The cringey Hearts locker incident that summed up why bloated squads leads to chaos - Ryan Stevenson

Anyone wondering why Steven Naismith is talking about keeping Hearts’ summer transfer business tight needs to know one thing. Crammed dressing rooms can absolutely squeeze the life out of football squads.

I’ve been in one and let me tell you it was chaos. When I first signed for Hearts in the winter window of 2010 there were SIXTY-THREE players in the squad. Enough to fill three dressing rooms. We were split into first team regulars, the reserves and then the bomb squad. Those poor guys in the third category were so far out of things they never trained with us and were just told to go and run round the woods at Riccarton every day.

I was totally taken aback when I walked in and saw the number of players - I’d been used to less than a third of that at Ayr United. I kid you not, it was so bad that the kit man took me aside on that first day and got one of the foreign lads - David Witteveen - to empty his locker for me. I was stood there with my wash bag and boots having just arrived from Ayr and had to stand next to Witteveen while his name was peeled off the locker door and replaced with mine.

The poor guy then had to go and sit with the bomb squad who had no lockers and just hung their kit on pegs. Obviously he was raging. Straight away he hated me! I was cringing. I’d come from an Ayr dressing room with a third of the number of payers in it but where everyone was tight knit as a result.

But at Hearts at that stage it was bedlam. Almost impossible to remember everyone’s name. It can be a horrible place because boys will come in with an attitude and be moaning about the manager not playing them but others will think the boss is great and it can end up causing a real rift.

Before you know it the changing room separates into pockets and you can end up with different groups going in different directions. So Naisy is 100 per cent right. You can’t just sign players for the sake of it even if the schedule is going to be extra busy with the European games.

At some stage that Euro dream ends and you’re left with a bulky squad of bodies sitting in the stands every week and that causes problems.

Given the natural evolution of the squad this summer with Blair Spittal, Yan Dhanda and James Penrice already agreeing pre-contracts and others destined to leave then I reckon adding another three quality players would be enough.

There’s young players like Macaulay Tait and Aidan Denholm who will be among the squad and other prospects coming up from the B squad to supplement them too. So if Hearts can add another three of the quality of Frankie Kent, who has been exceptional since signing last summer, then that would really move the team on again.

It needs to be players who know the levels required, who can handle the pressure of fans wanting to win every week and who are hungry to succeed. Having the Euro money there should allow them to do that. One thing for definite is that they need to bring in help for Lawrence Shankland.

Hopefully not a replacement - although a contingency plan will have to be there in case that offer that can’t be refused arrives - but someone who can supplement the skipper’s goals. You only have to remember those early months this season where Lawrence’s goals carried the team.

I’ve said it almost every week, he has been sensational across his two years at Tynecastle and he was a shoe-in for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award. To see him standing there with his award on Sunday night still made me sit up and think ‘what an achievement that is’. To be the best player in Scotland is some statement. But he thoroughly deserves it.

Only time will tell now how long he has left at the club but - while I hope and pray it’s a while - nobody could ever grudge him a move at this stage of his career. The campaign isn’t over though and it would be great to see Lawrence hit the 30 goals mark and Hearts to finish strongly.

Listen, it’s been an outstanding effort to secure third so comfortably after the disruptive start of the season where we all thought ‘where is this going?’ Naisy has stuck to his guns, he’s obviously had a plan and a vision and the board have stuck behind him.

The fans have got behind it too and it shows that it can pay not to get caught up in all the noise. Next season now brings its own challenges. Hopefully they can build on it. Nobody can argue now that Hearts are the third biggest club in the country.

If they can improve in Europe, finish third and get a chance of silverware in the cup then that would be absolutely brilliant.