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Play for the jersey or you won't be at Hearts for long, warns Jim Jefferies

Published Date: 04 February 2010
IF THE size of the task facing Jim Jefferies has been highlighted emphatically by successive 1-0 defeats to St Johnstone and St Mirren since he returned to Tynecastle on Friday evening, the Hearts manager's bullish response to the latter of those two setbacks has at least offered a semblance of optimism for supporters that he can weed out the apathy which has eroded the team over the past few years.
After seeing their last hope of silverware evaporate at Fir Park on Tuesday night, there appears, at first glance, little left to rouse Hearts' beleaguered supporters other than the hardly-enthralling prospect of ensuring a top-six finish. The feelgood factor which met Jefferies' return has been diluted significantly by events of the past few days, but in reality not a lot has changed other than the fact Hearts' lengthy League Cup famine has been extended by another year. Jose Goncalves has also signalled his intention to leave Tynecastle when his contract expires in the summer, but for a man as passionate about Hearts as Jefferies, the prospect of leaving out a well-paid foreigner who doesn't want to commit himself to the club is water off a duck's back.

If anything, it could be seen as a blessing that Hearts have performed so meekly in Jefferies' two games in charge as he has now surely seen them hit rock-bottom. For all that Csaba Laszlo had done well to wring out some hard-fought, but utterly tedious, victories in the closing months of his reign, it was hard to escape the notion that the club was once again meandering towards implosion. Depression had set in at Riccarton and most of the players were instantly lifted by the arrival of Jefferies and his trusty cohorts Billy Brown and Gary Locke. Jefferies was astonished by the lack of spirit and morale in the squad he inherited and the new management team privately knew it would take a gargantuan effort to haul this downtrodden group of players past a St Mirren side who collectively had a greater grasp of the magnitude of the occasion.

So, while Tuesday's defeat has induced panic in some down Gorgie way, for Jefferies it merely underlines what he already knew: massive change is required, particularly in the attitude of his players.

Aware of the constraints on him, Jefferies will be willing to give everyone – even those perceived as overpaid underachievers – a fresh chance to prove themselves in what will surely be a more harmonious environment. However, he made clear in the aftermath of the semi-final defeat that he won't tolerate anyone failing to appreciate the importance of playing for the club he supported as a boy, captained as a player and is now managing for a second time.

He illustrated this point by revealing that Goncalves will not be used between now and the end of the season unless he has a change of heart about staying with the club. "The situation is quite simple," he said. "I've said to him I want him to stay. But I think his mindset is that he wants to move on from here and I would rather work with players that want to be here. End of story.

"He's a nice guy and a good player. I told him I would love him to stay here. But now I would prefer to work with guys who will be here with us and it is now up to Jose if that is going to change. If he makes it known to me that he does want to stay here then I will welcome him back. But until he makes that decision I will get on with players who are committed to Hearts."

Sticking with the theme of commitment to the cause, Jefferies issued a warning to any others in the same boat as Goncalves who may be pondering a future away from Tynecastle. "I want players who want to play for Hearts and that's the message I'll be getting across," he continued.

"There's not a lot I can do about the quality at the moment, but what I will do is try and help them improve. And one thing I can assure the Hearts supporters is I'll make sure this group of players play for the jersey. If they don't they won't be here."

So what will happen to Goncalves if this stand-off continues? By the looks of things he'll either be frozen out, as the likes of Andy Webster and Julien Brellier were previously, or he'll have to find a new club in a country where the transfer window is still open.

"He has a chance of getting into the Portugal squad for the World Cup finals so what would you do?" Jefferies said. "I would chap on my door and say I want to stay here, there's my commitment, and I'll go and be a good player for you because it will help me get to the World Cup. If he is not going to be here then there are other parts of the world where the transfer window is open and the club should consider that."

Taken from the Scotsman

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