For players to pull on the maroon of Heart of Midlothian under Steven Naismith they have to earn it. They have to deserve it. That remains the case for the final three games of the season.

There may well have been an expectation from the outside that the Hearts boss would experiment or use the final three fixtures with third place now confirmed to provide fringe or young players with an opportunity or minutes to impress.

Naismith's message was clear: "There's always opportunity". It is a message that remained consistent this season and will continue to do so. Supporters can expect the usual rotation across the next week as a midweek trip to St Mirren is sandwiched by home fixtures against Dundee and Rangers, starting with the former tomorrow. But there will be no significant surprises or wholesale changes.

READ MORE: Steven Naismith Q&A: Hearts goalkeeper reveal, rotation and points target

The Hearts boss explained: "There’s always opportunity, and that’s every day, but I am not just going to put players in and say: ‘Look, we have academy players’. That’s not going to happen.

"If there are boys in the squad from the academy and I think they deserve a chance then they’ll play. But there will not be loads of opportunities for the kids. The guys who have been performing in the B-Team and have been in and around the first team for the past month, they’re the ones who are most likely to be involved.

"And then you have [Liam] Boycie coming back from injury who needs minutes, Barrie [McKay] needs minutes. We changed shape against Livingston and he was really good, but because the shape has changed and he has come on as a sub from that point, hopefully there will be an opportunity for him."

He added: "We have three games in a week, over the season as a whole we have rotated bits, and that will be the same this week. That’s not us saying we’ll just give players minutes, we’ll put teams out we believe can win. But inevitably the team will change over the three games."

The mention of Liam Boyce will no doubt pique interest. There will be some within the club's support who may well have given up on seeing the popular Northern Irishman back in action before the season's end having not featured since picking up a hamstring injury against Kilmarnock in December.

However, he could be ready to return Naismith will "hopefully" get the chance to provide him with that opportunity after plenty of hard work on the training pitch, in the gym and with his rehab after a frustrating season alongside Craig Halkett.

READ MORE: How Hearts can automatically qualify for the Europa League phase

"He will be in contention for the squads," Naismith said. "He has worked really hard over the last few weeks to say: 'No, I want to be involved. I'm not just going to ride the season out.' Him and Halks have done the same so we'll wait and see. There's no pressure but they are looking good from when they've come back."

The Hearts head coach also confirmed Craig Gordon will start against Dundee and suggested both he and Zander Clark will feature in the final three fixtures.

"It’s a fine balance at times, both of them obviously want to play and go to the Euros," Naismith said. "Zander has been the one who has had the jersey because he has been consistent. He’s held it and been a big player for us. But both of them are comfortable with the plan going forward."