Demetri Mitchell, the Heart of Midlothian wing-back, recognises that the players are not short of incentives ahead of today’s Ladbrokes Premiership visit of St Mirren.
Victory would preserve the Tynecastle side’s immaculate league record and keep Hearts at the league summit, albeit after only four matches.
However, manager Craig Levein’s absence from the technical area on health grounds will serve as the most meaningful stimulant.
The 53-year-old was admitted to hospital on Monday morning for what is now known to be a heart problem, with the club releasing a short statement at 10:45am that day saying he was ‘recovering’.
Following much doubt over when the former Scotland manager would return to work, Levein issued a update on Twitter on Thursday to say he intends to be back for the trip to Motherwell in a fortnight.
The initial concern for Levein’s wellbeing has been replaced by relief and Mitchell, who returned to Hearts on a season-long loan from Manchester United on Tuesday having spent the second half of last term in Edinburgh, hopes victory over Saints will aid their manager’s period of convalescence.
“The news was shocking, of course, but I was pleased to hear he was recovering well,” said the 21-year-old.
“I’ve heard (assistant manager) Austin MacPhee saying that he is in good nick.
“That’s very good and pleasing to hear.
“The manager’s situation means we want to work hard and get a result for him against St Mirren.
“It would be good if we got the three points and we were still on top of the league on Saturday night.
“I think winning would make him feel good and it would also make us feel good that we had managed to do that for the manager.”
Mitchell has only been away from Hearts for four months, however, concedes a squad overhaul meant he walked back into a barely recognisable changing room.
The left-sided player became a fans favourite during the 11 appearances on loan last term.
However, a disappointing sixth place finish in the league prompted Levein to preside over a significant revamp, with Mitchell becoming the 15th summer arrival – followed 48 hours later by Craig Wighton.
“I’ve only been gone about four months now and half the players are not here,” said Mitchell. “That was a bit of a shock to me.
“I’ve come back to over ten new signings but they look like very good players.
“With the quality of the new signings, the standard in training is very high and it looks competitive and there is a lot competitive for places this season – that’s always a good thing.
“During the summer I was looking at options but this was the right one for me.
“I had a conversation with the manager and Austin MacPhee about coming back at the end of last season and I was looking forward to it.
“There were other clubs interested but I would rather focus on Hearts because I’m focused on the task in hand and the season ahead.”
Despite being injured for two of the months he was in Edinburgh, Mitchell still endeared himself to the club’s fans with his dynamic performances up and down the left flank.
He also scored a stunning goal in February’s Scottish Cup win over St Johnstone and Mitchell admits the rapport he has established with both the supporters and Levein was a huge factor in returning.
He added: “What was it about the club that made me want to return? It was the fans.
“They showed me a lot of support at the ground and on social media too.
“I really felt the love of the fans.
“It’s a big club in Scotland but also the manager showed his confidence in me. He threw me into the deep end against Hibs in the Scottish Cup and he showed me I would get game time if I worked hard and performed.
“I also feel like I have more to show as I didn’t play as much as I should have played due to that injury.
“I still have more to show the fans that they have not seen and I am looking forward to doing that.”
Mitchell, who played in United’s pre-season tour of America, was voted the club’s reserve team player of the year last season despite being at Hearts for half the campaign.
And he is thrilled that he still has a chance to force his way into the star-stubbed Old Trafford line-up after being handed a contract extension.
He added: “I’ve signed a new deal until 2020.
“It was important for me and the club to sign a new deal because I would have been up next summer and this gives me confidence that they see a future with me at the club.
“It was good being away on the summer tour.
“I was away with the first team to LA the summer before so this was my second time away.
“I was just focusing on working hard and getting the minutes in. All the first team players are helpful and it’s a good environment.”