In Which The Chief Grouser States The Bleeding Obvious

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For some people the correct is not always the obvious, though I must say thatís how itís always seemed to me.†† Not that anything scribed by The Chief Grouser, as Iím humorously known, is anything other than correct.†† See this and this if you need convincing.††


Having been watching Hearts for more than thirty years, last Saturdayís loss to Dundee was about as shit a performance as I have witnessed in a long time - losing 0-1 to Raith Rovers at home on 18th December 1993 comes to mind.†† The eleven was not a team.†† The midfield seemed as detached from the back four as it was from the two up front.††† Hearts have simply forgotten how to play football.†† So itís interesting to propose that Hearts might now have a better chance of winning Sundayís derby without Mark de Vries in the side.Having scored five times as many goals as Hibs in August with a blend of guts, a good passing game, mobility andAnything But Route One,†† Increasingly and incrementally over the weeks since, Hearts have made the baffling decision that MdV is the Second Coming of Sandy Clark.†† He has been used as the target man, the fulcrum around which the game is played, instead of being played as an out-and-out striker.Itís no wonder his goals have dried up, and considering thereís no natural born goalscorers feeding off him itís hardly surprising that Hearts are only scoring from set plays.†† Clark was a magnificent player for Hearts for two reasons only: John Robertson and John Colquhoun.†† Clark didnít so much lead the line, as hold it up like a clothes pole.He wasnít very mobile.†† Without them he wouldnít have been up to much, trust me - ask any West Ham fan.†† With Robbo and wee John as twin strikers, however, anything that fell from the head of Clark (or the defender marking him) had 100% more chance of producing something.†† Tannadice 86, anyone?†† Behind them Mackay used to weave around, Jardine would stand still and pass the ball, Black would bustle: there was a lot of traffic on Route One those days.†††


There has been precious little bustle about this Hearts team for a month and more.†† Whilst itís plain cowardly of any player to abdicate from responsibility Ė ie, bottling it - there have also been structural reasons (injuries and loss of form) for the more chickenly approach and the consequent loss of confidence has simply fed off itself.††† Take Scott Severin.†† Smashing player, right.†† But any hint of trouble and his instinct is to move backwards, hunch the shoulders a bit lower, and protect the defence (or so he thinks).†† Thatís not what is required when in need of an equaliser.†† (Any offers when we took the lead last in a League match?)††† I heard plenty of criticism of both de Vries and McMullen last Saturday, but to my mind they were two players trying to do something creative, and were let down by others who werenít.†† Central midfield is where we have the problem.†† It was interesting that Levein deemed Severin and Stamp both well enough to play - neither looked sharp.†† Stamp has yet to prove his attitude and fitness are wholly up to scratch, and Severin still seems to get worked up about any little insignificance, and by playing himself so deep he cannot get himself into the enemy penalty box to score goals. ††Heís good at that.††† Stamp at least made one run in on goal last Saturday.††† Perhaps they simply canít gel.†† But theyíre both very good players, so they should get to some accommodation, understanding, with each other.


But Simmonds has had it if he keeps on like this.†† Levein hinted as much in the newspapers when he said that Simmonds had been suffering from shin split problems ďamongst othersĒ.†† We shouldnít worry about getting rid of such a huge talent, because heís unlikely to find a club who will be happy to take on such a liability.†† Oh fine, if heís a success elsewhere I will be delighted for him.I will not say ďI KNEW we should have kept himÖ.ĒItís time we got used to the fact heís not going to do it for us.†† Or if Hearts have faith in him, he should show faith in Hearts.†††† Itís possibly because weíre so short of right-sided midfielders that Janczyk didnít play against Dundee: or Sloan.†† But if McGeown was good enough to play against Celtic (and I didnít think that was a wrong choice Ė debuting against Celtic didnít bother Gary Naysmith, and I am bursting with pride at what heís doing for Everton and Scotland) there was no reason not to give McGeown another pop last week.††† Craig Levein knows very well what itís like to be a young player trying to impress a manager.†† Equally, if Levein has faith in Kevin Twaddle then he should give him a run in the team.†† The less time given to Twaddle to prove himself, the more heíll try too hard and cock it up every time.†† And time is not on his side.Thatís the nicest way I can say what most other people are saying.††


Thereís an obvious weakness down the right.†† Weíre flakey, going on shit.†† Boyack was playing decently well, though I know he could play a lot better, but being supported by the genius that isnít Alan Maybury puts Boyack under some pressure.††† (Compare it with how McMullen and Valois give each other options.)†† So now with Boyack out, thereís no-onethere (Maybury qualifies as no-one in my book),so thereís another avenue blocked.††† Weíre running out of options to get the ball upfield in an orderly and footballing manner, which is why giving it back to the goalie to punt it up the park is becoming more and more fashionable.Almost legitimate.†† God save us if the most best use of our resources is to put McKenna back to centre-forward, but currently I wouldnít argue with it.†† It would simply be an acknowledgement of how bad some fickle fans say we are.††† I donít believe that.††††


Here speaks the Chief Grouser: No Good Can Come Of Alan Maybury.†† No, no, never.†† Now, donít anyone out there start getting the hump.†† Maybury is not reading this, so it will not dent his morale.†† (I still chuckle at someone who thought my demanding Jefferiesí instant dismissal was ill-timed, being the day before a match against Hibs!†† Believe me, if I thought anyone inside Hearts read all this, I wouldnít hold back as much as I do.)


The one person who should be exempt from criticism, no matter how justified, is Roddy McKenzie.†††† There are reasons for this.††† Speaking as one who was at Hampden in May 2000, I wondered if, and fervently hoped, that Heartsí outstanding 16-year-old Ďkeeper would progress and could be even Scotlandís answer to Madridís Casillas, 19 years old and a European Cup winner.†† It didnít seem to bother Real how young he was.†† So seeing Craig Gordon warm up at Firhill the other week I was impressed with the weight heís put on, his athleticism, his enthusiasm.†† No-one wants to be nasty to McKenzie, but winning is winning is winning.†† However, I wouldnít want to blood a young goalie, no matter how brilliant,when the defence (or rather, the midfield) is conceding so many bad goals as it is right now.†† Letís stick with Roddy, if only for all the wrong reasons.†† And giving him a cheer or two might not be the wrong thing to do.