Steven Naismith praises Hearts' fight against Hibs and has his say on the Tynecastle brawl after five red cards

Events got out of control in the Edinburgh derby.
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Steven Naismith praised Hearts’ fight during the 1-1 draw with Hibs which secured fourth place in the Premiership with ten men. He also had his say on the full-time brawl which erupted, resulting in four red cards.

Alex Cochrane was dismissed near the half-hour mark with Hearts 1-0 ahead through Yutaro Oda. Kevin Nisbet scored the resulting free-kick but, after an extended melee at full-time, Hibs manager Lee Johnson and substitute Rocky Bushiri were red-carded along with substitute Hearts goalkeeper Ross Stewart and goalkeeping coach Paul Gallacher.

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Asked about the game, Naismith said: “It wasn’t that enjoyable, longest game ever. The double whammy of the red card and [Hibs] scoring from the free-kick was the worst-case scenario. In the time I’ve been in charge, it is the worst case scenario in everything we’ve done, whether it be injuries or players not available to red cards and VAR decisions.

“I think the seven games have been a lot more eventful than a lot of interim managers would have in terms of leading a team. The fight the boys have got is unbelievable. The understanding they’ve got of the game when we go to ten men, I think it was similar to the Celtic game. We managed to defend for our lives and we manage the game really well. Really pleasing on the character side of things.”

Naismith admitted Cochrane’s foul on Chris Cadden merited a red card. “It’s probably a red card. If it’s not a penalty and he’s denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, then it’s a red card. Alex got caught with his body shut off, it was the classic one where the guy nips in and there’s contact. It’s part of the game and we managed to ride it out and get the result we needed.

“That [stick or twist] is the question when you get a red card. I said it at the Celtic game, the next goal becomes pivotal in these games. What you can’t do is go toe-to-toe and say ‘you attack and we’ll attack’. I don’t like that, I like to have control. You need to manage it.

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“Last week at Ibrox, you can’t go toe-to-toe with Rangers or Celtic for 90 minutes with the replacements they have got to come off the bench and the quality of their squad. You need to pick and choose your moments, and I thought we did that today, we managed the game really well. I’m sitting here with the result we wanted. You do what it takes to get the result we need, simple as that.”

Interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith and Hibs manager Lee Johnson clash after the final whistle at Tynecastle.Interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith and Hibs manager Lee Johnson clash after the final whistle at Tynecastle.
Interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith and Hibs manager Lee Johnson clash after the final whistle at Tynecastle.

Hearts fans responded to their team’s resilience throughout the afternoon. “If you give them something to back you with they will back you,” said Naismith. “The fans owing the club there has to be that bond no matter who is in charge. It can be a tough place if you’ve not got it.

“Hearts teams in the past have been labelled with being soft, don’t have enough fight and I’ve been part of some of this those teams. St Mirren away, character to come back. Today we see the game out. To go to Rangers and go for 96 minutes to get a result, when I was a player here these things very rarely happened. That part is turning but if you want to play here you need to have that.”

Naismith stressed he feels ready for management with Hearts due to make a decision on whether to make his appointment permanent. “I would say that I'm ready for management. This period was definitely a big indicator,” he stated. “I have spoken to clubs in the past but you have this feeling of ‘am i ready?’ Every manager I’ve spoken to has said that if you could coach for another 10 years you will never know when you're ready but what this has done is give me a taste of it.

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“I know I'm ready and I think I've shown that. These are the five hardest games of the season and you are getting them at a time where the squad is really low and I'm proud of what we've done. Conversations will now start to see if I'm the man to take Hearts forward or not.”

For my seven games I think [finishing fourth] is a success. For where Hearts want to be year on year, we need to compete for third and be in Europe and competing against the best teams in the league, and we need to be competing for silverware. I mean competing consistently. We do need to win one and we need to get third place and we need to become a better team, and a bigger club and a better club. That's the main drive.”

He remained coy on the incident with Johnson but responded to criticism from the Hibs manager. “I had to watch, I was one yellow away from getting a suspension already, so I wasn’t involved. I’ve got a 15-year career at the top level. I’ve managed to pull things from some of the best managers around Britain.

“I’ve been in a role for the last two years under arguably Scotland’s best manager for a long period of time. I’m not naïve to think I know everything, but what I have done is my homework. I’ve had two solid years of good coaching. It’s part of the game.”

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Asked what caused the row during his handshake with Johnson, Naismith was again reserved. “I’m not sure to be honest, I was shaking hands and getting out of there, I wasn’t getting involved in anything. I know these situations can turn into things, especially in a derby with high emotions, but I was just buzzing to get the result and enjoy it with the fans.”