Hearts captain Christophe Berra admits their uniquely challenging start to the league campaign will be make or break as Ian Cathro’s position comes under increasing scrutiny.
Hearts crashed out of the Betfred Cup on Saturday after following defeat by Peterhead with a home draw against Dunfermline and Berra accepts they deserved the jeers of the Tynecastle support.
Head coach Cathro won just six of his 26 matches in charge last season and a number of fans are calling for a change following the cup disappointment.
Berra is well aware improvement is needed quickly but Hearts start their Ladbrokes Premiership season with four away games against Celtic, Kilmarnock, Rangers and Motherwell while their new main stand is completed.
“The players and manager know results aren’t good enough,” the Scotland defender said. “Hearts are a big club in Scotland and especially at home we need to be running over the top of teams, and at the minute we are not doing that.
“If you don’t get results you are going to come under media speculation and going to get stick.
“Training has been good, the manager’s thoughts and methods, everyone enjoys training. We need to take that on to the pitch and buck up our ideas and do that bit extra to win games.
“We have got four tough away games but that’s football for you. These games either make you or break you and hopefully they are going to be the making of us.”
Berra insisted the players were behind Cathro but admitted only results will win round fans.
“Let’s not be daft, at the end of the game, the fans weren’t happy,” he said. “The players can sense that. It’s not just on the manager, it’s on the players as well, we are not getting results.
“It’s a hard sport, when things are not going well it can build up. Obviously fans have their frustrations, a lot of it has carried on from last year.
“If you’re not winning games you are going to get stick. Us as players have got to be thick-skinned, we have to take it on the chin and work through. We need big characters on the pitch. The only way we are going to win the fans over is by winning games and starting the season well.”
Berra’s first spell at Hearts saw numerous changes of management and some difficult times off the pitch during Vladimir Romanov’s ill-fated spell in control.
But he admitted Saturday was as difficult a moment as he could initially remember.
The 32-year-old, who returned from Ipswich in the summer, said: “I asked my mum and dad, ‘Was it ever like that before?’ They said it had probably been worse.
“It doesn’t matter where you are playing, whether it’s Ipswich, Wolves, Real Madrid or Barcelona, if you’re not doing well the fans will boo.
“I’ve been at Hearts many years before and it’s never been easy. There have been highs and lows.
“When I look back there were a lot of lows where you think, ‘God, I don’t want to do this’. But you bounce back.
“That’s one of the reasons I think I have had a good career. If you’re not performing well individually, technically you are letting your team-mates down as well. You don’t mean to but you are human and you are going to have good times and bad times. The boys with the big characters, the ones who can get through that, are the ones that will progress their career.
“It’s a lot of pressure, be it a footballer or a manager, if things are not going well you are going to get stick.
“Scotland’s a small country but there’s a lot of media and papers and that’s the way it is.
“That’s the nature of the beast in football, you learn to be thick-skinned. If you want to get better you have to take the good with the bad.”