Stephen Kingsley has warned his Hearts colleagues not to take it for granted that the return to fitness of several key players will automatically set them on a post-World Cup break victory charge.
The Jambos had a mixed start to the campaign as a raft of injuries, allied to the demands of Europa Conference League group-stage football, took a toll on their league form.
Many of their key men are back fit as they return to action at home to Kilmarnock on Saturday, and there is optimism among supporters that they are now equipped to push on and pull off a repeat of last season’s third-place finish in the cinch Premiership.
“I don’t think it’s just going to happen because the players are back,” said Kingsley, one of the key players who has had fitness issues.
“Even though we have players coming back, we still need to address the problems we had in the first bit of the season and make sure we correct those mistakes.
“Just because we have players coming back doesn’t mean everything’s going to be brilliant and we’re going to go on a great run. We really need to put the work in and make sure we’re doing the right things to get the results.
“I believe we’re good enough to do that. It’s going to be a tough few months but it’s a great challenge to be part of.”
Kingsley believes Saturday’s game against Killie is crucial with regard to building a platform to prosper through the heavy winter schedule.
“It really comes down to momentum,” he said. “If we start this weekend with a good result and a good performance, we can use that as a catalyst to kick on.
“Once you get a bit of momentum, then when the games come thick and fast, you’ve got that confidence, you feel in a routine and hopefully that can kick you on.”
Kingsley considers himself a left-back by trade but has generally become a left-sided centre-back at Hearts.
He knows that with Australia World Cup star Kye Rowles – who is suspended for the Killie game – coming back into the mix after his early-season injury lay-off, he may be asked to shift even further across the defence at times to play on the right or in the centre of a three-man backline.
Kingsley said: “I’m comfortable playing wherever. I played left centre-back all of last season and I think everyone knows I am a left-back naturally but I don’t have any problem playing anywhere.
“I still see myself as a left-back – I’ll always be a left-back. That’s where my natural head’s always at especially when I receive the ball, my first thought is always to try and go forward or play forward.
“I feel I can do a job defensively as well so if I’m in the centre of defence or even at right centre-back, where I played a few times earlier in the season due to injuries, I feel I can switch things around if I have to.
“Naturally I think I’ll always be a left-back but with the confidence that I can switch things about to play different positions.”
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