Levein believes criticism from Hearts fans is deserved as he urges improvement

Craig Levein has called on his Hearts players to “do better” after admitting poor performances deserve to attract criticism from the Tynecastle faithful.

The Jambos have seen the pressure on them increase after picking up just two points from their opening four league games prior to the international break.

Levein said there are no complaints from his squad when the crowd voices discontent following a below-par display and insisted it is down to his side to improve ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Motherwell.

He said: “One of the conversations I have with every player that comes here when I take them to the stadium is ‘wow’. It’s a great environment.

“That’s always great when you’re playing well but they’re demanding.

“And I wouldn’t have it any other way. You won’t see any of our players criticising the supporters because if we’re not doing well, we deserve to get criticism. We need to do better.

“The good thing for me is I’m in the fortunate position of being able to work with them every day and see the quality that they’ve got.

“Everybody heading in the same direction and having full confidence is a position I’m trying to get to. But I’m not overly concerned about it.

“It’s not always easy to work on the imagination side of things. Players have to come up with things in the heat of the moment and a lot of it has to be instinct.

“Having a good outcome generally follows a player being confident. We’re just suffering a little bit from a lack of confidence and people are playing safe just now.”

Levein has stressed the importance of improving the defending after leaking three goals in the away games against Aberdeen and Celtic and two last time out when Hamilton visited Gorgie.

He added: “My point after the game against Hamilton is we shouldn’t have to score three goals at home to win.

“I’ve got players in the team who are doing all right, others who are not quite up to full speed yet, others who are lacking a bit of confidence.

“One of the things that we can focus on with real intent is defending better so we’ve been doing that and hopefully that work will become evident at the weekend.

“If we can get back to defending properly then I’m very confident that the players I’ve got available will be able to score goals.”

Levein revealed Hearts will still be without defender John Souttar (ankle) at the weekend, while Steven Naismith is unlikely to feature.

“John Souttar is not going to make it, unfortunately,” he said. “His ankle was improving but he’s had a bit of a setback so we’re just trying to get to the bottom of that.

“Naisy, I don’t think so. The frustrating thing for him and us is that it’s not bad. He trained with Scotland and his muscle felt a bit tired.

“We just got a scan as a precaution and it turned out there was a little bit of fluid on the tendon. It’s very minor but I just want to make sure.”

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