 14 months ago determined to help create this very situation and satisfy a support base exasperated by years of underachievement.

Now he must decide whether he wants to hang about. The 27-year-old defender started contract talks last month with his current agreement expiring at the end of the season. He is one of Hearts’ most consistent performers and expects the negotiation process to take time.

“There were initial talks a couple of weeks ago,” he told the Evening News. “We’ve had a lot of games and we’re coming into this busy period. The talks will continue to happen, it’s a long process. My focus is just on doing the business on the pitch and let that take care of itself.

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“I came here to get game time and help the club get back to where it should be. We are sitting third just now but we have only played 17 games. There is a long way to go. My mind is totally on this busy Christmas period, trying to get as high up the league as we can.

“Hopefully we will be in a successful place come the end of the season but I’m just focusing on staying fit and doing well.”

If discussions are to reach a positive outcome, it may well be after New Year. “Potentially. I’m going to leave that to my agent, Joe Savage and the gaffer,” added Kingsley. “We will talk about it when it comes to the business end.

“As long as I’m performing on the pitch, making the club, my team-mates and the fans happy, then we will deal with everything else when it comes.”

Nobody can question his consistency on the left of defence or those irresistible free-kicks. Kingsley is an integral part of Hearts manager Robbie Neilson’s team and is enjoying the challenge of restoring the club to previous glories.

Sometimes that means calling out poor performance when it occurs, such as last Sunday at Livingston. An intense exchange took place inside the away dressing room during half-time and Kingsley knows it was necessary.

“There were harsh words, yes, certainly. We all knew we had to be better,” he admitted. “We all knew the situation. We knew what Livingston were going to do and they did exactly that. We didn’t deal with it well at all. The quality on the ball wasn’t there and we gave it away too often, especially in the middle of the park.

“We didn’t land on second balls enough or win enough tackles so there were words said at half-time. Sometimes you just know that this is one of those days where we need to dig and get three points by whatever means.”

Emotions ran high with around 4,000 Hearts fans in attendance and many of them jeering loudly as the half-time whistle sounded. “Rightly so. Look at the support we had at Livingston. When you put in a performance like that first half, they are rightly going to make their opinions known,” said Kingsley.

“It does give you that fire in your belly. You should never have performances like the first half. Sometimes you need the kick up the bum to get you going. We proved that in the second half. We played higher up the pitch, dictated play more and showed some quality. The early goal helped after the break.”

Liam Boyce scored on 49 minutes to secure three potentially priceless three points in Hearts’ quest for Europe. “That’s exactly what I said in the changing room when we came off on Sunday. These are the games that get you to that level,” said Kingsley.

“It’s great having good performances but if you don’t pick up three points it’s not going to get you there. It’s results like we got at Livi that will, when you aren’t playing well and you get a win.

“We said in the changing room on Sunday that we’ve played brilliant in some games and drawn or lost. To put in a disappointing performance in the first half – so unlike us – then find that way to win, we are really happy. We haven’t done that earlier in the season when we needed to.

“The character to come back in the second half was great. In the end, we missed a few chances to make it 2-0 or even 3-0. You have to win dirty sometimes and thankfully we managed to do that.

“The games we have won, it’s mainly been really good performances. Certain other games we have dominated but not been able to pick up a win, so it’s dropped points even though the performances have been there. Sunday was the opposite.

“We didn’t play well. The first half wasn’t good enough. The second half was improved but we still think we can be better. At the end of the day, we are sitting third and we are in a really healthy position.”

Premiership leaders Rangers visit Tynecastle Park on Sunday and Kingsley does not shirk the fact that a repeat of Hearts’ display at Livingston will bring the hosts nothing but anguish.

“We will be making sure the performance changes for the Rangers game. We can’t put in another performance like that, so it will need to change,” he said. “It’s against Rangers and it’s easy to get up for games against Rangers, Celtic, Hibs, Aberdeen.

“It’s the tough games like Livingston, where you know how the opposition will play at a tough ground on astroturf. You need to deal with it and find a way to win. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Against a tough team in a tough environment, we managed to get what we needed.”

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