Steven Naismith on opting for Hearts over Rangers, why the season was a 'farce' and Daniel Stendel
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Hearts star Steven Naismith admits that the past season was a “farce” for the club.
The Tynecastle side finished bottom of the Scottish Premiership on a points-per-game basis following the termination of the league. Four points adrift of Hamilton Accies with eight games remaining, the club are set to spend at least the 2020/21 campaign in the Championship.
Hearts won just four league games all season, none outside of Edinburgh. A hangover from the previous term when the team started so well and topped the league in November 2018.
Naismith feels there haven’t been enough characters around the club who have stepped up in a time of need.
“My first full season there, where we started off really well, I think the injuries did play their part,” he told The Lockdown Tactics. “The spine of the team got taken out. Christophe [Berra], myself, John Souttar.
“And then, if I’m honest, it has been a general acceptance and not enough people around the club just saying ‘right, I’m going to drag this and I’m going to get us where we need to go’. There’s not been enough in that camp which has caused trouble in the season just past there which ultimately ended in farce.
“We didn't have a good season for a reason and that is because we didn’t have enough around the squad, in the squad, to control games and win you games. That’s been our biggest problem in the last season.”
Stendel shock factor
Even the appointment of Daniel Stendel in December and the subsequent shock factor of allowing experienced heads like Glenn Whelan and Christophe Berra to leave did not do enough to stimulate the team even if it may have increased competition.
O”ne thing the manager did in January was he made it clear for everybody this is a blank slate,” Naismith said. “There is no ‘what you’ve done, who you are I will be seeing you in a different light. I’m going to watch you all in training and I’m going to decide who I like’.
“And that’s how he went. I was surprised [when Whelan and Berra left] but I think for any manager, you’ve seen them at clubs, they make big calls and the whole squad is ‘bloody hell, can’t believe he's done that’.
“You had a group of 24/25 guys trying to get in his team. Subconsciously there was a bit of rivalry between everyone there trying to make sure they were in his plans. That was the main feeling.”
Moving north again
Naismith has made three moves to Hearts, a six-month loan spell in January 2018 followed by a season-long loan and then joining permanently last summer. During those transfer periods he had been linked with a return to Rangers.
The player admitted that there was interest revealed why it never quite materialised and why he was delighted to join Hearts,
“There were a few [clubs] down south [interested] and the Rangers one was one which was there but it wasn’t a priority for them,” he said.
“And as it got later and later in the window I was adamant I had to leave to just get playing again. It was one of those I couldn’t sit around and wait to the last minute with the chance nothing could happen.
“Also family reasons were another one to think ‘I want to go back to Scotland'.
“I was quite surprised when Hearts came in and they managed to get some sort of deal done with Norwich that I could go back to them. If I’m honest, I was delighted that was the choice in the end.
“At the time I was thinking I would just go for six months to play, try and get back in the international set-up and go from there. Once I got in and about the club, seeing the potential the club has got in the long-run was something I enjoyed being apart of.
“The whole structure of the business rather than just the football is in great condition. It is one of those that with some changes can definitely flourish massively in Scottish football. You’ll sit here and say ‘what an atmosphere at Tynecastle’ and it has only been improved by the new stand. Everyone loves Tynecastle, it is all there.”