BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
IT IS rare to hear players pining for gruelling double sessions, however Jack Hamilton reckons Ian Cathro’s decision to get tough on the training field will pay dividends for Hearts.
The Jambos face Hamilton today, seeking to shake off a malaise which has seen them lose three successive fixtures.
They are fresh from a free weekend, courtesy of being dumped out of the Scottish Cup by fierce rivals Hibernian, however there was no rest for the wicked, with head coach Cathro putting his misfiring stars through their paces during the hiatus.
Allied with the new-look squad socialising together during the brief pause from competitive action, Hamilton believes the 10 days since their last Premiership outing have been invaluable, both on and off the pitch.
Hamilton said: “The double sessions have meant longer days and that’s been lifting everybody. Nobody minds putting the effort in to try to get back to where we were. The manager is the man in charge and he’s been brilliant since he came in. It’s time for us to repay him.
“We’ve been working hard and done some team bonding, too. We’ve been out and had dinner a few times with the boys. We do have a good dressing room and we all have each others’ backs.
“It’s good for the boys coming from abroad with their partners. They’ve maybe not got much to do out-with the football. It’s good for them to meet each other because it makes it more comfortable.
“It’s been a difficult spell, but we’re at a massive club with massive expectations. We’ve got to realise that as well. We just have to go out in every game and try to build on it, get ourselves better and get results for the team.”
Hamilton confesses that the notion that some Hearts players simply don’t have a strong enough affinity for the club – largely fostered by a gutless 3-1 reverse against Hibs – is an accusation that hurts.
The fact nine players were signed in January certainly makes a lack of togetherness an easy charge to lay at their door.
Hamilton is adamant there is only one way to prove they do have the requisite passion and desire – by returning to winning ways and getting the supporters back onside.
He continued: “The criticism does sting but everybody is entitled to their opinions and we need to put that right on the park. There is no point moping about it. We need to go out there and prove ourselves.
“We can’t say ‘the fans need to get behind us’ because we haven’t been given them the results. It is down to us to get a result for them.
“You can feel it [disgruntlement] but that’s because we are their team – and we’re not getting the results the expect from us. They are paying good money to come and watch so we need to perform for them, as well as ourselves.
“We all do know how big a club Hearts is and what it means, we’ve got a good squad and a good bond. We just need that win to get us going again.”
Hearts’ stuttering recent form, winning just three of Cathro’s 11 league games at the helm, has seen them drop off the pace in the chase for Europe, with the Jambos now trailing Aberdeen and Rangers by 14 and eight points respectively.
Such has been the dip, that some onlookers have suggested their top six place may be in peril, with the current seventh placed side, Dundee, only eight points back.
However, Hamilton is refusing to temper his ambition for this term. Indeed, he has described participation in next season’s Europa League as a must.
“A European place is a must really, we can’t be settling for anything less than that.
“That would be a brilliant achievement – and it is the aim, to get in there and do better than we did this season. We want to progress and improve every season as individuals and a club.”