Steven Naismith set for talks with Hearts board over the manager's job as he reveals his long-term plans

Decision due on the vacancy at Tynecastle.
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Talks between Steven Naismith and the Hearts board will take place following the final Premiership weekend of the season. Hibs visit Tynecastle Park for the last league game on Saturday, after which Naismith and the club hierarchy will discuss the prospect of him remaining manager long-term.

He has overseen wins against Ross County and Aberdeen, plus a draw against St Mirren and defeats to Hibs and Celtic since taking interim charge last month. Supporters have warmed to his attacking ethos but the Edinburgh club are still eager to finish third in the league. To do so, they must overhaul a two-point deficit between themselves and Aberdeen during the remaining two games.

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Hearts visit Rangers on Wednesday night whilst Aberdeen host St Mirren knowing they could secure third spot, and potentially guarantee European group-stage football next season, depending on results. Naismith admitted he has not held any discussions with Tynecastle directors yet with so much still undecided.

“None at all. Realistically, this week there’s no time. We may as well wait until after the season,” he said. “After Saturday, that’s it done and the players get some rest or go away for internationals. That’s the right time to have the conversation.”

Andrew McKinlay, the Hearts chief executive, explained last month that changing manager was partly down to a desire to take more points from Celtic and Rangers. He admitted being particularly disappointed by efforts against the Ibrox club. “We don’t seem to lay a glove on Rangers for some bizarre reason and we have to start doing that,” he said at the time.

Any kind of result on Wednesday would massively strengthen Naismith’s case for a permanent appointment. “I feel I’ve been trying to make a statement with every game we’ve played. It’s not been perfect with results but there’s definitely been a clear shift in how we play,” said the former Scotland internationalist.

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“What I want is to try and make the club much more attacking and be a threat to other teams. That’s the big thing I focus on. If we want to be successful long-term, you need to compete in every game and that starts on Wednesday.”

Hearts manager Steven Naismith with one of the club's backroom staff at Riccarton.Hearts manager Steven Naismith with one of the club's backroom staff at Riccarton.
Hearts manager Steven Naismith with one of the club's backroom staff at Riccarton.

He is already making long-term plans for Hearts’ benefit, regardless whether he is given a managerial contract or not. “Yeah, but I was viewing it like that when I was a player here,” he explained. “When I've become a coach, the decisions I've made at under-18s level, B team level, has been to benefit Hearts this year, next year, in five years’ time. In this role I've consistently tried to make decisions and give my advice on how I've seen things, using clubs I've been at who are massive clubs, and try to make those decisions for the club to be better.

“For Hearts, they need to have an identity, a way of playing, and that isn't just on the pitch. It's the club as a whole. Getting players into the youth team has been very poor since I've been here, or getting them to stay here. So there are loads of aspects of the club that need to be formed into the identity. Most clubs should have it and Hearts certainly should with the size, infrastructure and demand of it.”

One win in the last 19 games against Celtic and Rangers does not equate to Hearts meeting those demands. “No it’s not and it wasn’t good enough losing so many games on the bounce,” admitted Naismith. “Whatever way you look at all these results and how they go, there’s a demand at Hearts. I felt it from the moment I came here. I didn’t realise it until I came to the club.

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“There’s an expectation and all the work going on off the pitch for the last five or six years, leading the way with fan ownership in Britain, it’s made massive strides. It’s now the consistency element we need to get on the pitch for the club to push on again.”

Experiences in England help Naismith understand how to ruffle the feathers of bigger clubs. Hearts is his first senior management role and he is still learning the ropes of everything the job entails. He learned at Everton that the right attitude, desire and character can make you a match for even the most dominant opponent. It is very much down to mindset.

“Every day we work on it,” he explained. “Small details, repetition, there’s going to be bumps along the way and however long the journey is to get to that end point, everyone is learning. There’s a demand but if we lose a couple of games but have great performances, it can’t just be seen as a negative.

“Everton is the biggest example in my playing career of a club where a manager [David Moyes] had time to build. His recruitment was on point, he found the right characteristics in players to fill the squad.

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“So when I went down there I had eight guys who had been there for six, seven, eight years. They understood the club, passed that knowledge onto me, and I then became one of them – an Evertonian who lead it onto Josh Stones, Gerry Deulafeu. I pass it on to them from [Leighton] Baines, [Leon] Osman, [Tony] Hibbert, [Tim] Howard, Sylvain Distin.

“It takes time, it’s a stepping process. We don’t get success overnight. Yes, we might have two months where we have great results but it doesn’t mean we are the finished article. It takes time and, if you make clear choices, then it just builds.”