‘Keep doing what you are doing’ – Craig Levein’s message to frustrated Hearts fans
Hearts manager Craig Levein says he agrees with disgruntled fans and will never criticise them for voicing frustrations. He feels they should continue “doing what they are doing” and that Hearts must learn to cope with public pressure.
The Edinburgh club have endured miserable league form in 2019 and sit joint-bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership ahead of Motherwell’s visit tomorrow. Supporters bared their discontent at Tynecastle Park two weeks ago near the end of the 2-2 draw with Hamilton.
Despite chants for him to leave his job that day, Levein stressed he will not take the criticism personally. “I would never ask the supporters to blindly support a team. If we are not performing to the levels that we should perform to then, in some ways, I quite like the fact that we have to learn to handle that,” he said.
“We need to handle that type of pressure at home because you need to feel the down side to feel the benefit of the upside. I would just ask them to keep doing what they are doing. Some people will support and some people will be unhappy, depending on circumstances.
“I would never criticise any of them. It is our job, myself, the players, coaching staff to win games, particularly at home, so you won’t hear me having a go at any of them, in fact I agree with them.”
He plans to continue to shrug off personal carping, confident that his team will soon kickstart their league campaign. “It’s just the way society is. That is what it is like now. It is personal but I can’t afford to take it personally,” said Levein. “I am the one who puts the team out on the field and I would rather take criticism personally that have it affect the players, although it is hard to separate the two in the stadium.
“I want Tynecastle to be a hostile place for visiting teams but to ensure that it is the visiting team feeling the pressure. We need to perform to a certain level and I wouldn’t have that any other way. So, keep doing what you are doing and we will try to get better, that’s the message.”
Hearts have worked on their defensive weaknesses during the international break. “We did three sessions which were very helpful,” explained Levein. “You go out on the training ground and have 30 attacks and not lose any goals - but it’s about concentrating during the matches. We have lost crazy goals this season, whereas not long ago we were celebrating a clean-sheet record. The players are not a hell of a lot different. We need to get back to that.”
Steven Naismith won’t be risked tomorrow with an ongoing hamstring issue. “I was hoping that Naisy would be fit but it doesn’t look like he will be,” said Levein. “I didn’t want to take a risk. He trained with Scotland and he came in afterwards and said his hamstring felt a bit tight. There was a little bit of inflammation.
“That’s why I’m not pushing him for the weekend. He didn’t do a pre-season, which I don’t think is a good thing, ever. His knee was still recovering from surgery and he did a lot of work on his own - but that’s not the same thing. I couldn’t start him in the Hamilton game and I want to get completely away from this cycle of him being maybe available, not available, can only play half an hour.
“It’s a difficulty and it’s about strengthening programmes, how much running he does and I need to manage that as best as possible. What I do think is that if I put him on the field on Saturday, I couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t break down. That’s my primary concern.”
Several others remain unavailable, although Michael Smith has an outside chance of featuring. “Joel Pereira won’t be available, John Souttar had a little setback and won’t be available, Peter Haring and Ben Garuccio are still out. Michael Smith did a little bit of training on Thursday morning so we’re not sure about him. We’ll have another look at him and if he comes through that okay then it’s a discussion for Saturday.”