London Hearts Supporters Club

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Hartley endeavours to focus Hearts and minds


ALTHOUGH, at 26, he’s already been around the block often enough to have played for Hamilton, Millwall, Raith Rovers, Hibs and St Johnstone, Paul Hartley admitted yesterday he wasn’t fully aware of Hearts’ prominent place in the Scottish game before he returned in the summer to the Premierleague.

The footballer of the year in the First Division last season, Hartley acknowledged: "It was a sticky start for me at Hearts, but over the last two months I’ve been playing in the first team and the more you do that the more confidence you take. I’ve been enjoying myself and don’t mind being used in three or four different positions.

"Of course you can always improve as a player, but I think I’ve shown I can do well. Hopefully, there’s more to come. It’s always difficult coming to any new club and until I arrived at Hearts I didn’t appreciate just how big they are. I’ve come to understand that over the past couple of months. The standard in training as well as in games is exceptionally high. It means a lot to me to be back in the SPL. And I knew I’d come a long way from the First Division when I played in Europe with Hearts.

"The support is also fantastic. When we played in Bordeaux during the UEFA Cup run the size of the following was so great that it just made you want to experience more of it."

Hartley first made a name for himself at Hamilton and was taken south to Millwall by manager Jimmy Nicholl. When the Ulsterman returned to Fife, the midfielder went with him to Raith Rovers. It was his form in Kirkcaldy which persuaded Hibs to give him a chance in the top flight.

"Although I didn’t play regularly at Easter Road, I think it was difficult for me as a former Hibs player to come to Hearts and establish myself," Hartley admitted. "It takes time to settle in at any club and win over the supporters. I can’t say whether or not I’ve done that yet. But I will give it my all every week and, hopefully, the fans can see that.

"It didn’t work out for me at Hibs. Maybe I was too young, maybe they had other good players. Anyway, it just didn’t happen for me. Now I’m older and wiser."

Although he re-established himself at St Johnstone, Hartley had no illusions about the challenge he faced to become a regular with Hearts. Able to play on both flanks, in central midfield and just off the front, Hartley’s adaptability has been an asset since arriving at Tynecastle in the summer.

"I think there’s so much more to come from this side. Hearts were third last season and want to do at least as well as that again and qualify for Europe. The manager [Craig Levein] is good to work under and knows what he wants from each and every player.

"If you play well for a club like this then you’ll be recognised by Scotland in time. My job is to establish myself as a Hearts player first of all. I’ve played all over the place in midfield and attack and don’t really know my best position. In the previous season and a half I was used [at St Johnstone] in the middle of the park, but they have good players here who can do that job. To be honest, I don’t mind where the manager uses me."

Keen to return to winning ways against Motherwell tomorrow, Hartley knows Hearts need to put a run of poor results behind them.

"We’ve played well enough recently, but the fact of the matter is we’ve only won one of our last four or five games. The SPL is all about acquiring points and, hopefully, we can get back on track on Saturday."

"Dunfermline have done well to catch us in third place - they beat us a couple of weeks ago - and we’d like to put some daylight between us again.

"We were disappointed to come away from Ibrox with nothing. We created a lot - something like 14 chances. Our manager, Craig Levein, couldn’t ever remember us making so many opportunities against Rangers during his time in charge."

Taken from the Scotsman

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