Hearts star reveals players went 'into their shells' in Livingston defeat, repaying fans and Mesut Ozil prospect

Hearts fans will once again back the team in huge numbers when they begin their Europa Conference League group stage campaign at home to Istanbul Başakşehir.

Fans have snapped up more than 15,000 season tickets, selling league and European matches so far, while nearly 1,000 travelled to Switzerland for the Europa League play-off and around triple that ventured to Livingston on Saturday to see the team lose 1-0.

That support is something the players are well aware of and Australian midfielder Cammy Devlin knows more than most, having built a strong bond with the club’s fans, what it means to repay them for such backing.

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"We have more than half the stadium of Hearts fans and that shows the support we have,” he said.

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“We’re so grateful for that. It’ll be a sold out Tynecastle. We do need to give back to them, and it’s something we tried to do.

“They’re coming out in numbers and won’t want to be disappointed, just like us."

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Devlin conceded the team went into their shells after a strong opening 20 minutes in West Lothian and was frank with his assessment that it was far from good enough as a 90-minute performance.

Despite creating two good chances in the opening stages, Livingston goalkeeper Shamal George was not tested once.

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Hearts' Cammy Devlin wants to repay fans for their support. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“We stuck to the game plan for the first 20 minutes, and it worked, he said. “That’s what the coaches told us to do.

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“We went away from what was working and we got put under a bit of pressure. We went in our shells a bit, which we can’t do.

“They got a goal and it was the same as Kilmarnock. When you go a goal down to these sortS of teams, it becomes harder. We didn’t help ourselves today.

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“We have to be braver, and harder. We all know that."

He added: “That’s not good enough when playing for Hearts. It’s as simple as that. We know that as a team. We got to bounce back quickly on Thursday. It’ll be tough opposition.

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“The good thing about the situation we’re in at the moment is there are games thick and fast.”

Ozil & Co.

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Thursday will be an occasion which will naturally focus the minds and increase the energy and tempo of the performance, feeding off the Tynecastle atmosphere.

However, Başakşehir will be very tough opposition. They have started their league campaign with three wins and a draw, not conceding a goal and are unbeaten in ten in all competitions.

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There will be plenty of focus on Mesut Ozil in the build-up but the German World Cup winner has barely featured so far since joining in the summer.

“That’s why you play football to go up against these big players, but as a team we need to stick together and go in full of confidence," Devlin said. “It’s a European game - you have to be.

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“Our last European game was a positive game other than a decision that changed the tie. We have to go into it and play our game plan for the full game.

“We all grew up watching Ozil at Arsenal. He’s a class player and super excited to go toe-to-toe with him."

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