Uche Ikpeazu: Only way out of trouble for Hearts is to fight for the badge - starting against Hibs
Englishman believes beating Hibs today can spark a revival at Tynecastle Park
Uche Ikpeazu believes beating Hibs today can spark Hearts' fight for Premiership survival, but advised team-mates that the only way out of relegation trouble is to fight for the badge.
The striker successfully avoided the drop from England's third tier whilst on loan at Crewe Alexandra five years ago. That experience prepared him for Hearts' current predicament to an extent, although he admitted the Edinburgh club are considerably bigger.
As they try to adjust to new manager Daniel Stendel's methods, Ikpeazu said the Hearts players must be ready to battle in this afternoon's Edinburgh derby. They enter the fixture three points adrift at the bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
"We have to adjust as quickly as possible, really," said the 24-year-old. "We know what has to be done. He [Stendel] wants everyone to fight. If you are not ready to fight then there’s no point anyone playing if they are not ready to fight for the badge and want to do everything they can for the club.
"We are bottom of the league and that’s the situation. I didn’t expect this in my wildest dreams, it’s bad. Hearts are my team and have become a big part of my life since coming to Edinburgh so seeing the club in this position is horrible. I hate losing games, let alone being bottom of the table.
"I’ve been in a relegation battle before, when I went on loan to Crewe for the first time. We ended up staying in the league so that’s an experience I have in my locker. But, no disrespect to Crewe, Hearts are a massive club in Scotland and with the players we have at the club, we should never be in this position.
"I think sometimes there’s just that monkey on your back. When you are losing games, you keep losing games. It’s a bit like being a striker and not scoring goals, it then gets harder to score goals. I just feel like one win could lift us and things can start going for us. Hard work, determination and remaining positive is the only way you can get through this."
Ikpeazu recalled one victory raising belief and confidence to underpin Crewe's survival. "We were on losing streak, we won a game and we picked up and we ended up staying up because we ended up picking up quite a few wins in a short space of time," he explained.
"That momentum pushes you through. I just hope that the same applies to Hearts. We are in December now so there are still many games to get out of this position and I believe we can.
"I think, for now, we just need to focus on ourselves. Obviously HIbs are ten points ahead of us. That's good for them. When we focus on ourselves and start winning games, the rest will take care of itself. We need to pick up as many points as possible and just instil some confidence.
"When you're losing games, I don't care what anyone says, the confidence of the team isn't going to be high. We need to get a win and, when we do, that'll lift us and we hopefully get a push from the momentum."
Ikpeazu's most recent goal came in the last Edinburgh derby when Hearts came from behind to win 2-1 at Easter Road. That was their first league win of the season and was intended to prompt an upturn in fortunes.
"That's what we all thought as well. I don't know what's happened," admitted Ikpeazu. "What I do know is that I'm doing everything that I can - and I'm sure my team-mates are too - off the pitch and working hard on the pitch to help us get out of this situation. A club of this stature shouldn't be in the position it is. It's very frustrating because I take my football very seriously."