Hearts are a little ‘unsettled’ by change as Scottish Cup expectations weigh heavy

Michael Smith and Hearts take on Livingston in the Scottish Cup.

It has been a decade since the Gorgie side lifted the trophy and although there have been two finals since (as well as a final and three semi-final appearances in the League Cup), the fact they have shown themselves to be the third best club in the country this season has heightened the demands this time around.

Add to that the fact that many feel the team has some making up to do after a few fixtures stuttering, and the pressure is on.

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After a four-game lay-off following the flare up of a back problem that has dogged him on and off for eight years and required a steroid injection, Smith knows what he is walking back into.

“I’ve said it before, at a club like this we demand trophies. As players and staff we demand it ourselves. We want to pick up some silverware,” said Smith.

Coming up from [the Championship], if we finish third it’ll be a great achievement, but at the same time the Scottish Cup is the one we want to be lifting as well because we’ve missed out narrowly in the past few years. I would love to get my hands on it personally.”

They came extremely close in 2020, when they took Celtic all the way to penalties. Smith was second up for Hearts and converted his spot-kick but two misses further down the order proved their undoing.

“Yeah, that was pretty painful. We were close last time, going to penalties. It only gives you the experience to go out and do better next time. You know what’s there at the end of it. It’s a one-off game so we know we have to go out there against Livingston and go for it.”

A win would take them within one match of a return to Hampden and, despite lodging successive defeats for the first time this season, Smith says there was “no need for a crisis meeting”.

“We’re sitting third in the league, have points clear. Yeah, we’ve had two bad results in a row, but luckily other results have gone our way and we’ve still got that gap, so we’re not going to panic and reset anything. There’s no need to do that at this stage of the season. We’ve played ever so well.

“I think there has been a lot of change. I thought in the first half of the season it was a pretty stable three, or five at the back. But, Soapy [John Souttar] was out injured, Halks [Craig Halkett] has been out and I’ve been out and we’ve had to chop and change and I think it’s unsettled us a bit but we just need to get back what we were doing in the first half of the season.”

Both Smith and Nathaniel Atkinson are available, providing manager Robbie Neilson with options.

“I have no problems with competition,” insisted the Northern Ireland international. “It helps breed positivity and you want to raise your game.”

They will need to if they want to keep their cup hopes alive.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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