Hearts boss says don't be spooked by Fir Park ghosts

JIM JEFFERIES insists his side must ignore the hype surrounding Craig Brown and Archie Knox's departure from Fir Park for the second time in a week if they want to put one over on Motherwell tonight.

The Hearts manager told his players to do exactly that when they faced Aberdeen at the weekend and his philosophy seemed to work as the Gorgie side ran out convincing 5-0 winners.

He wants to see the same kind of attitude and application from his team tonight when they travel to Lanarkshire to take on the team that Brown and Knox left behind. However, with Motherwell currently occupying fifth place in the SPL, having played fewer games than the teams ahead of them, Jefferies warned that tonight's opposition will prove tougher opponents than the Dons did on Saturday afternoon.

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He said today: "We go into tonight's game knowing that we'll have to ignore the situation with the manager again, although we're in a different scenario this time because Motherwell have been so consistent, they have been in the top half of the table more often than not this season.

"They have only slipped down because of call-offs and other teams being able to play their matches.

"They are a hard team to beat at Fir Park and it will be a big test for us but if we can't go there and test ourselves, in the form we are in and with the confidence that we have got, then you will never be able to go there.

"The great thing for me is that when you look at the strength of the bench and the players coming back from injury very shortly, we are well geared up if anything happens in terms of further injuries or suspensions to not make us any weaker."

The Hearts manager couldn't be any happier with the way that things are going for his side right now.

Despite not playing since November 20, the Jambos returned to action on Saturday to rack up their fifth victory on the trot.

A Rudi Skacel double, plus goals from David Templeton, Stephen Elliott and Arvydas Novikovas helped Hearts achieve their rout but Jefferies believes that his side should have been given more credit for they way that they went about their business. He continued: "We are delighted with the way that things are going right now. We are happy that we have got a bit of confidence up.

"A lot was made of the fact that Craig and Archie had been appointed for the game on Saturday and that the team had been struggling.

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"We knew that if we won it was all going to be about Aberdeen being poor and what a big job Craig has ahead of him.

"I think that we should have got a lot more credit for the way that we performed.

"I thought that we showed a fantastic attitude and ignored Aberdeen's plight. We wanted to win the game and it was a good as I have seen up play, especially when we were without the ball. We worked hard to get it back and when we had it we played really well, created chances and we got the finishes to match that."

The Tynecastle side have not only won their last five matches, but have also recorded five clean sheets on the bounce against opposition like Hamilton, St Johnstone, Celtic and Hibs and that is one of the most pleasing aspects for Jefferies.

He believes that attack could well be the best form of defence, with the whole Hearts team beginning to pull in one direction.

"We are on a fantastic run at the moment," he continued. "They say that attack is the best form of defence and maybe that is proving to be the case. We were criticised last season for lacking that cutting edge up front but we are now finding that again, we have got flair players who are creating chances and we are scoring goals.

"We can defend as a team and when they lose the ball they have got that appetite to go and win it back quickly to keep the pressure on our opponents and I thought that we did that great on Saturday."

Jefferies has been keeping a close eye on the current proposals to change the top flight to a ten-team league and create an SPL B.

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While he admits there needs to be change at every level in the Scottish game though, Jefferies would much prefer to revert to a 16 or 18-team set-up instead.

He believes that playing one another on at least four occasions throughout the season is stifling football in this country and said that making a bigger league could also help some clubs stay afloat: "Some clubs are finding it hard to stay in the league with 12 teams so it's going to be even more difficult with just ten. It's still to be passed and some chairmen will be for it, some against it.

"I think that everyone agrees that there should be a change, I have always been an advocate of getting away from playing each other four times in a season.

"The reason I would like to see the change is getting away from playing each other so much and just getting it back down to home and away over the season.

"I have always been an advocate of a bigger league, I want the Dunfermlines and the Dundees to come back up because they are big clubs.

"They've got the stadiums and bigger expenses and it's not been easy for them, a bigger club would help them get a bigger share of the pot to help them survive in football terms.

"I think we have almost killed a lot of teams, killed them financially, and I know you could say that's their fault for getting relegated but when you look at some of the stadiums like Dundee, Dunfermline, Partick, Raith Rovers, there are a few that you could look at and say they could compete in a bigger league."

One suggestion that the Hearts manager does approve of though, are the play-offs which would decide promotion and relegation.

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Similar clashes in England have proved to be a huge draw both for fans in the stands and armchair supporters watching on television and Jefferies would like to think that a Scottish version would also be popular.

"The play-offs have been successful in England and I think it will be good thing for everyone up here - as long as your team is not involved. I would imagine there would be a huge amount of pressure and tension if you're part of these things.

"At the moment it's all just headlines and it will stay that way until they sit down and discuss them properly.

"After that if it sounds good, the only way to find out if it will work is to sit down and give it a try so it will be interesting.

"The play-offs would be a big success and obviously the television companies would want to take them, which would be more money into the pot for everyone."