Lawrence Shankland calls on Hearts players to ‘put things right’

A five-match losing run cost Robbie Neilson his job and led to Steven Naismith taking charge.

Lawrence Shankland calls on Hearts players to ‘put things right’ in Edinburgh Derby SNS Group

Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland has stressed the players feel and accept responsibility for getting themselves into and out of their slump.

A five-match losing run cost Robbie Neilson his job and led to Steven Naismith taking charge for the final seven cinch Premiership game of the season, starting with Saturday’s Edinburgh derby at Easter Road.

But the players had already held their own summit on Sunday following the home defeat by St Mirren, before news broke of Neilson’s departure later in the day.

Shankland said: “It’s an opportunity for Naisy but more importantly it’s an opportunity for us as players. We need to put things right.

“It’s us as players who have been on the bad run. It’s not the management staff.

“They can control what they control but it’s us that go out on game day and it’s us that need to put in the performances to win games. So it’s on us to improve.

“Obviously when you go on a run of results we have been on, the pressure builds and in modern-day football managers seem to lose their jobs pretty easily when it comes to that.

“As players we need to take responsibility for that because it’s us that go out there and put performances in.

“They have not been good enough as a team and that has cost the manager his job. There is a large part we take responsibility for.”

The Tynecastle captain added: “Especially after the last game, we had honest conversations amongst each other and said what had to be said.

“But there were no major problems that had to be sorted, we seem to just have a lack of confidence and it was showing in our performances.

“It was more tactical, it wasn’t anything personal. It was just us sorting out problems on the pitch that we felt could help us improve results.

“There comes a time when you need to have those discussions and people say what they think.”

Neilson has signed Shankland twice and made him skipper following Craig Gordon’s Boxing Day leg break but the former Beerschot forward knows he has to focus on the future.

“Listen, when you are in football you are used to it, change happens quite a lot,” the 27-year-old said.

“Last year when I was abroad I had three different managers in a season so it’s something I have come across before. Obviously Robbie left Dundee United when I was there as well.

“As players most of us will have dealt with a manager changing.

“Of course you have got relationships with managers and I worked well under the gaffer and had a good relationship with him but it’s football. You need to move on.

“He will know that himself, he said it himself to me on the phone. We will just need to get on with it now.”

Hearts sacked Neilson after slipping down to fourth but Naismith, seemingly trying to take the pressure off, claimed finishing third was “not the be all and end all”.

However, Shankland knows that European group stage football is the only aim now.

“We need to target third,” he said. “Obviously we were in a good position previously to this run of bad results and we have lost that gap we had.

“That’s not the end of the world, it’s not a crisis, it’s still doable to catch Aberdeen and go ahead of them again. There is still a lot of football to be played.

“I believe we have a good enough squad. If we can put some things right that we needed to sort out and improve our performances, we have shown we can be a good team.”

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