London Hearts Supporters Club

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John Robertson <-auth Graeme Croser auth-> Levan Paniashvili
[D Rosa 30]
4 of 025 ----- E H

Stewart hungry to keep Hearts in it


HEARTS midfielder Michael Stewart insists qualification for the knock-out stages of the UEFA Cup would dwarf his Champions League experiences with Manchester United.

The on-loan playmaker tasted the big time at Old Trafford with appearances against the likes of Deportivo La Coruna and Boavista in Europe’s premier competition.

However, as a young squad player he knew his was a peripheral role with the English giants.

The move back to Scotland in the summer was designed to move the 23-year-old out of the shadows but he failed to make much impression under Craig Levein.

Since the appointment of John Robertson last month, though, he has edged himself further into the reckoning and the new coach’s penchant for passing football has given him fresh heart.

He confesses he’s sick and tired of speaking about failed potential and wants to achieve something tangible.

Victory over Ferencvaros at Murrayfield on Thursday could keep the Jambos in Europe beyond Christmas and make this one of the most memorable seasons at Tynecastle in living memory. And Stewart wants to be central to the story. He said: "I played a few of games for Manchester United in the Champions League but none of those were really of any consequence.

"Everything is relative and for a club like Hearts to be involved in a game like this is tremendous. This match on Thursday is massive. If we win we’ve a great chance of keeping Hearts in Europe beyond Christmas and that would be something special.

"When I came here the sort of games I’d be playing in didn’t really cross my mind. I was just eager to get playing every week and also was attracted by the idea of coming home to Edinburgh. It’s actually a bit surreal to be talking about Hearts potentially being in Europe going into the New Year but it could happen."

Stewart admits it’s time he achieved something more concrete in his career after years of being described as a player of unfulfilled potential.

He is aware his attitude has been called into question in the past and knows the only way to silence his critics is to produce the goods on the park. He continued: "I’m at the stage where I’m sick and tired of all the talk about me. If I’m not playing football then people feel the need to find the reasons why and it can be quite critical.

"This has been going on for three or four years now and I know it’s because of where I’ve come from [Manchester United].

"If you’re playing regularly people’s perspective changes and I just want to be talking about football.

"There’s not been a problem since I came to Hearts. People have made assumptions when I’ve not been in the team and it’s hard to do anything about that.

"I don’t think there’s been a huge difference in my own approach to things over the past few weeks but because I’ve been involved people think otherwise.

"Personally I want to be playing - it would be great to be part of a momentous evening.

"I’m happy being home and, even if I’m not starting every game, I can see that there’s been a change in influence at the club since the new manager came in.

"I’m positive things are going to work out in time so I’m not worried."

While Hearts know they must take care of the Hungarians at Murrayfield they are also acutely aware that they require a favour from Feyenoord to qualify.

The Dutch side top Group A and are already through to the last 32, and can confirm their status as outright group winners by drawing with Basel in Switzerland.

If Feyenoord achieve this and Hearts win then the Jambos will qualify but Stewart acknowledges there’s little point in the Capital club worrying about events in Basel while they have their own job to do.

He admitted: "We just have to worry about the job that’s in front of us. You never know how results are going to pan out elsewhere and you can’t go into any game thinking about what’s going on in another match.

"It’s a big game for Feyenoord away to Basel and we just have to hope the result goes in our favour. No team is going to do another a favour.

"Everyone is looking out for their own affairs and you can never predict how a side will react on a particular night. There’s no point worrying about it - we just have to go and do our own job."

A bumper crowd approaching 30,000 is expected at the home of Scottish rugby on Thursday and Stewart admits he has enjoyed the Murrayfield experience in the two games to date against Braga and Schalke.

He added: "I’ve enjoyed the Murrayfield games. Because the matches there have not been a regular occurrence they have felt like mini cup finals and the atmosphere has been great.

"It’s been a breath of fresh air and I think all the players have responded well. It’s a beautiful stadium but if we were to play all our home games there then people might feel differently."

Taken from the Scotsman

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