IAN MURRAY fully expects an improved Hearts this weekend after getting the chance to put in three weeks of hard work on the training ground.
But he reckons Jambos boss Daniel Stendel might need 18 months to fully sort out the problems he has inherited at Tynecastle.
The former Hibs and Rangers defender takes his high-flying Airdrie team to the capital for an intriguing Scottish Cup tie on Saturday that looks loaded with danger for the Premiership basement boys.
With the likes of coach Jon Daly and midfielder Glenn Whelan reacting angrily to being freed by Stendel, and skipper Christophe Berra amongst the high-profile players told they are not wanted, Murray has backed his counterpart’s right to wield the axe.
But he is hopeful the process of change will be a slow one in Gorgie as the Diamonds bid to pull off a fourth-round shock.
The Airdrie manager said: “We’re all looking forward to the occasion. It’s a fantastic test for us, playing away from home against a Premiership team, who are obviously underperforming but are generally a top-five team.
“There are a lot of dynamics in the fixture for Hearts.
“They’re going through a huge transitional period, a really, really big one, probably bigger than people are realising.
“They’ve had three weeks off to work on things, so I expect an improvement in them.
“But I also know you can’t sort the problems Hearts have in three weeks – it takes about a year or a year and a half.
“The manager’s hands are tied to a certain extent, but it looks like he’s made his intentions clear and he’s quite within his rights to pick and choose who he wants to work with and who he wants to play.
“Of course people are unhappy, that’s football, but he has to do what he thinks is right.
“He’s an experienced manager and it’s going to be a great test for us and a tough test for us.
“But, in equal measure, it’s a game where Hearts are heavy favourites and they don’t have a lot to gain from it, apart from progressing in the cup.”
Murray added: “Daniel has had a very tough start. He’s got one point out of 15, it’s a terrible return, but he’s also working to try to find his best formation and to try to find his best players – and these five games included Hibs, Celtic and Aberdeen.
“To experiment and gain results is a very difficult thing, but I certainly expect them to be stronger now after the last three weeks.”