Kilmarnock 1 Hearts 1 - I Was There, writes Chief Liar
Sitting in the warmth of the Rugby Park stand, a few thoughts overtook me’n’the compadres. Hearts have consistently produced a stream of quality youths over the last few years, but rarely are they good enough for our purposes. We know the exceptions, but Kris O’Neil’s departure made me sad. He’s a clever, talented footballer but this isn’t his stage. Probably he’ll end up at St Johnstone who aren’t so fussy.
Young players; what can be done for them in today’s globalised player market? All the best goalies are foreign, and you can’t mistake the technical superiority of yer Continental. Pressley’s one of the best at his craft, but Hearts’ lack of skill at the back is disturbing. Since Sandy Jardine, Hearts have always had someone to carry the ball from the back; Levein, McPherson, Van de Ven, Weir. This is why we’re missing Flogel against Kilmarnock and why those who say “Thomas Flogel’s not a right-back” are missing the point a touch. I’d rather have there a man who can play football than a right-back who can’t. Grant Murray? He’s a utility player in the same way I’ve got a utility room. It’s full of rubbish and things being hung out to dry.
However. Andy Webster made one mistake, which is one less than Gordan Petric ever made in a match, but it didn’t faze him, he got out of jail and didn’t look back. He seemed comfortable on the ball and got to a lot of crosses first. He didn’t have too many qualms about kicking Cocard, either, and I Hereby Predict that there are Good Things to come from Andy Webster, just as I can see no good coming from Austin McCann. I could be wrong mind – I’ve been wrong before, on 24th October 1994.
We were well stymied by the absences – Flogel and Tomaschek (and I don’t think either of them is Scottish) – and hamstrung by one or two presences. Adam looked very rusty and not always interested, though the one good thing he did in the match led to our goal. Makel got stuck in the mud, and Hearts are at their best when the game’s quick. Severin, too, looked unfit, so whether playing him wide on the left was a good thing or not is hard to say. But he should be in the middle of the park, especially as Kilmarnock weren’t actually playing with an orthodox striker, but standing a few yards off our back line. All through the evening Cocard was able to drop, get the ball at his feet, and the bustling if not over-talented Killie midfield swarmed over us.
I like Boyack. I hope he doesn’t ever let us down, because his lazy style of play is deceptive – he watches the game with the intention of getting involved, unlike previous inhabitants of the maroon jersey who just stood around (or worse, went ball-chasing like a dog in a park). Again, the sodden pitch (artificially watered before the game, can you believe it?) doesn’t help his style, so he played a more defensive role and I like the way he was booked – persistent fouling in non-threatening areas. If you’re going to give away free kicks, do it where Celtic do it – on the half-way line.
I get worried about Hearts at corners. There’s no need to have all eleven back. Keep two men up front, and two on the edge of the box one on each post, and the rest keeping out of the goalie’s way. By putting two fast men on the halfway line, you force defenders to stay back. They’re not going to score if they’re fifty yards from goal, and even those who venture into the box will be glancing nervously backwards, knowing that if they lose a goal on the break, saying “Well, I wasn’t there at the time” isn’t included in the Comments section when scores are read out. Losing a goal is a defender’s nightmare. So let’s start playing the mind games and get them worried.
We didn’t deserve the draw, and for the media to say that Bobby Williamson would have been the happier manager at the end defies belief. We’re still in the hunt for Europe, when we could have easily been drawing up the guest list for the end-of-season dance. Instead, more world-class Niemism saved us. Nasty Feeling Time with his former manager at Charlton sitting in the stand. He wasn’t checking out Lee Makel, I feel.