Hearts 'letting the club down a little bit with some of the showings in Europe'

Claiming that Hearts showed Fiorentina too much respect at Tynecastle last week, Michael Smith has warned his colleagues that they can not be as deferential when they renew rivalries in Florence on Thursday night.

Sofyan Amrabat and Michael Smith in action during a UEFA Europa Conference League match between Heart of Midlothian and Fiorentina at Tynecastle, on October 06, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Sofyan Amrabat and Michael Smith in action during a UEFA Europa Conference League match between Heart of Midlothian and Fiorentina at Tynecastle, on October 06, 2022, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The Italians doled out a 3-0 defeat when they travelled to the Scottish capital last week and, admitting that confidence had been dented and that the dressing room had been very down in the aftermath, the Northern Ireland international has called for a more courageous performance this week.

“That was a tough night,” said Smith. “We had a gameplan and didn’t execute it properly. We gave them a bit too much respect, especially at Tynecastle. That's easy to say now but we didn't lay a glove on them. We didn't do enough. We now have to pick ourselves up and go again.”

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The full-back is a doubt for the match after he was forced off early in the second half with a tight hamstring and was replaced by Nathaniel Atkinson in the starting line-up for Sunday’s draw with Kilmarnock. Although Smith tends to be seen as a stronger defensive option, the Aussie combined a solid rearguard display with the late, late equaliser against Derek McInnes’ men and that may influence manager Robbie Neilson’s team selection..

But, regardless of the role he plays at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, he says there has to be a greater show of self-belief.

“There is no point in fearing them. We need to go and try to get some sort of result. We know what we are up against now and we will see what we can do to change things. If anything, we need to show a bit more belief and a bit more heart and have confidence in ourselves.

“If we can do that then maybe we can get more from it. We had a couple of chances against them at Tynecastle. Okay, not clear cut but it showed we can create chances so if we can keep it a bit tidier at the back then you never know what could happen. Confidence and belief is massive for us.”

Adapting to a new level of football for many in the squad has been challenging but the 34-year-old who is out of contract at the end of the season but would love to stay despite there being no dialogue with Neilson or Sporting Director Joe Savage yet, says that if they decide on a game plan then the players have to be better at executing it.

“It is tough because you don't know what you are coming up against. In the league you have played the teams before but with these games, you can do all the research on individual players and their style of play but you don't actually know what it is going to be like until you step out on the pitch. Sometimes we don’t deal with that well.

“If a team gets a good start against us, maybe we start dropping back instead of pushing higher up the pitch to put pressure on them, which happened a little bit [last week].

When we apply pressure higher up the pitch, we are a lot better. First half against Zurich here we were brilliant at that and we kept winning the ball high up the pitch but recently we have struggled to do that. That is down to us out on the pitch. It is about confidence and belief and talking and having faith in eachother. I could go on to say a million things about it but, yeah, we are all disappointed.

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“We worked our socks off last year and the year before to get to this level and I think we all feel that we are maybe letting ourselves and the club down a little bit with some of the showings we have given. That is down to us.

“Things have happened and we have put in poor performances but we need to regroup. We have still got a chance of progressing so we can’t just lie down and die. We know what we are up against but we have to go there and give a better performance.”

And, the aim is to recapture the positive vibe generated after the previous European away day, in Latvia.

“The feeling we had after the win in Riga was great. The camaraderie around the place and in the changing room afterwards was brilliant and it would be great to do that again and give the fans something to shout about.

“We have not been good enough and we know that. It is down to us to turn it around.”