Steven Naismith outlines the targets Hearts players are still aiming for
Hearts can achieve a collective points total in their final game of the season against Raith Rovers tonight, but players still harbour individual aspirations.
Manager Robbie Neilson and his coaching staff have set the squad a points target which they can hit with a result in Kirkcaldy. Then they can focus fully on next season’s Premiership.
Captain Steven Naismith explained today that he and his team-mates still have their own issues to attend to. He said they won’t get the summer flip-flops out yet despite winning the Championship title.
“From a manager’s point of view he has to find ways to motivate the players and he’s done that throughout the season,” stated Naismith.
“At the start of the season we had targets we wanted to get to but on the whole it will be players’ individual targets, standards that inevitably bring the performance.
“Even last weekend you’ve got guys like Gary Mackay-Steven having a point to prove coming into the team and putting in a good performance. Liam Boyce is looking to score goals and the defenders will want to keep clean sheets. It’s all these things that will probably play the biggest part come the game on Friday.
“Since we’ve won the league, you still need to go out and find other motivations to have performances. Like last Saturday showed, we’re not in holiday mode yet, we’ll get this week out the way and then the boys can relax.”
Raith, Dundee and Dunfermline have the chance to join Hearts in the top flight by negotiating a route through the Championship play-offs. Naismith believes it would make quite a statement if one of those clubs succeeded.
“It would. I don’t think the gap between the bottom of the Premiership and the top of the Championship is as big as what people would expect,” he explained.
“What will help the Premiership teams is that they’ve probably got bigger squads, they’ve got more players to choose from. But overall the quality of the player I would argue it’s very tight.
“Raith are a prime example of that, Raith play very good football, they’re brave on the ball. They water the astroturf pitch and that suits the way they play and they’ll be confident.
“Very rarely have they changed their style of play to play anybody. If they were to make the [play-off] final I don’t think they would change their system and they would believe in what they do. We’re in for a good entertaining set of play-offs.”
Under former Hearts manager John McGlynn, Raith will secure second place in they beat Hearts. They are aiming for successive promotions having spent last season in League One.
“I must say I think they’ve been the toughest opponent we’ve had this season when we’ve played them. They’re very well organised, they all understand it and you can tell there is a lot of work that goes into that,” said Naismith.
“They have a lot riding on Friday night. The three teams in the play-offs are all different in terms of the way they play. I think they’ll all sit there quietly confident they can beat the others in front of them. I think they’ll all fancy that they have a good chance.”