Stewart wants to be middleman

Michael Stewart is gunning for a central role with Hearts to make up for the limited impact he made in his first spell at Tynecastle.

Michael Stewart is gunning for a central role with Hearts to make up for the limited impact he made in his first spell at Tynecastle.

Stewart flew in to Salzburg last night to join his team-mates at their Austrian training camp after completing his surprise free transfer from Hibernian.

The former Manchester United midfielder made just five league starts in a year-long spell with his boyhood heroes, often coming off the bench to play right midfield.

But he impressed in the middle of the park after moving across the city two years ago, before falling out of favour with Hibs boss John Collins towards the end of the season.

And the prospect of playing more often in central midfield for the Jambos persuaded him to make the return journey.

“That was one of the biggest attractions,” Stewart said.

“It took me 10 minutes and I said ’right, let’s get this done’.

“Hopefully I can take the challenge on and do better than when I was first at the club, due the fact there was not a great number of opportunities. That is something I want to rectify.

“The fact I’ve been able to play week-in week-out definitely helps your confidence.

“Obviously it’s two years down the line and I am more mature and more experienced.”

The 26-year-old lost his Hibs place for their CIS Insurance Cup final win over Kilmarnock in March and was sidelined for the last six weeks of the season after Collins was subjected to a dressing-room revolt.

But Stewart insists he is motivated by self-improvement rather than proving Collins was wrong to release him.

“I have something to prove to everybody – to myself as well,” he told Hearts World.

“You are always looking to continually improve, it’s not about proving something to any particular people.”

Stewart, who won the last of his three Scotland caps in May 2002, believes Hearts can improve on fourth place in this season’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League.

They failed to build on their second-placed finish the previous season despite majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov’s investment.

“A club the size of Hearts must be looking to compete at the top of the league and it’s definitely something I will look to achieve,” he said.

“You cannot deny that since Mr Romanov came in the club has taken on great strides.

“When you see a club making progress like that you want to be part of it.

“I’ve not actually spoken to Mr Romanov himself. Anyone who I have spoken to within the club has had a very positive outlook and of course I’ve seen things first hand myself.

“It’s definitely something you want to be part of.”

Romanov’s influence has not always been positive and Hearts are still without a permanent head coach as well as losing on-field leaders Steven Pressley and Paul Hartley, who left after criticising the Lithuanian-based banker.

But Stewart is unfazed by the negative press.

“These things are going to happen, especially with such a momentous shift,” he said.

“Once you get in amongst it, these headlines will have little effect when you are working day to day.”

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