MICHAEL Smith has been at Hearts long enough to understand that the club’s fans not only expect success, but also style.
The good news is that the summer arrivals at Tynecastle look more than capable of providing both.
Six of the eight new recruits started in Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Livingston – a result that keeps Robbie Neilson’s side just one point adrift of leaders Rangers at at the cinch Premiership summit – and all made their mark.
Barrie McKay, involved in two of the goals, Cammy Devlin, who delivered a tireless performance full of energy and composure, and the ice cool Beni Baningime were particular stand outs as the home side played with a swagger on their way to collecting all the spoils.
The start of the campaign has been welcomed by those clad in maroon. The same fans turned on the team during their disastrous relegation from the Premiership in 2020 and made it clear they were not happy with some of the performances during last season’s Championship triumph.
“There’s real pressure playing for Hearts,” said wing-back Smith. “That’s what you’ve got to deal with when you come to this club, you’ve got to realise that it’s a huge club and the fans are so passionate about it.
“So when you do come in and you do relish it, you do succeed and the fans will love you for it.
“So fair play to the new guys – they’ve come in and taken it on board, realised what it means to all of us and we’re all pulling in the same direction.
“It was an enjoyable game to play in, I can’t remember many games like that, where we’ve dominated so much.
“We created a lot of chances, scored goals, clean sheet, so it was a good day all round for all of us.”
Baningime, Devlin and McKay have already become an instant hit with the supporters for the way they’ve gone about business.
Smith, who opened the scoring in the first half before Liam Boyce added a penalty and Alex Cochrane got on the scoresheet, added: “Cammy in the middle of the park, I think he must have done 14k, so yeah he brings energy.
“They’re great players and him and Beni I thought controlled the game for us, so it was a brilliant day for all of us.
“Barrie’s sharp, he’s quick, he’s going to be a great player for us when he gets 100% fit, he didn’t have a pre-season under his belt. “It’ll take time for him to get fully fit, but we’ll reap the rewards of that soon enough, but you can see already in flashes he’s going to be a fantastic player for us.
“I thought it was a real dominant performance from us.”
It was a day to forget for the visitors, and their midfielder Jason Holt insists Livingston were unrecognisable as they failed to lay a glove on Hearts.
Lions boss Davie Martindale had pointed to the physically draining back-to-back matches against Celtic and Rangers ahead of the Tynecastle clash as being part of the problem.
Holt said: “It wasn’t a Livingston performance. You usually associate our performances with a competitive edge, high pressure on the ball, but it wasn’t there.
“All over the park we were just lacking. That wee edge that you need to have in games just wasn’t there.
“We want to be competitive in every game we play and I thought we lacked that.
“Look Hearts played well, but I thought we made it a wee bit easier for them and I thought we could have made it a lot harder for them.”