Former Hearts star Andy Webster thinks Hearts fans need to ease off the criticism of manager Craig Levein after the Jambos suffered injuries to key players Christophe Berra and Steven Naismith.
The Tynecastle side started the season fantastically but have since fallen off and now trail Edinburgh rivals Hibs in the league following last weekend’s Edinburgh derby.
Webster thinks even though the injuries have given others a chance to step up, it’s still a big blow to lose two vital players for extended periods.
“Craig Levein has been there before so he is experienced enough to handle it,” Webster told the Edinburgh Evening News.
“I haven’t looked into the criticism too deeply, but I know he has had some. The initial part of the season was outstanding and when that happens expectations start to rise and people are looking for more.
“But then when you have injuries to key players like Christophe Berra and Steven Naismith it’s going to have a major impact on your squad.
“They are two key figures so, as much as it’s an opportunity for others to come in, it’s a major disappointment that two of your best players are missing for a period of time.”
Despite falling behind Hibs in the league, Levein’s side head to Hampden this weekend for a Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness.
A win would set up a May final with Celtic and Aberdeen and a chance to get their hands on the trophy for the first time since Webster was part of the side who lifted it in 2012.
Winning the Scottish Cup now appears to be the only way for the Jambos to secure European football next season, with the derby defeat to Hibs leaving them eight points off the pace with five games to go.