Steven Naismith to be used cautiously by Hearts as Premiership begins

Hearts plan to use new signing Steven Naismith carefully over the next month as he regains fitness following knee surgery.

By Barry Anderson
Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 6:30 am
Updated Saturday, 3rd August 2019, 7:30 am
Hearts' Steven Naismith speaks to the media
Hearts' Steven Naismith speaks to the media

Manager Craig Levein explained today that the 32-year-old is not yet ready for 90 minutes every week, although he is expected to feature in Sunday’s Ladbrokes Premiership opener at Aberdeen.

Naismith signed a four-year permanent contract with Hearts on Thursday but his only football action since an operation in March was part of a bounce match on Monday.

He was the Edinburgh club’s top goalscorer with 14 on loan last season and his return is a major coup. However, Levein is urging caution.

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“He played 65 minutes of that game. My dilemma is now whether he starts against Aberdeen or not. It is a good problem to have,” said the manager. “It is what is best for him at this stage and for the next month or so I don’t think we will see him Saturday-Saturday-Saturday-Saturday.

“Normally what would happen is that he would play 45, 60, 75 minutes and then back in for 90 minutes. He is confident that he is in reasonable enough shape to contribute. Once he is back up to full speed he will play every week when he is fit. He has done a lot of training but not a lot of football.”

Levein had no doubts Naismith would join Hearts after two previous loan spells at Tynecastle Park. “It was the worst kept secret in Scottish football,” he smirked. “I’d settled within myself a month ago that the deal was done. It was just a matter of time.

“We would have done the deal earlier had he been fit. A four-year deal is a big commitment. I look at the success we have had with the likes of Macca [Steven MacLean], Don Cowie, Christophe Berra and Aaron Hughes.

‘I look at Steven and I think he is only 32 – he is still a pup. He has modified his training to keep churning out performances on the field on matchdays.

“He is such a diligent boy in everything that he does. If I tell him to train at home he will do more than I ask him to. The four years is all about what Steven brings on and off the field. Alongside the boys that I mentioned, they all set the culture of the club.

“We have very few issues and every now and then there is a spanner in the works but generally everybody is on a level footing and nobody is too big for their boots. When trouble flares up it is swiftly dealt with.

“They all think more about the team than themselves. That culture is set by Naisy, Macca and the rest.

“You know what kind of boy Naisy is. The only people with a bad word to say about him are opposition fans on matchday. Ask any footballer or manager on matchday and they might be annoyed with Naisy for that 90 minutes but he is such a good person and he is hugely well respected.

‘For him to commit to Hearts for that length of time is a huge plus.”