Alex Cochrane is confident off-form Hearts are ready to banish their recent slump and reassert themselves in the battle for third place in the cinch Premiership.
The Jambos held a seven-point advantage over their nearest rivals in early February but are now just one point ahead of Aberdeen after losing five of their last seven league games.
Manager Robbie Neilson and his players have been heavily criticised in recent weeks, but left-back Cochrane believes they can get the fans back on side with a strong finish to the campaign, starting with Saturday’s cinch Premiership visit from St Mirren.
“As players we know we can perform better, we know the results and performances haven’t been where they should be,” he said. “We’ve had a good training week and the lads are ready to go.
“It’s about going back to basics, getting that desire and passion back. I’m not saying it hasn’t been there, but we’ve got to make sure it’s there for the whole 90 minutes.
“When you play for Hearts, you have to play forward, you have to have that positive mindset. We need every player to be like that and have that mentality going into these games.”
Asked about the stinging criticism that has come the way of Hearts players and management, Cochrane said: “You’re always going to get your critics wherever you are. It’s part of the job, really.
“The only way to stop the critics is by putting in a performance and that’s what we need to do, starting this weekend.
“I’ve heard it (criticism) many times, I think quite a few of the players have, but we’ve got experienced players to help us as a team, to calm our heads and reset our heads to go again.
“We’ve got players who have had tough times at other clubs as well and they’ve come out the other side of it. We know this has been a tough period for us but we’re positive we can come out the end of it and have a good finish to the season.
“You’ve got to be quietly confident. We’ve got a good squad and we’ve just got to trust our abilities. We need a massive push towards the end of the season.”
Cochrane insists the togetherness within the dressing-room has not been adversely impacted by recent results.
“It always has been (united) since I came here,” he said. “It’s always the same, the boys are always together, keeping the spirits up.
“It has to be like that. You can’t let it get on top of you otherwise it can potentially affect your performances in training and matches.
“We’ve stuck together as a group and that will always be the case.”