Hearts striker Uche Ikpeazu knows what it takes to avoid relegation – momentum. And what better way to spark an upturn in fortunes than beating Hibs at Tynecastle today.
The 24-year-old has been in this predicament before. It was during a strange season in which Ikpeazu first went on loan to Crewe Alexandra from Watford and then switched to Doncaster before ending up back at Crewe again.
Some fans were upset at the way he had left for a brief sojourn at Doncaster in mid-season but Ikpeazu repaid them by helping Crewe secure safety in 2015. The side eventually escaped relegation to League Two by two points.
“We ended up staying in the league so that’s an experience I have in my locker,” he recalled. “But, no disrespect to Crewe, Hearts are a massive club in Scotland and with the players we have at the club, we should never be in this position.
“I think sometimes there’s just that monkey on your back – when you are losing games, you keep losing games. It’s a bit like being a striker and not scoring goals. It then gets harder to score goals.
“I just feel like one win could lift us and things can start going for us.
“Hard work, determination and remaining positive is the only way you can get through this.
“It’s a while ago now,” he said of his Crewe experience. “We were on losing streak and we won a game and we picked up. We ended up staying up because we ended up picking up quite a few wins in a short space of time. That momentum pushes you through. I just hope that the same applies to Hearts. There are still many games to get out of this position and I believe we can.”
Ikpeazu, pictured, hoped he had given struggling Hearts the lift they needed earlier this season when scoring at Easter Road in the first derby of the season. Although nearly the end of September, it was the Tynecastle side’s first victory of the league campaign. Remarkably, they have won only once since and slumped to bottom of the table following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Hamilton Accies. Ikpeazu is still waiting for his next goal while manager Craig Levein has been sacked and, eventually, replaced by Daniel Stendel.
“I don’t know what’s happened,” said Ikpeazu. “What I do know is that I’m doing everything that I can, and I’m sure my team-mates are, too, off the pitch and working hard on the pitch to help us get out of this situation. A club of this stature shouldn’t be in the position it is. It’s very frustrating because I take my football very seriously.
“Hibs are ten points ahead of us,” he added. “That’s good for them. When we focus on ourselves and start winning games, the rest will take care of itself.”