DESPITE conceding a flood of goals in their last two matches, Hearts have insisted there is no time to wallow in self-pity.
While the threat of relegation still looms large and the future of the club has still not been secured, Dylan McGowan says that the players need to remember that regardless of how tough things seem, it could be worse.
“We’ve got the best job in the world,” he said. “People may think it’s all doom and gloom but to come in and kick a ball around for a few hours isn’t the hardest thing in the world. So our spirits are quite high because everyone realises how lucky we all are to be getting regular Scottish Premiership football at this age. Everyone is enjoying it and the spirit in the camp is still really high. It’s just a case of enjoying your football.
“You can focus on the negatives if you want: we are in administration, things are tough, we are losing players to injury. But at the end of the day we are football players and there are guys on building sites working really hard. I’ve got friends who are tradesmen, my dad is a tradesman and it’s been drummed into me from a very young age that I’m the lucky one. I basically play a hobby for a living. That’s what my dad says. It’s always been instilled in me so I’ve got a good outlook on life.”
But the defender admits that after a disappointing couple of weeks, a little pick-me-up would not go amiss. And he is targeting three points this afternoon and consequent arrival at zero points, having had a 15-point deficit imposed on them when they entered administration.
“We are trying to get there are quickly as possible and if we could get there this weekend then it would give us a huge psychological boost,” McGowan added. “It would give us a huge lift going into the busy festive period.”
To do that, everyone at Hearts knows that they will have to plug the gaps at the back which led to them conceding seven goals against Celtic in the Scottish Cup and a further four against Dundee United on league duty last weekend.
“As a defender you take everything personally,” said McGowan. “Every shot the opposition get on target is personal to us. We do our best but we know we need to defend better. The back four take the majority of the blame, as they should.
“We aim to put things right and it’s something we have been focusing on. Billy (Brown) and the gaffer have been critical of it and they’ve worked hard with us to put things right for the weekend. When we have defended well then we have kept clean sheets, that’s the frustrating thing. If we could do that more often, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in. We need to work hard and get everyone working from the same page.”
With Ryan Stevenson’s torn hamstring ruling him out for the next few weeks, manager Gary Locke has had to call up more of the ground staff in a bid to make up the numbers to field a team and fill the bench.
This afternoon there will be only one outfield player over the age of 22 and only three of the 18-man squad will be aged 21 or over. It leaves them more susceptible to lapses in concentration and the mounting tension.
“Sometimes this season it has been individual errors, that’s what comes from having a young side with players who are nervous,” says McGowan, who states he is one of those on a steep learning curve. “We understand the predicament the club is in and every loss to the club is like the end of the world. The young boys who come in are under pressure and mistakes happen. But we need to appreciate that we are gaining experience with the first team. How many of us would be getting this number of games with any other team in the league?
“I came into the team last season as a young guy and six months later I’m one of the experienced guys. I’m getting extra responsibility in the changing room and out on the field and the young boys are playing first-team football earlier than expected.
“We’ve picked up four points from the last nine in the league and if we can build on that this weekend then December’s not been a bad month. Obviously the Celtic game was in the cup and it’s one to forget but the league’s always been our main focus. If you can pick up seven points a month then it will be a good achievement and we will be heading in the right direction. I don’t think the teams around us will be picking up those kind of points. So of course it can still be done.”