New Hearts mentality explained by captain Steven Naismith ahead of Alloa match

After last season’s wretched insipidness, Hearts badly needed a change of mindset. More character, resilience and gusto were required to fight back from the disappointment of relegation.

Hearts captain Steven Naismith says players have a stronger mentality this season.

Those who frequent the Riccarton dressing room daily indicate that the necessary overhaul has taken place. Friday night’s defeat at Dunfermline ended Hearts’ eight-game winning run, now they must show some of that new-found strength to respond against Alloa Athletic.

Captain Steven Naismith watched in anguish last season as one poor result followed another. There was little resistance in between but he detects a better disposition this time under new manager Robbie Neilson.

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It should be in evidence at Tynecastle Park on Tuesday against part-time opponents with only one point from four league games to date.

“There is definitely a different mentality, the squad is different, there are a lot more bigger characters in the building now,” said Naismith. “It’s not just players but staff, the way the manager leads it and what he expects.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be able to take the foot off the gas or even kind of shy away from anything. We have worked on stuff throughout pre-season so much that that’s the levels we’ve set and what the manager demands.

“As a player on the pitch you’ve got to want the ball, you’ve got to want to take it and you need to do what he is demanding from you.”

It means less responsibility for 34-year-old Naismith to motivate colleagues. “As a group, there are more coming in disappointed and not accepting of things that have happened. That makes it slightly easier.

“It’s more of a common ground that everyone understands and knows that we have to go and get a good result on Tuesday.”

The 2-1 loss at East End Park raised questions, many of them asked by Hearts players themselves. “It’s in the thoughts of the players because that’s when it’s enjoyable,” said Naismith.

“After the game on Friday, yes the result is poor but you’re saying it’s not enjoyable. What we’ve done up until now has all been enjoyable.

“You go out and win the fight and then your game plan into action, getting touches and moving the ball quickly and we didn't do it.”

Friday’s result silenced those claiming Hearts would stroll through the Championship without suffering a single loss.

“That’s probably the biggest thing that manager has been drumming into us,” explained Naismith. “Everybody is saying we’re overriding favourites and we all accept that but it doesn’t mean every game is going to be easy.

“You can’t just turn up and expect it to be easy. Dunfermline have started well, they’re an organised team with good players. You have to give them a bit of credit for what they did and how they played.

“From our side of it, our standards were not as they should have been. The second balls, being in their faces and driving the tempo wasn’t good enough. We were slack going forward but we’re confident enough to come back for it.”

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