BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
OLLY LEE insists the entire Hearts squad were behind Christophe Berra’s decision to cancel Christmas after their hammering by Livingston left the Jambos feeling far from festive.
The players were due to jet out to Prague last Saturday for their annual party,
Scrapping the shindig was suggested by captain Berra as the shell-shocked capital club licked their wounds on the team bus back to Edinburgh – but Lee is adamant the call was unanimous after shipping five goals in a catastrophic 14-minute collapse.
Lee revealed: “Skip [Berra] took charge of that when we were on the coach and said it wasn’t the right thing to do. Everyone agreed. We all knew we didn’t deserve to be out enjoying ourselves after a result like that. There was never any question, straight away it was off.
“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.
“That’s never happened to me before – it has been threatened a few times! Usually you get away with it but this time we all knew it wasn’t the right time to be out enjoying ourselves.
“So, we have had a hard week this week and we will be doing our best to put in a good performance on Saturday against Aberdeen.”
The nature of their capitulation was top of the agenda when Hearts reported back for training on Monday morning, with the players and coaching staff holding a ‘frank’ discussion and delivering some ‘home truths’.
The English midfielder fully expects that collapse to act as a much-needed wake-up call, having claimed just one win from their last nine matches ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Pittodrie.
Lee continued: “We have had some frank discussions and a lot of things have been said
“Friday was unacceptable and we had got to a stage where a few home truths needed to be said. They have been said now and we all feel a lot better after getting things off our chest.
“We know we let people down on Friday and we are determined to put it right. We know we are a good team, we haven’t forgotten how to play football all of a sudden. We are determined to fight back and show what we are really about.”
Hearts, desperate to restore pride following their humbling at the Tony Macaroni Arena, will be able to call upon Steven Naismith tomorrow for the first time since he limped out of the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic with a knee injury in October.
Since then, the Jambos have won once and scored just four goals, and Lee fully concedes that the Scotland internationalist is ‘the one player’ Hearts can’t live without.
Lee reckons Naismith’s long-awaited will provide an immeasurable boost for the team as a whole – and him personally, as he looks to recapture the potency in the final third that made him a fans
He continued: “I really enjoy playing with
“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. It’s massive to have him back.
“For me, personally, it has been a tough couple of weeks but it is nice to have someone like Naisy back, that I can bounce off and get forward.”
John Souttar and Uche Ikpeazu will also climb from the treatment table in the New Year, while striker David Vanacek joins the club from FK Teplice on January 5.
And Lee has no doubt that the Jambos CAN recapture the form that saw them win six of their opening seven league games to roar to the summit of the Premiership when they are back at full-strength.
He added: “The injuries have been crazy. I have never known anything like it. It has been really hard and I don’t think any team in the league could cope with losing their two main
“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.
“You have to remember we have lost international players. When everyone is back then I think that could give us 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 everyone to work together and then we can get back to that level again. The tough times don’t last.”