Steven Naismith feels it would be wrong to frame Saturday’s fourth-place shootout with city rivals Hibernian as make or break for his prospects of becoming Hearts manager on a permanent basis.
The 36-year-old has won two of his six matches in charge since replacing Robbie Neilson on an interim basis last month and has been unable to stop Aberdeen claiming third place in the cinch Premiership.
Naismith acknowledges “results have not been perfect” but he is adamant Hearts, who have been praised for their attacking intent in recent matches, are now “a much better team” than when he first took the reins.
A 2-1 win over Aberdeen last weekend followed by Wednesday’s 2-2 draw away to Rangers has helped strengthen his case in the eyes of many supporters.
Naismith feels his ability to lead Hearts forward in the longer-term should be of more relevance when deciding his fate than the result of Saturday’s derby, where a Hibs win would see them pip the Jambos to fourth place.
“I would be disappointed if it’s coming down to one game,” he said. “The whole thing’s been a process – not just on a Saturday, every day we train and work.
“The way I work, I’ve been very open with everybody and said: ‘Come and see what we do’, and if it works, it works. In some respects it might be coming across as that way (that the derby is make or break), but I’ve not seen it that way.
“I’ve seen it as taking over for this period of time and at the end of it I’ll reflect over what I thought went well, what didn’t go well, how well I’ve done, but that’s for after Saturday.
“I think over the course of the seven weeks, there will be moments where people will have been like: ‘He can do the job’, and there will be moments where people will go: ‘Nah, he’s not got enough experience’.
“That’s why I’m saying I don’t feel I will be judged on one game. It’s a big game because it’s a derby and we’re next to each other in the table but we’ve not been solely focusing on this game.
“We’ve been focusing on a plan to try and win games consistently and have something here that lasts, where we’re building something that doesn’t just give you short-term results.
“The club needs something bigger than that, and since I’ve come in and taken charge, that’s been at the forefront of my mind.”
Naismith, the former Kilmarnock, Rangers, Everton and Scotland attacker, first joined Hearts as a player more than five years ago and has remained at Tynecastle, more recently as a coach, ever since.
He feels his knowledge of the club will stand him in good stead if he is appointed Hearts’ permanent manager.
“I think it’s helped me in the seven weeks I’ve been in the role,” he said of his familiarity with Hearts. “I think it also helps me that I may be considered for the job longer term because I’ve got a real understanding of this club.
“I came here and in my first six-month loan spell, there was a lot I didn’t know about the club even though I’d been in Scottish football for 15 years, in terms of the demand, the size of the club, where the club’s ambitions were.
“I didn’t really know that from the outside but then you come in and very quickly you understand that, which then gets you an understanding that we need a certain type of player characteristic that can deal with the pressure.”