Some three weeks back, having just witnessed the unconvincing joy that was Fuller & Pressley Utd 2 Ross County 1, we were taking cold beverages in the Nirvana enjoying the 4th round draw. Berwick Rangers or Rangers v Stranraer or Hibernian, tie to be played on 26th January.


If Rip van Winkle had fallen asleep that night and woken last Saturday morning he’d’ve opened his Daily Record and died of shock there and then, as Berwick were indeed playing Stranraer. Only on closer inspection would he’ve seen that it was a Second Division fixture and that Rangers were just about to cut the ribbon and unveil the plaque for us all. And we’re not talking the Queen’s Golden Jubilee here - you with me on this one?


Meantime, back at the Nirvana after the Caley game, my face was as long as a St Johnstone season. We had just witnessed what happens when Fuller & Pressley Utd have to do without their eponymous heroes and call themselves Heart of Midlothian instead. Oh sure, Ricardo was there, but the Ross County game - and all of the others - have been played on good ground where his speed and skill can win the game, and there was simply no way he was going to operate in the Tynecastle bog. Not too long ago in these web pages some smart bastard wrote that without a centre forward Hearts would be sunk. Well, against Caley we floundered and foundered for that very reason. When people said the game against Aberdeen showed we weren’t a one-man team, people were as normal talking rubbish. What a good centre-forward does is bring everyone else into the game and without him the midfield would have been just as side-on as it was here. What makes Fuller and Pressley so special is that they are the only two players who break from their positional shackles and add something to another area of the park. Everyone else simply stays where they are. This is where width could make all the difference, but this was provided by the two players Simply Not Up To It: the ever-worsening Maybury and the as-bad-as-ever McCann. Poor old Flogel was sacrificed again to trawl up and down the left for the second half, but he’d not really done much damage from his more central slot up till then. I personally guarantee that if he was still being played ‘out of position’ at right-wing-back we’d lose less goals and score more, but we’ll never really know the truth of that one. Maybury is starting to look like 150,000 pounds, put it that way.


There are some pretty valid, excellent, entirely supportable reasons why Hearts lost this game, and they should be utterly ignored. Yup, both central defenders absent (and had either of them played, then McCann would not have even been on the park to gift the opening goal) and no Real Deal Fuller because of the shitey pitch. A lot of younger players, raw and inexperienced. And most importantly, no Pressley to lead, to calm, to – well, to be Steven Pressley. We’ve already seen this season what damage a half-fit Pressley did to Hearts’ chances. Here we saw the naked truth: He gets the minds right and Fuller gets the team moving. We’re sunk without them.


However, the Presiding Judge has ruled all this evidence inadmissible. For one, if you buy a foreign international player, he will be absent at some time. If your captain isn’t there to lead the side, does that mean it should resemble a kindergarten without the child-minder? And if your top player doesn’t fire because the pitch is a gluepot, whose fault is that? And so throughout the game the other 9 outfielders looked sidey-ways at each other, going – Any Ideas? None of them had the strength of character, not the believe nor the footballing ability to make any impression on this game. Unbelievably, after the loss of the first goal (no, that’s not the unbelievable bit) half the team stood around looking as though they’d returned home to find burglars had been. The only man who waved his arms, trying to gee everyone up, asking if someone could possibly retrieve the ball from the net please, was Mr Ricardo Fuller. Nope, you can’t explain some things away, no matter how reasonable. There are no reasons. Some things are simply inexcusable and this game is one such.


For years Hearts have put out eleven more talented individuals than the opposition but lose out against better-organised elevens. The sum of our parts has rarely equalled the opposition’s whole. Caley were a decent, solid outfit, played to their pattern, played to their strengths, played to their potential. They were aggressive, enthusiastic and determined, and simply waited for Hearts to make mistakes. They didn’t have to wait long. What was the point of Niemi making a world-class save after 15 minutes when we give it away again ten minutes later? We keep getting out of jail – like we did with the equaliser – only to knock on the prison door again asking to be let back in.


Hearts have a bunch of players who, to put it mildly, aren’t exactly multifunctional. They tend to be quite good at the one thing they do. Quite few here were actually guilty of some decent football, but in the context of this game it simply wasn’t enough. Mahe and Webster weren’t totally disastrous as a makeshift central pairing, Fulton and Flogel ran a bit and passed the ball a bit, Gronlund did what Gronlund does. Unfortunately, Severin and Wales did what they do, and that don’t amount to a mess of beans. Just a mess. But apart from being as disjointed as an eight-pack of Chinese chicken wings, and the absence of guile and discipline required to break down a well-organised wee team, it was the lack of desire that should make every Hearts fan go cold. Oh, we saw it all right - once we were 1-3 down. That was cheering, I must say. Just like the Caley fans were cheering. God, it was embarrassing, and even I was surprised by how bad it was.


You can go on all you like about Levein’s naivety, but I wouldn’t hold the front page on that one - we knew that, especially when he made that double substitution against Hibs just before we defended a corner (never, never, never do that Craig, never ever) – but it’s inside the heads of players that games are won and lost, and after 20 minutes it was obvious that any Hearts victory would be blagged, sneaked, cheated, or conned. Quite frankly, it’s not that the better team won – the only team won.