Sportscene analysis: ‘Change has brought clean slate at Hearts’ – Steven Naismith

Steven Naismith

Venue: Tynecastle Date: Friday 16 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Scotland and on the BBC Sport website & app

After a challenging 12 months, there has been a lot of change at Hearts.

A lot of players have left and it’s so different that nothing feels like it did last season, which is a benefit. If I’m honest, I think the break has helped to make it a clean start.

The manager, Robbie Neilson, has come with with his coaching staff and they are very good. Straight away he went into exactly how he wants to play, what he expects from us and what he doesn’t expect.

The change in manager comes with a new way of working – things like how much in advance you know your schedule, what time you start, to what training’s like and who does what part of training.

The manager gives the boys a lot of information, which is good because the players know what is coming and what is expected of them. It has been a really good change and Robbie has been there before, so he’s comfortable in the role.

His information is very clear and precise. It’s not difficult to work out. His man-management skills are good because he treats each player as an individual, in the way he gives them instructions to allow them to carry out their work.

He’s worked with a lot of the players before, but there’s also a bigger group who have not worked with him and he’s taken time to consider what their needs are.

There is a good atmosphere in the group and the boys have enjoyed learning new things.

Given the protocols in place, training was also surreal at first as we were just in small groups and you weren’t allowed inside the building to get changed. You would turn up, train, and go home again.

We’re now at least in contact training and building for the season ahead.

‘Last year hasn’t been good enough’

The past year has been a difficult time for everyone at the club, but ultimately on the pitch it hasn’t been good enough.

Whether it has been team selection from the managers, or the players not performing well, the bottom line is even with the way the season was ended early, the expectation was not for Hearts to be down fighting relegation.

The club should be in the top half of the Premiership, and change became inevitable when the campaign was brought to an early end. But the negative feeling hasn’t lingered and it is really noticeable that there is a freshness to the group, with everybody vying for their position in the team.

There has been a lot of talk about bad blood between Hearts and other clubs given the vote to end the season, the legal case and then the decision to stop the club training for a week.

Will the players use that as motivation? Without a doubt it will become a factor when the games come.

I’ve said many times the way it was dealt with was a shambles, but it’s done with now. We are where we are and we’ve just got to get on with it.

The best thing we can do now is build a team that is hungry and desperate to succeed. Ultimately, we have to win the league.

As bad as we’ve been in recent seasons, we’ve at least been in the last four cup semi-finals, which is something a club of Hearts’ stature should continue to aim for, along with an immediate return to the Premiership.

Steven Naismith was speaking to BBC Sport Scotland’s Thomas Duncan.

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