Naismith vows to do his best for Hearts with Snodgrass set to exit

The former Rangers, Everton and Hearts striker stressed he had to separate friendship from decision-making.

Steven Naismith vows to do his best for Hearts with Robert Snodgrass set to exit SNS Group

Interim Hearts manager Steven Naismith vowed he would do things his way after axing his friend days into his new role.

Naismith told former Scotland team-mate Robert Snodgrass he would not be involved in the final seven games of the cinch Premiership season and the 35-year-old’s departure is expected to be confirmed next week after he serves a one-match suspension.

The departure of another of Naismith’s former team-mates, Lee McCulloch, was announced just before the 36-year-old was confirmed as the short-term replacement for Robbie Neilson.

The former Rangers, Everton and Hearts striker stressed he had to separate friendship from decision-making ahead of his short run as manager.

Speaking in a media conference ahead of Saturday’s Edinburgh derby, Naismith said: “If Snoddy is not involved, for me personally the job becomes harder if there’s questions always about Snoddy.

“I had this conversation with him and all round I felt it was best that he wasn’t around for that. For no other reason than it makes everything easier for me.

“Snoddy was really disappointed and it’s hard for me as someone who is his friend, his team-mate and had a long-lasting relationship with him to have that conversation and speak to him and see how disappointed he was.

“But Snoddy has really good attributes, he has been a fantastic player and I only have good things to say about him. But the decision was made and we will move on.”

The Scotland assistant coach added: “It’s a difficult one because I played with half this squad, which has been brilliant for me so far because they know my character, they know how I act.

“I am pretty blunt sometimes and I’m pretty hard and demanding but hopefully they are going to tell them ‘he’s actually an all right guy’.

“But I experienced that when I became a Scotland coach. I was half their team-mates.

“Inevitably you need to change your relationship. But it doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with them. You can be more honest with them and you can be sure they understand what you want and need and they can carry that message on to the guys we have not been around.”

Despite the short-term role, Naismith will act like he is in charge for the long term.

“Football is littered with insecurity and people making judgements for self-interest,” he said. “I am not interested in that. I will do what’s best for the club, whatever needs done I will do.

“If I’m not here in the summer or if I am back in my role with the B team, I know everything I have done is to make Hearts better.

“Recruitment has to go on from now until the summer, pre-season needs arranged, and I will do what I think is best and that what will (need to be) done to give the guys the best chance to keep progressing.”

Naismith described his promotion as a “fantastic opportunity” but added: “In terms of how long it is, I am only bothered to the summer. It’s come early. I don’t know if I will enjoy it to the level I want.

“But I want to be a manager, I was in a fantastic role beforehand with the national team and Hearts. So if I go back to that role, I will be delighted.

“If over the course of this I change my mind and think I am ready, I love it, then my opinion might change but at the moment I just want Hearts to do well and win games.”

Neilson was sacked after a run of five consecutive defeats saw Hearts slip into fourth place in the cinch Premiership.

The club acted out of concern over losing out on lucrative entry to European group stage football but Naismith played down the pressure of league finishes as he tries to rid the players of anxiety.

When asked if third was the only acceptable finish, he said: “It would be nice but for me that’s not the be all and end all, to be honest.

“The club have made the change to try to get a reaction. I firmly believe we will get a reaction from what I have seen so far. But time will tell.

“It’s a great game to start, a derby. It’s a game that is probably easy for everybody to get up for and it’s one we are looking forward to.

“That’s the biggest thing that has come across from the players: there is a real excitement now, there is not a nervousness.”

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