Robert Snodgrass has urged his Hearts colleagues to keep giving him the ball in tight areas as he continues to thrive in his deep-lying playmaker role.
The 35-year-old former Scotland international made his name as an attacking player in his prime years with Leeds, Norwich and Hull but has reinvented himself as an Andrea Pirlo-style number six in recent seasons.
Having swiftly become one of Hearts’ key players since arriving in September, Snodgrass now finds opposition teams are often trying to man-mark him in order to stop him dictating play – but he insists he can cope just fine if anyone tries to shackle him.
“It’s something that I’ve had to adapt to and learn,” he said of his current role. “I try to watch a lot of players in that position.
“I’m still learning, even at 35. I want to try to be the best I can be.
“My biggest job is getting the lads to trust that I can deal with it, even if I’ve got a man on me.
“A lot of teams are playing now with somebody in advance, just sort of sitting on me, but that’s part and parcel of football. You need to be able to show that you can take it with a man on you and still try to play.”
Asked which central midfielders he watches and takes inspiration from, Snodgrass said: “There are loads. You look at the top ones, Rodri (of Manchester City), in that position.
“He doesn’t do anything fancy. He keeps it so simple but he is so effective at keeping the ball moving, keeping the flow going and creating a bit of variety. He plays in the pockets, wide, advanced.
“The biggest thing I’ve been disappointed in with myself is I’ve not got enough assists from set-pieces. I’m trying my best to put it in the areas. Hopefully I can go on a wee bit of a run to create more assists.”
Snodgrass’s influence at Hearts was highlighted by the fact he wore the captain’s armband in Friday’s Scottish Cup fifth-round win away to Hamilton as Lawrence Shankland, who is skipper in the absence of long-term injury victim Craig Gordon, missed out through suspension.
“I’ve been captain at a few places,” he said. “It’s just if you are called upon, being one of the more experienced players.
“Lawrence has done a great job and before him Craigy.
“It doesn’t make any different to my game. I don’t really approach things any different.
“I try and do a lot of the leadership stuff anyway, whether I’ve got the armband or not.
“I just try and support the lads as much as possible.”