Olly Lee says humiliated Hearts were right to pull plug on Xmas trip

Having gifted Livingston an easy five-goal victory last Friday night, Olly Lee said it was a simple decision to wrap up any plans for the Hearts players' Christmas night out.

Due to fly out to Prague the day after the match, the result forced an immediate rethink.

“We all said that we just couldn’t do it,” revealed the Gorgie midfielder. “We all knew we didn’t deserve to be out enjoying ourselves after a result like that. It was as simple as that. There was never any question, straight away it was off.

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“There was no one who thought we should be going away. We all knew. The lads have put a good shift in this season and that can be forgotten after a bad result like that but we all still knew that we didn’t deserve to be out celebrating. It is as simple as that.”

20/12/18 ROYAL HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN - EDINBURGH Hearts Olly Lee with Dylan Smith (left) and Hannah Sinclair

Captain Christophe Berra, pictured, was the man who raised the possibility of calling a halt to the plans for seasonal merriment in the wake of the humiliating capitulation but it was a suggestion greeted with unanimous approval according to Lee, who has been as frustrated as anyone by the side’s unceremonious slide from the top of the table to fifth place on the back of just one win in their last eight Premiership games.

It marks a staggering turnaround in fortunes following a bright start to the season, where a solitary defeat by Rangers proved the only blemish on their copybook in the opening 16 games.

“Skip took charge of that and said it wasn’t the right thing and, to be fair, everyone agreed,” said Lee. “We all knew. When we were on the coach, we all knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. It is a shame because it would have been nice to have some team bonding but you don’t feel the same happiness after a 5-0 defeat and not doing ourselves justice and, fair play, we have all worked hard this week, and we will be doing our best to put in a good performance on 
Saturday.”

Tomorrow they travel to Pittodrie looking to make amends. They will be bolstered by Steven Naismith’s keenly anticipated return to action following his knee cartilage operation, while the honest post mortem of the Livingston debacle has also served as a boot to the backside, according to Lee.

“It looked like it had 0-0 written all over it but when you see how the game has gone, I think we were just too desperate to try to bring it back from 2-0 down and we ended up losing our heads,” he said. “It was a disappointing night and it is one a lot of us will remember for a while because it is not what we want to do but we are determined to fight back and show what we are really about.

“We have had some frank discussions and a lot of things have been said that, to be honest with you, needed to be said. We have addressed them as a squad and the manager has obviously led the way with that and we have now put that behind us and we are very eager to push on.

“It has been well-documented that we’ve had a tough time and the result on Friday was unacceptable. Maybe we had got to a stage where a few home truths needed to be said and we all feel a lot better for having got it off our chest. Hopefully we can now kick on through what is going to be a tough Christmas period and remainder of the season.”

The fallout from the result and the performance has served as a reminder of the demands the players are under at Hearts and the expectation levels of the Gorgie support.

Lee has no issues with that but he has assured fans that while the catalogue of injuries to key players is not an excuse for recent returns, he does believe that getting the stricken squad members back will allow the team to finish the season as strongly as they started it.

“It has been really hard and I don’t think any team in the league could cope with losing their two main centre-backs and two main strikers,” he added. “We have battled through as well as we can and hopefully we are now coming out the other side and we are getting players back who can make a difference.

“Naisy is a big leader in this team and he manages the team on the field and we have missed him. He is the one player that we really couldn’t deal without because of the way he barks orders around and leads by example so it is a big deal to everyone to have him back.

“You have to remember we have lost international players. When they all come back then I think that could give everyone the lift we need to really kick on for the last three months of the season. In the first three months we showed how good a side we are and now we just need everything to click back into place and then we can get back to that level again.”