Steven Naismith says some Hearts players haven't realised the expectation at Tynecastle
Scotland forward insists scrutiny is part of life at Edinburgh club
Steven Naismith believes some Hearts players have yet to adjust to the high demands at Tynecastle Park. Although he feels there is plenty talent within the squad to drag the club away from the bottom of the Premiership, he admitted confidence has been affected by the intense scrutiny.
The Scotland forward is just back from two months out with a persistent hamstring injury. He spent time during his absence assessing poor results and falling confidence levels within certain team-mates. He concluded that some are not used to the expectations in Gorgie.
A bottom-of-the-table league meeting takes place between Hearts and St Mirren at Tynecastle this afternoon and Naismith is certain to feature. He wants to help rebuild players’ confidence and teach them how to deal with the pressure following manager Craig Levein’s sacking.
“Lack of confidence was the biggest. You maybe don’t have too many experienced players to call on,” surmised Naismith. “It’s easier for players on the pitch than the manager standing at the side. A lot of players maybe didn’t realise the expectation at Hearts, which showed in the performances.
“I watched a few games when I was out and the teams we came up against aren’t better than us. However, they were beating us to second balls, winning tackles and creating chances. That’s not good enough. It’s not down to the talent, it’s just down to the confidence of the players. Plus that fear of getting berated by the fans.
“That expectation at Hearts isn’t going to move. It’s here to stay and, for me, it’s a good thing. I enjoy it. You want to be at a club like this where it matters and it actually means something to be successful, rather than it just being a job where you get your wage.
“You can chat to older players and try to get an understanding with them, but inevitably players either have it or they don’t. You see it on a bigger scale at the Old Firm. They have signed great players over the years and some of them haven’t cut it because of the mentality and expectation.
“It’s the same at Hearts, just on a different level. I think a lot of players are in the camp of having a lot of potential but haven’t been exposed to that enough. You hope the hard times will benefit them in the long run.”
There are hard times right now but Naismith is convinced his team-mates have the character to play their way out of trouble. “In moments in games when they have the ball and just used their natural talent, it’s been good. They need to constantly think that way. When there isn’t a lot of pressure and the ball comes to them, they need to know what they’re going to do with it before they get it.
“It’s not a case of getting the ball, then I’ll lift my head and what can I do? Football isn’t that slow, especially in Scotland. You need to know what you will do with the ball before you have it. I do see boys in there who have it. This has just maybe been a shock to the system. With injuries, the manager hasn’t been able to pull a few of them out. They’ve had to be there every week, which hasn’t helped their confidence either.”
Hearts want to spark a revival with victory against St Mirren today. Naismith isn’t getting too far ahead for now. “One win can turn it for a period,” he said. “From now to Christmas, we need to just concentrate on winning games. We can see where we are at Christmas but until we get to the break, we just need to win games.
"Go away from home and pick up points and start building momentum. I’ve had some of my best memories at Tynecastle playing with and against Hearts. The atmosphere creates that. You want to enjoy that as a player as it brings the best out in you."