Hearts manager Craig Levein believes the supporters’ angry reaction to the weekend’s languid performance against Raith Rovers will have more of an impact than his warning to the newcomers about the high expectations at the club..
More than 800 fans travelled across the Forth to watch Saturday’s Betfred Cup penalty shoot-out victory at Bayview and they made their feelings clear in a game in which Michael Smith pulled the Tynecastle outfit level with a stunning drive after Kevin Nisbet had opened the scoring.
Seven of the 13 summer recruits who have so far arrived in Edinburgh started the Group C tie and Levein insists that “fright” has made the players realise that another disappointing campaign will not be tolerated by either himself or the supporters.
Hearts will play on their new £1 million hybrid pitch for the first time in this evening’s must-win clash with Cowdenbeath and the former Scotland manager, pictured, is hoping for a much-improved display to get the fans onside.
He said: “I can tell them that we have a demanding set of supporters and it’s not always the easiest club to play for because expectations are high.
“But it’s better when they experience it and they certainly experienced it at the weekend.
“It doesn’t do any harm sometimes to get a fright and I think a few of them have had a fright at the weekend.
“We’ve got to acknowledge when you haven’t played well. It doesn’t do any good to anybody to pretend otherwise.
“There are two things: sometimes you just have to wait for some people to come up to speed in pre-season. That’s a normal thing. But I still think we should have done better than we did.
“So I’ll make changes for the Cowdenbeath game and coming back home will help.
“I always feel good about playing here and the pitch is in great condition.”
Despite the early start to competitive action in the Betfred Cup, Levein insists he remains a fan of the competition. He added: “I do like the format, but with so many changes within the group, and to be tested so early, is more difficult.
“I am still finding out about players, what they can do and who can gel with who.
“And, at the same time, trying to get everybody up to full speed. It is what it is.
“Basically, there are only three major trophies so we can’t afford to take any of them lightly. The team selection hasn’t indicated in any way, shape or form that we are taking this lightly.”
Newcomer Ben Garuccio is expected to make his competitive debut against the Blue Brazil after being an unused substitute at the weekend. The former Adelaide United left wing-back also did not feature in last Wednesday’s Group C win over Cove Rangers but reckons the opening fixtures have been a crash course in Scottish football.
He said: “It helps me understand the level of Scottish football. You hear that last year they never made it out of the group, so actually being here and facing these teams where you’re expected to win, they’re still really good opposition so we need to be at our best to be winning these games.
“You can see from the weekend if you’re not there it could be a bad result.
“You don’t want to see that reaction from the gaffer too often, you want to be keeping the gaffer happy and keeping the morale in the group as well.
“You have to forget about that result quickly. These games come round quickly so we need to move on and get back on it.”