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Craig Levein <-auth Moira Gordon auth-> Tonny Kolbech Poulsen
[D Kuyt 22] ;[B Goor 58] ;[D Kuyt 83]
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Quick learner Maybury cute now to Kuyt moves


BEING thrown in at the deep end against the European aristocracy may have ended in a 3-0 defeat at De Kuip Stadium on Thursday night, but Hearts believe that it can act as a springboard to success.

Alan Maybury admits that Feyenoord were the better team but insists that rather than terrify Hearts, the fact that they squared up to the group favourites in their first game and were beaten but not bowed gives them hope for the future.

The top three teams from the five-team group will progress to the next stage of the UEFA Cup and the makeshift defender believes the fact that they have faced Feyenoord and survived without any of the other teams stealing a major march on them bodes well for the remainder of the campaign.

"At the end of the day, we’ve lost three points and were still on zero, but the other result tonight was a draw so there’s no real gap. We’ve a home game next and it’s important, but it could be less than six points that gets us through if Feyenoord win all their games, so it’s not a disaster.

"It’s been a steep learning curve but they are a very decent side and I think they’ll fancy themselves to go a long way in this competition. Okay, in this game we weren’t good enough, but we learnt a few things and there was some little bits of luck that went against us.

"Mark [De Vries] didn’t make the game, Phil [Stamp] was sick before the game, Paddy Kisnorbo was sick at half-time ... we did start thinking that everything was conspiring against us but, all right, we lost 3-0, but it’s not like we’re out of anything."

The positive thinking is in keeping with the club mantra of constant improvement. Under Craig Levein they are involved in their third European adventure in four years and while a sizeable turnaround in personnel has been required throughout that time, Maybury, who signed from Leeds three years ago has witnessed the continual upturn in performance and the result against Feyenoord has done little to quash his belief that this UEFA Cup run can be extended into the new year.

Instead of worrying about the isolated incidents when class acts such as Romeo Castelen left him looking static in Rotterdam, the nine-times capped Ireland international is willing and able to see the bigger picture.

"Yeah, early on he tried to test me a little bit and see how quick I was, but I felt I did okay. There was one where he spun in behind me and I lost track of the ball and had to rely on my centre-halves to come across, but he is a good player. The manager told us what to expect but their movement is so good and they are comfortable on the ball and maybe they looked after it a little bit better than we did.

" You know what to expect but then they nip in front of you and Dirk Kuyt is strong, he has good movement and he’s quick and he’s as good as anything I’ve played against. But it’s a great test for me.

"I’m lucky enough that I’ve played against some good teams on the international stage but this is another good test for me and the team to see how good we are. We know what to expect in the SPL, when you play the same teams three and four times a season, so this makes a nice change.

" It’s a different style of football and gives everyone the chance to go there and experience something different and test themselves against something different.

"Players love pitting themselves against some top-quality players and seeing how good they are themselves and learning a thing or two about themselves. I think they’d all rather play in these games than something else."

The next test is in a fortnight when Hearts enjoy home advantage over Schalke of Germany and Maybury is a key component of a back four Levein considers the most miserly at his disposal.

Alongside Robbie Neilson, Steven Pressley and Andy Webster, Maybury has adopted the left-back role but says that while the defence is well drilled in how to cope with the majority of their domestic adversaries, European football can necessitate a rethink in tactics.

"The manager told us about the likes of Kuyt and [Salomon] Kalou so we knew what to expect, but knowing what to expect and trying to stop them ... There are times when we are back in the SPL when I know I can tuck in and help the centre-halves, but if I leave guys like Castelen with 20-25 yards of space then I’m on the backfoot already, so I have to stay out there and stop him. When the forwards are as good as these I can’t help the centre-halves out too much because they can all cause problems."

But problems are there to be solved and Maybury, for one, finds the challenge of solving them an exhilarating one.

Taken from the Scotsman

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