When it comes to reputational damage, Callum Paterson doesn’t care if some opposition teams and fans want to label Hearts cheats. He says he will only be concerned if they start to consider them “soft”.
The club had staged an enthusiastic defence of winger Jamie Walker, arguing against an SFA charge of simulation in the opening league game of the season against Celtic.
That proved unsuccessful, leading to a two-match ban that will rule him out of this Saturday’s trip to face Aberdeen at Pittodrie and then the home game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, but Paterson says the shouts from the stands at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday were down to lazy stereotypes rather than any evidence of a concerted effort by Hearts players to gain an unfair advantage
The Gorgie club had battled back from a one-goal deficit, winning a free-kick on the edge of the area to set up an equaliser before Paterson hit the turf to win a penalty that allowed the capital side to take the lead in their Betfred Cup tie.
St Johnstone eventually overhauled them to go through, but that did not stop the home technical areas and the Perth support from vehemently contesting the decision to award both of those key set pieces.
Paterson shrugged off any suggestion that his tumble and subsequent spot-kick award was unjustified. “It was a penalty! We have been in the paper a lot obviously with diving so that’s just a stereotype around it. But there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.
Hearts can make themselves more difficult to beat, though, he added, and prove to rivals that they are willing to battle for supremacy.
“If you don’t put tackles in and don’t get yellow cards then you get a reputation for being soft,” said Paterson. “That’s one thing we’re not and it’s something we don’t want to be labelled as. We’re men, playing a man’s sport and bookings are part of it.”
Paterson demonstrated his fighting spirit in the defeat by St Johnstone, getting involved with their manager Tommy Wright as he tried to get the ball back for a throw in early-on. Afterwards the Saints gaffer said they had kissed and made up, claiming he actually admired Paterson’s feistiness.
“It was handbags,” said the defender, who laughed off the black eye he was sporting, denying Wright had played any part in it. “I think he threw the ball away. I wanted the ball back, it’s competitive and we were down at the time. There’s no hard feelings.”
But what was bruising was the defeat, the early exit from the League Cup proving a sore one. “We have a difficult start and we’d set our standards against Celtic but they dropped massively at St Johnstone. We have to get back to how we played last Sunday,” he said.
“But nobody is feeling pressure. It’s early in the season. Going out of Europe was disappointing and it’s the same going out of the League Cup.
“We have played well but we have been losing goals and it’s something we have to sort out, the goals we lost, to be honest. We missed long balls, had people diving in and didn’t win enough headers. It will sort out in time. We will look at it and deal with it.”