Hearts striker John Sutton believes their supporters deserve praise for not turning their back on the stricken club.
The Gorgie outfit - whose own existence has come under threat this season - have little chance of reaching the top six in the Scottish Premier League top six after falling to a 2-1 loss at home to Motherwell on Saturday.
Beginning the season with the second highest playing budget in the top-flight, Hearts had hopes of challenging for the runners-up spot with Rangers condemned to Scottish Division Three.
Amid the backdrop of severe financial problems and, despite leading the team to this month's Scottish Communities League Cup final, manager John McGlynn paid the price for the side's poor league form when he left by mutual constant on Thursday.
First team coach Gary Locke and academy coach Darren Murray took joint control on Saturday but the defeat leaves 11th-placed Hearts nine points adrift of sixth place Hibs, with only 12 points to play for before the split.
Sutton - who scored against his former club at the weekend - said: "I think the players are aware how good the fans have been for us, I have always been lucky to play for clubs with good fans and we really should be the second biggest team in Scotland with Rangers out of the league.
"Languishing in the league, we have not played well or stuck back-to-back wins together, but the fans have stayed with us.
"To an extent, people like Gary have stayed with us as well and you want to repay the faith they have showed in us.
"It's going to be tricky getting into the top six but we have big games coming up, we have the game on Tuesday (against St Johnstone), the derby against Hibs and the cup final against St Mirren, so there is still a lot to play for this season."