Heart of Midlothian will look to increase their commanding position in third spot in the Scottish Premiership when they face Kilmarnock at Tynecastle Park on Saturday.

Steven Naismith spoke to the press ahead of the fixture, discussing recruitment, David Moyes, squad size, Lawrence Shankland, Big Hearts and more. 

Here is everything he said...

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Is recruitment and squad building about planning and getting ahead for next season?

That's something I've been really keen to do. We do a lot of work every day on recruitment. I've probably taken it from asking a lot of managers about it. The best for me was David Moyes. The research and the homework he did on signings was massive. That's why he did so well. Bringing guys like Baines and Jagielka from the Championship to then become internationalists. Good foreign players as well that helped kick his teams on to the next level. That's all down to hard work and it's about having that as a separate thing to the football club. It's not a case of getting to November and December and starting to think about the January transfer window. It's continuous and it needs to be. It needs to work a year or two ahead and as a club that's what we need to do. You have to predict a bit with what's going to happen with certain positions and individuals and where we can improve. For us to get to that next level, you constantly need to improve. It also keeps the guys in the squad aware there is always going to be competition.

Did you have any insight into David Moyes' inner workings?

I got on well with a lot of the staff with the recruitment. The amount of hours they spent watching players was incredible. Some of the coaches told me Moyes would go and watch a player 20 times in a season, but wasn't even looking to sign that player until the following again season. He'd go on midweek trips in Europe to watch players. If you look, his track record of signing players was very good and he doesn't get the credit for that he deserves. For me as a player, the turnover of players and when players come in has been far too many. It's unsettling. So that's the route we're trying to develop and take and hopefully it pays off.

Is it as a case of getting the transfer business done as early as possible to hit the ground running?

In an ideal world, that's what you do. Football isn't as simple as that and the options available at the start of the window aren't always the same at the end. In the two windows I've dealt with, that's been a big difference. The summer window we were late getting players in for one reason or another. In January we identified what we needed and we went out and got it done early. 100 percent that makes a difference. The quicker you've got players, they're at ease in their surroundings quicker. We do a good job when we're speaking to players of giving them a full picture of what is coming. I want to paint a clear picture, not a smoke and mirrors one that promises the world and then when they get in the door they're trapped. You need to tell them what the facilities are that we've got, what the stadium is like and then ultimately they then make the decision they will.

The players reported are all experienced Scottish Premiership players, is that something you are looking at as a positive?

The size of the club you've got to look at every area. If you sign a player from the league it gives them an advantage - they know what's coming because Scottish football is different to a lot of other leagues. But you've also got to go and look further afield. Kenneth [Vargas] signs his deal, that comes in because we do a good deal for a loan that is structured in a way that we can sign him permanently. You've got to look at all the avenues, but everything comes down to research and making sure you do your homework because every transfer is a gamble. But if you minimise the risk and you do that more than most you'll get a higher success rate than others.

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Do you sense it being a big transfer window for learning from previous experiences in Europe and the demands?

That is one part of it that you need to be ready for Europe. We don't help ourselves with the structure and how we do things going into European competition. But what is in our hands we need to do as much as we can such as getting new players in quicker is important because European football comes much quicker. If we get into Europe and we do that, it doesn't mean I want a big squad. We've got youth players here and it gives them an opportunity. It's harder to keep a full squad engaged and motivated when they can't see an opportunity. I don't think the size of our squad will massively change. We might improve it by one or two in terms of numbers but we've got some good young players that will get opportunities if we make European football as well.

What was the focus during international break with so many players away?

That's been a bit different to the ones before. It was 11 all in that were away and within that we had players who were at different stages so it wasn't a core group. Everybody was following different programmes but we worked hard and then we had a game, which was good, because we needed boys to get minutes. That was probably the most consistent thing - everybody there needed to play games. So yeah they worked hard but it was more just individual groups rather than focusing on a clear message. There were too many players away for that, but it was good. Barrie McKay has jumped to the next level in that he's not just looking to get back into the swing of training every day and the demands of that, he's now looking sharp and as if he could contribute in games.

Will Nieuwenhof, McKay and Kent be involved tomorrow?

Everybody has trained all week. The only ones that won't play are Halkett, who has had surgery which went well, Peter Haring has had some surgery which went well, and Boycie is out on the grass but he's individual in terms of getting back up to speed, and Finlay Pollock is just dipping in and out of training. Everybody else is fit and in contention for tomorrow. 

Is there any timeline for Halkett?

No. But I would hope he is back in training and making matchday squads by the end of the season. Because it was a bit of an unknown surgery we were waiting to see what happened but the timeline is as good as it could be.

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Tomorrow is a significant match in the race for third place?

I think the games from now until the summer, they all play a big part, they are big games, it's the biggest part of the season. I said way back that it's not until now that you start looking at the league and what needs to be done. I think these are the best games because they give a clear picture of what you need to do, the next two weeks we play the two teams below us. It gives us a clear idea of where we are going to be. Killie are a really good team. I said it consistently last season that they recruited well which has given them a foundation. They have a style and wide players who are really dangerous and they have a presence in the box. Marley Watkins has had a really good season, I played with him at Norwich, a good character, he's gone on and done well as well so we know what we are going to come up against. But we didn't get to the position we are now without having a real confidence and belief going into all the games. That's like it is tomorrow. The stage for us, when we lose a game, it's the reaction in the next one, good teams inevitably take points in the next game when they lose. We will be looking to do that, it's Big Hearts Day and we can sum it up with a good performance and a good win.

Do you think Shankland has that extra belief and confidence in himself that he might be the one to start in Germany and he will use that as a motivation?

I don't think it gives him any more confidence. What it has done is given him the opportunity to do it. It's the story of the season. He didn't make the squad [earlier in the season] he then gets called in, does enough to say he should be part of the squad, and then can he be the single striker who holds the ball up? For me, he has enhanced his position in this camp. People go on about the goals and the chances but that's just from people who expect everything to be perfect every game If there is one area of Shanks' game that is going to be off for a wee period you want off, it is his finishing because you know it's coming back. At the start of the season he didn't score a lot, was I concerned? No, because I know he is going to score. The biggest question mark is can he play up front [on his own], can he link the play? He's done that in two games and had four good chances that no other striker has. He's definitely enhanced his position within the group. The Euros for most players has been the motivation all season and that's what he will use now until the summer.

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Two Hearts keepers in the squad, were you surprised they didn't get any minutes?

No, I don't think it surprised me because I worked closely with the manager. Both of them deserved to be in the squad. The manager calling them in makes it clear they are in his thoughts. He'll only take three to the tournament, however, that plays out will be what it will be. They have all got hope and there is a lot of football between now and the summer. Injuries can be picked up so there is hope for both.

Were you surprised Shankland's yellow wasn't rescinded?

Yeah. I think there is clear evidence, everyone can see there is clear contact. I'm not saying it is a penalty, I'm not saying it isn't a penalty but it's not a booking, it's not a dive. We are in a bit of a tornado at the moment with the official situation. 

What has been your experience of Big Hearts?

It's one of the strings to the club's bow that I think is really impressive. They are doing loads of good work, they are pushing every year, how we can grow, how we can improve and it's the buy-in between the charity and the club and how everybody is together. They came in this week and presented to the players that don't know much about it or how we can impact it as a squad and there is a real togetherness with it. It's been impressive over the last eight years how they've built it and become bigger every year. And it needs to continue to grow.