Black believes Jefferies has given him a new lease of life at Hearts

IAN BLACK is already anticipating having a major impact on the SPL next season at Tynecastle. However, he remains transfixed on securing two victories before this year's league split, insisting a place in the top six is only Hearts' to lose.

The midfielder admitted feeling a certain amount of pressure developing around Riccarton as the Hearts squad edge nearer to manager Jim Jefferies' primary aim of a place in the upper echelons of the SPL.

Whilst predicting next season would portrait the full extent of the prosperity brought by the new manager, Black said all thoughts for now are focused on forthcoming matches against St Mirren and Kilmarnock.

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"There obviously is pressure but if we go out with the right attitude then most if it is down to us. Only we can lose it," he said. "We need to pick up six points. I know we're capable of that. St Mirren are fighting relegation. They are fighting for their lives and we need to secure the top six. We need to go about our business the right way. We look at us. We aren't bothered about anybody else until we secure the top six. If we go into the games with the right attitude and win them, then we know we've secured it. It's all down to us.

"Next season will be massive for us. The gaffer will have us from the start telling us what his plans are. It will be great to start next season and go and achieve something quite exciting."

Seventh-placed St Johnstone sit just two points behind Hearts following Tuesday evening's convincing 4-1 victory over Rangers. However, their remaining pre-split fixtures against Dundee United and Aberdeen would appear rather more awkward than Hearts' engagements with St Mirren and Kilmarnock.

"It's not about easier games," said Black. "It was a shock result on Tuesday but St Johnstone are a good side. Rangers obviously can be beaten. We've done it, other teams have done it. St Johnstone came out the traps and got about them and got the result they needed."

Black said he is now thriving under Jefferies' management following a frustrating period during Csaba Laszlo's reign. "The start of the season was disappointing for myself. I never played much, never played in the right position," he explained.

"I was a bit down, I wasn't playing and, when I was, I was playing out of position. I wasn't enjoying it as much.

"With the new manager coming in I'm beginning to get leeway in the middle of the park and I'm enjoying it more. He's letting me express myself and show how I can play. The gaffer tells me he knows what I'm capable of.

"The previous manager had his players, knew what he fancied and what his team was. Not getting much of a chance was the most disappointing thing. The new manager has given me that chance and left it up to me to stay in the team. It was always up to me to come here and put my name in the starting team every week."