Hearts’ relegation from the Scottish Premiership is “extremely harsh” but they “weren’t good enough” all season, says former first-team coach Jon Daly.
The Tynecastle club were four points adrift when the season was halted, and their demotion was confirmed on Monday when the SPFL ended the campaign.
Daly, who left the club in January, says recruitment was the main reason for Hearts problems this term.
“There was probably a lot of eggs put in certain baskets,” he said.
“Players who would have been first picks weren’t available a lot of the time and if the depth around them isn’t right, it’s not going to work.”
The likes of John Souttar, Peter Haring, Steven Naismith and Conor Washington all missed large spells of the season. And, in their absence, Hearts toiled, winning just four of their 30 Premiership matches.
Two of those victories came after Daniel Stendel replaced Craig Levein, but Daly insists Hearts would have backed themselves to secure safety in the final eight games.
“Any team in that position would have fancied themselves going into the split to at least get back into the play-off place,” he told BBC Scotland.
“But when you’re down there, the clubs around you are used to being in that situation and know how to handle that.
“Look at Hamilton, they recruit players to get out of that situation but Hearts probably recruited players to challenge at the top end of the table. It was a drastic situation.”
Hearts do hold slim hopes of a reprieve after chair Ann Budge was given approval to work on a proposal for temporary league reconstruction, which would involve expanding the top flight.
Former captain Gary Mackay warned the club are becoming a “laughing stock” in their bid to overturn relegation, but Daly can see both sides of the debate.
“Whatever Hearts do, they have to get right behind it,” he said. “Just focus and try and get back as quickly as you can.”