Andraz Struna does not agree with those who claim the short-term nature of the majority of Hearts’ recent signings is contributing to the side’s poor form.
The right-back, who has himself signed only until the end of the season, has impressed with his own performances since joining the club in January. Struna was one of nine recruits, six of whom signed short-term deals.
Some fans have put their side’s faltering form under new head coach Ian Cathro – Hearts have won just three of 13 outings – partly down to the possibility these new signings are not as committed as they might otherwise be if tied down for longer.
But Struna, 27, is adamant the opposite is true. Speaking as one himself, he is in a good position to insist players signed on short-term contracts are, if anything, more motivated to try to impress.
“The player who signs only for six months maybe wants to prolong his contract so he must show himself,” he said. “Maybe after six months, he will be without a club, without security, salaries and all this.
“So I cannot agree with this. This is not a reason at all. You cannot live if you are not happy. Who wants to live if he is not happy? And we are not happy now. Nobody is happy with these results. We are sportsmen, we live for this. It’s hard. It happens a lot of times to everybody, big clubs, small clubs, in every sport.”
Struna does concede that introducing so many new players at the same time can be problematic. Indeed, Hearts’ recent results would appear to be proof of this.
“If you put a lot of new players in the side, of course it can be one of the reasons that you don’t connect so fast,” he said. “But still everyone knows that we must deal with it – for myself, I want to understand the other players and perhaps I need to do that faster. I need to learn what their reactions are, what they want and how they play. And they must observe me so we have this connection between us. That can be one of the reasons (for the poor form). But we are players at a high level. The new players have played at good clubs, big clubs.”
Struna accepted the team is “in a difficult moment” following successive defeats by Hibs and Partick Thistle. There is extra pressure on Hearts to end this run when Ross County are the visitors on the newly-laid turf at Tynecastle this evening.
Asked about team morale, as players seek to get to know one another while at the same time trying to gel on the park, Struna replied: “It’s good that you asked me this. We must be together. We know that we are together in this. Now even more, we must step together and be like one. Only like this can we do positive things. This is very important now. Don’t be distracted by what’s around us.”
Whatever difficulties Struna is encountering now, at least he’s playing regularly again. The player had no club for nine months before joining Hearts due to a combination of injury and poor career decisions after the expiry of his contract with Greek side PAS Giannina.
“I can’t compare the situations,” he said. “It’s different. Now I’m here and I have experience of this type of situation – just as the other players do. We must go on from this as soon as possible. We have faith and we’ll never lose that. The most important thing is that we support each other in the dressing room and fight for each other, then for the supporters.”
Clearly unwilling to rest on his laurels, he is merely “happy” that he is back fit again. But he insists that concerns about his personal situation pale in comparison to how important it is for the team to start winning again.
“If the team don’t win, like just now, then I’m not happy and I can’t be satisfied with myself,” he said. “But, generally, I’m fit so I’m happy with that.”
Struna won’t even focus too much on winning back his international place. Slovenia have a neatly scheduled qualifier against Scotland next month at Hampden Park and it would appear to be a perfect occasion for Struna to add to his 25 caps to date.
“I hope that I am picked to play against Scotland,” he said.
“I hope my performances here have been enough for me to be considered for the national team. It’s their choice and they have a lot of choices.
“I’ve only played since January but I have hope,” he added. “I can’t count on it but every day you have to do the best you can. Sometimes it doesn’t happen but you can’t stop trying.”