Sorry Steven Naismith, I got you wrong.

Like many thousands of Hearts fans, I didn’t think he was the right man for the job and couldn’t understand why the board was taking such a risk in appointing a rookie boss. But now is the time for me to eat my words, admit I was way off target and implore any other Hearts supporter who still harbours any significant doubt to do the same.

Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Aberdeen at Tynecastle made it eight games undefeated for the Jambos with seven victories in that time. In their last 13 Scottish Premiership games, they’ve got a record of ten wins, two defeats (both by a goal at home to Rangers and away to Aberdeen - where Hearts never win) and a comeback 2-2 draw against Ross County. They hold a ten-point lead in third place, an advantage that they'd hold even if we assume the likes of Hibs and Aberdeen win all their games in hand. After last season’s collapse, nobody at Tynecastle will be resting on their laurels, but it’s looking increasingly likely that Hearts will canter to the best-of-the-rest position and, should the cup go to Parkhead, Ibrox or Gorgie, once again claim the prize of at least eight matches guaranteed in European football.

If Naismith detractors still exist, they’ll probably point to two things. One, every week he gets to select the goalscoring machine that is Scotland international Lawrence Shankland, the best outfield player Hearts have had on their books in at least a decade.

And two, this year’s Scottish Premiership isn’t in any great shakes with the two closest challengers in terms of size and finances, Hibs and Aberdeen, floundering badly.

There is some merit in both arguments, but you can only beat what’s in front of you and this Hearts squad are currently on pace to finish with a whopping 69 points. That’s a very impressive number for any non-Old Firm side to reach - the much-celebrated Romanov Revolution team of 2005/06 only managed 74 points, by comparison.

As for Shankland, as good as he was last season in netting 28 goals, it’s clear to see he’s taken his play up a level under Naismith this campaign. He’s still got to hit nine more to reach last season’s overall total, but he’s already scored more non-penalty goals this term. 

The attack hasn’t operated smoothly for most of the season and yet they consistently give him chances to hit the back of the net. This is despite continuous issues with the rest of Naismith's options at that end of the park. Barrie McKay has missed most of the campaign, Liam Boyce’s skills don’t mesh too well with Shankland, and there’s the likes of Kenneth Vargas, Yutaro Oda, Alan Forrest and Jorge Grant, who’ve all played their part but have been a very inconsistent group. There’s also the club’s biggest summer signing, Kyosuke Tagawa, looking like an unequivocal flop.

What’s so impressive about the job Naismith has done is that he was actually dealt a bad hand by his employers.

Going back to last summer, there was the hoopla around his lack of coaching badges which encouraged Hearts not to name him as head coach from the outset, instead giving the title to assistant Frankie McAvoy to avoid UEFA fines and penalties for having a manager in one of their competitions without an A-licence. While everyone may have understood what was going on, it unintentionally sent out a message to supporters that Naismith didn’t have the credentials for the role, triple-underlined his lack of experience and helped foster doubts about his ability when things didn’t begin particularly well.

Part of the slow start was down to the summer transfer window. Compared with some of the horroshows from other top-flight clubs, it was actually one of the better ones shopping sprees, but it still very much had its flaws. The recruitment team initially set their sights too high, with many initial targets ultimately signing for clubs with deeper pockets, which eventually led to Hearts becoming the last team in the SPFL to make a signing. This left Naismith with the task of fitting in new pieces at a time when preparations for the new campaign were already at an advanced stage.

European football also put a strain on early-season performances, though the management team did still manage to secure a 4-3 aggregate victory over Rosenborg, with the 3-1 win at Tynecastle in the second leg being the best European night from a Hearts side since drawing with Liverpool at Anfield over a decade prior.

What further fuelled fan frustration was a lack of cohesion in attack and the football badly regressing from the entertaining style which Naismith put on show in his caretaker spell. But as I've already outlined, there isn't anyone he can particularly rely on going forward other than Shankland, so instead he did what any flexible and intelligent manager would do in this situation and instead focused on making his side hard to beat.

The defence has been terrific with Hearts conceding only five goals more than league-leaders Celtic. Summer signing Frankie Kent has been a revelation at centre-back, but there have also been improvements from players who were here last season, most notably Stephen Kingsley, Nathaniel Atkinson and Kye Rowles.

Naismith has even received criticism for a decision which has unquestionably strengthened Hearts this season as he prefers to bring everyone back when Hearts are defending corners. This was brought up by one unhappy fan at a recent Q&A despite, to that point, the Jambos not conceding a goal from a corner all season. For the next match, the Scottish Cup tie at Spartans, Naismith decided to acquiesce and left one man up the park - and then promptly watched his side concede a second-half equaliser from a corner.

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The Hearts away form is the best it's been in years. With seven cinch Premiership victories on their travels already, they're on pace to set the highest mark since the 1991/92 campaign, which saw the club win 15 in a 44-game season. This has made up for the home form being a little bit disappointing compared to recent seasons, though they're only a point worse off than Kilmarnock, who hold the league's third-strongest record.

Another complaint has been the lack of complete performances and dominating opponents from minute one to minute 90. Hearts tend to need to get to the second half to fully get going, but it's still evident this is a well-coached side. They don't make many stupid mistakes, they do the basics very well and they're impressively disciplined. And while there's a feeling Naismith alters the team a little too often, he does this because he's got a keen eye for spotting opposing strengths and weaknesses. It doesn't always work, but then it doesn't for any manager, and he's certainly getting it right more than wrong.

Even the attacking issues are starting to become a thing of the past with nine scored in the last four games.

This team still has a little way to go to reach its full potential, but Naismith has preached patience for months and he's been proven correct. Those of us who strongly doubted him certainly weren't. So let's hold our hands up, admit to our error in judgement and give this manager the backing he deserves.