Steven Naismith | First Interview as Interim Manager22 June 2023
Our former captain spoke on a range of topics following his promotion to overseeing the first team from his pride at taking on the job, Saturday’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road, and Robert Snodgrass’s future at Tynecastle.
On taking the job…
“The feeling is one of immense pride. It’s a situation as a young coach going into management, it’s a fantastic opportunity. Did I ever expect it to come so quickly? Probably not, but since stepping into coaching, there’s been a rapid rise in terms of experience.
“I took the lead on the 18s when John Rankin left, then the B Team, and then being involved with the national team. I’ve crammed a lot into my time being a coach. I’ve learned a lot, and I feel that I’m well-equipped for the upcoming couple of months.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned since joining Hearts, is that there’s a demand at the club. It’s got to be a good demand, and the players have got to enjoy that. The fans want attacking football. They want a team that goes into every game trying to win it. Not one that’s going to defend and hold out for a draw or a 1-0 lead.
“I was like that as a player; I wanted to be on the front foot and enjoyed having the ball and creating opportunities. I want play entertaining football. That’s easy to say, and harder to implement on the training pitch and in games, but that’s what I want.
“I’m not naïve to think that this is going to be easy, but I want us to be a team that takes games by the scruff of the neck.
On Robbie Neilson…
"I’d like to touch on that. What the previous manager did during his time with the club was amazing. We had some tough times before he was appointed, and over a short period of time, he dragged the club to being back in Europe.
“That can’t be underestimated. A change has happened, and we now need to get back on that journey and continue on that crest of a wave to get back up there and progress the club. We’ve made massive strides and we have an opportunity to continue that.
On Saturday’s Edinburgh derby…
"It’s a fantastic game to start with. The response we’ve had from the squad has been really good. It’s been a long couple of days but there’s still a lot more work to go into this. The change around the training set-up, the preparations for the game, the enthusiasm to learn. They’ve shown a real willingness to work hard.
On the squad…
"For me, this is the best Hearts team that I’ve been involved with. A lot of the players know me personally from my time as a player, which helps me. They understand my character, what I do. I was a player that was demanding and straight to the point. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, or that I’ve got something against you, I just want us to improve.
“I want to maximise what we can do. The guys that know me within the squad have been very good at letting everybody else know that that’s the case. We’ve had two really good days of training. We’re working on the dos and don’ts to start with, and then we’ll progress from there.
“It’s a short period of time but hopefully at the end of it – we’ll see a bit of progress.
On the future of Robert Snodgrass…
"I had a conversation with Snoddy. I have a good relationship with Snoddy as a player and a teammate. The decision’s been made that he’s probably not going to get many minutes. I’ve experienced that myself as a player and we had a talk about it.
Snoddy’s family are still down south and the best outcome for everybody would be that he gets time to spend with his family and I focus on a group that’s going to go forward."
On young players…
"A big thing for me over the past two years at the club has been working with young players. As a club, that’s something that needs to be much better. We’ve not been good enough on that front. We’ve got to give these guys an opportunity to play in the first team.
That’s it in a nutshell. The focus is first on the game on Saturday and then the six games after that. We need to get back to enjoying it, back to playing good football, and back to getting points on the board.
On Frankie McAvoy and Gordon Forrest…
“I’ve got good relationships with them both. I know Frankie well: he was assistant manager during my time at Norwich City and got on really well during that time. We’ve worked together very closely since he came in as Academy Director. Frankie’s got a wealth of experience in the game from being a manager, being an assistant, and he’s someone who sees the game differently to me. That’s a strong point, because he’ll see things that I sometimes don’t.
“Gordon and I are very similar in loads of aspects. Preparation, training, set-up, and delivery. How we want the game to be played. Gordy’s got a real enthusiasm for the game and I’m learning from him. I’ve learned on him a lot since I’ve been in my job.
“It’s a very good combination for us all and we’ll do all we can. The hours we’ll work, doing what’s required to get the players ready for the games every week. We’re in a very good place on that front.”
A message to the Hearts supporters…
“They’re demanding! But we can’t see that as a negative, we need to see it as a positive. It took me time when I first joined Hearts on loan to hit my stride, but when I did, I reaped the rewards. The backing they gave me meant my performances just got better and better.
“It got me back in the national set-up, so I’ve got a lot to thank that for. All I want is them to give us everything. Hopefully, over time we’ll give them as much back. At the end of the season, we want to be sitting here saying ‘it’s worked out.’
“That’s the message. We all need to be one, pulling in the same direction, and we all need to know that everyone wants what’s best for the club.”