By Stewart Fisher

AUSTIN MacPhee called for unity at Hearts last night but admitted players could start using the uncertainty over the manager’s situation as an excuse.

With talks with former Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel dragging on, a full month now has elapsed since the sacking of Craig Levein and Hearts have won just one of their last seven games. With another huge match against Livingston to come in midweek, MacPhee praised the professionalism of his players but this is not a situation which can go on indefinitely.

“The uncertainty of the situation for everyone is something that needs managed very carefully,” said MacPhee. “I think the longer it goes the more it can at times become an excuse, and it can also become a reality where maybe at times people aren’t as focused on their performance alone as they should be.

“As an assistant manager one of your main roles is to have strong relationships with your players, the head coach is always a little more distant,” he added, “But I’ve got nothing but praise for the professionalism of the players in this period. What I would say is that in the next period of time Mrs Budge will make the right decision for the long term future of the club.

“And we all know the importance of Hearts picking up points in the very busy Christmas period so we move up the league. Right now all I do is manage this on a day to day basis and try and be as honest with everyone as I can, and to try and get the team on the pitch that can pick up three points on Wednesday.”