'Whatever Naismith's job title is, he is under pressure'

Hearts fan Greg Playfair, @OorWeeChat podcast

Following the news that that panda couple Tian Tian and Yang Guang are set to depart Edinburgh Zoo, there’s another duo that some Hearts supporters hope won’t be too long in following them in leaving the city.

If you’re not a Jambo, you might be bamboozled at the ire directed towards Steven Naismith and Frankie McAvoy but after Sunday’s defeat to Motherwell, there is a lot of fans that cannot bear another 90 minutes of the current management.

I’ll admit that I was one of many supporters who backed the appointment of Naismith on a permanent basis on the back of his caretaker stint in charge, where players were encouraged to attack aggressively and games were played at a high tempo. Yet, since Naismith was officially handed the reins we look to have regressed back to Robbie Neilson’s final days in charge.

Granted, Hearts had a game in Greece just three days before facing Motherwell, but haven’t the supporters been told by many – including Naismith, McAvoy, chief executive Andrew McKinlay and sporting director Joe Savage – that we are building a squad big enough to regularly compete in multiple competitions, including on the European stage? Given the financial advantage Hearts have over sides like Motherwell, why do we look second best in several areas?

Many Hearts supporters believe a change must be made to salvage the season after just four league games and nine times out of 10, that means a change in manager. Whatever Naismith’s job title is, he is under some pressure and the seven fixtures to follow before the end of October are the toughest he’ll face in his short managerial career to date.

Would changing the manager be the right decision and solve our current woes? I don’t think it would, for many a reason.

Firstly, every team in Scotland will go through a tough or disappointing spell. It may very well be Hearts’ poor period but one thing we need to rely to get us out of this situation is the players on the pitch.

That brings me to my second point - many players in our squad look devoid of the mental resilience to get us out of the situation. I genuinely believe that Liam Boyce and Lawrence Shankland aside, we do not have any leaders in the dressing room who can rally the players to perform better.

It’s no coincidence we’ve had a downturn in form ever since Craig Halkett and Craig Gordon have been out of the team injured. I’m a believer in negativity breeding negativity and despite that fantastic win against Rosenborg less than three weeks ago, there’s a crisis in confidence.

The lack of the right mentality in the dressing room also ties in with recruitment and the issues we have there. We’ve still not suitably replaced Josh Ginnelly and Michael Smith. Instead, in those positions and others we’ve rolled the dice and brought in players with very little to no experience of Scottish football .

Even non-Hearts supporters would agree our best players include Shankland, Boyce, Gordon, Halkett, Zander Clark, Barrie McKay and Stephen Kingsley and what do they all have in common? Each player had previous experience playing in Scotland successfully. So why are we trying to over-complicate our recruitment? It’s rumoured we had agreed to sign Nicky Devlin under Neilson for the summer and there’s no doubt he would be our first-choice right-back.

There should be questions being asked of Savage and a review into our transfer activities over the last few windows if Naismith’s position is being scrutinised.