DANNY GRAINGER refuses to feel sorry for himself despite being robbed of a league title.
And the Tynecastle hero insists Hearts must shake off their own sense of ‘injustice’ if they start next season in the Championship.
The 33-year-old was on course to secure silverware in his maiden campaign in charge of Workington Town, having romped to a 10-point lead at the summit of the BetVictor Northern Premier League’s North West Division with seven games to play.
However, Grainger’s dreams were dashed when the division was halted and declared null and void due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
To rub salt in the wound, the 2012 Scottish Cup winner then watched as the Jambos were dumped out of the Premiership this week, pending owner Ann Budge’s last-gasp attempts to salvage their status.
Grainger has more reason than many to feel bitter.
But while he acknowledges that a siege mentality can provide an extra spur – the ex-Dundee United and Gretna defender has emphasised the need for clear heads and laser focus if Hearts are to return to the top-flight at the first time of asking.
He said: “It’s a disappointment and it’s an injustice – but it’s not an excuse.
“But the reconstruction and legal routes fail and Hearts end up in the Championship then they can’t afford to stew and say ‘we shouldn’t be in this league’. Whether it’s Hearts or Workington, you can’t feel sorry for yourselves.
“Come the first game of next season, they can’t turn back the clock. They’ve got to dust themselves down and get the club back to where they belong.
“The motivation should come from knowing how big a club Hearts are, the fact they’ve played in Europe and won cups – not bitterness from being demoted.
“Of course they’ll maybe draw on that, take a little motivation from it, but it shouldn’t be the driving force.”
Grainger intends to practice what he preaches.
He continues: “I’ve spoken to someone about football mindsets and discussed how you deal with that sense of injustice.
“We were in a positive position at Workington, on course for promotion, and had that taken away from us through no fault of our own, so I have a sense of how the Hearts fans must be feeling.
“But you can’t obsess about every negative thing that happens otherwise that will overwhelm you.
“We know we shouldn’t be in this position. It isn’t our fault. But we’ll deal with it and move on.”
That is not to say Grainger believes the decision to relegate Hearts is a fair one. Quite the contrary.
He remains baffled that a club could be condemned to the Championship with eight games left to play and just four points to make up on Hamilton in 11th place.
Grainger continues: “You can’t call it a relegation. It’s not a relegation in my eyes. That happens after a full season has been played. Plenty of clubs have got out of the predicament Hearts have been in. It was very unfair and unjust.
“It’s hard to take because fates are being decided off the pitch. If a team messes up over the course of a season then you accept it, but to be punished by a vote when there are so many points to play for isn’t right.”
He does, however, hope Daniel Stendel returns to lead Hearts – regardless of what division they are in.
The German will be able to walk away from his contract, which runs until 2022, it the men in maroon are not in the top-flight next term courtesy of a break clause in the deal he penned in December.
And Grainger added: “Hearts is a special club and I think the manager needs to buy in and get to know how it ticks. Daniel Stendel seems to have done that and at time we have seen how he wants the side to play.
“Hopefully he comes back to see the job through and start rebuilding properly in his image.”