Looking forward: Let’s Be Optimistic For God’s Sake
If it would be pretty stupid to be happy at the state of Heart of Midlothian right now, there are reasons if not to be cheerful, then not downcast. (We could call Motherwell and Airdrie as witnesses for the defence, but let’s keep ourselves to ourselves on this one.) Hearts nearly went out of business in 1981, so forgive an old git’s lack of botherment at The State of Things right now. Two years ago Hearts finished Third and I never thought I’d lived through such a long, hard, grinding bore of a season. But if you consider that Heart of Midlothian are the third-top scorers in the Scottish Premier League this season, things are bad – not Hearts, but the Scottish Premier League.
neither The Chief Grouser nor I was at the Celtic game, but we can guess that
it was all pretty shabby. Someone
correctly pointed out that most Celtic and Rangers reserves would walk into any
other first team in
Good Thing Number One about Hearts is the demeanour of Craig Levein. I have no idea if he’s any good at anything else but everyone from the people who go along to the Fans’ Forum (important one, that) to the Scottish media (even more important) are impressed with his refusal to be miserable while being realistic, his enthusiasm, his dignity, his sense of calm, his dry wit, his refusal to rise to silly journalistic bait. So what if he hasn’t a clue? There were plenty of times when Jim Jefferies didn’t exactly seem like a tactical genius, and he’s meant to be good at that sort of thing. There were even occasions when he positively put players off. Does Bobby Williamson have a clue? Does Jimmy Calderwood? I don’t think Levein is much worse than either. His public persona goes a very long way in this modern telly age as any little divide is magnified by the burning spyglass of the Daily Wreckage, and the one thing Hearts don’t need right now is the media ripping us apart.
strange thing is that against every expectation, Hearts felt inspired enough to
come back to draw at
it’s difficult to know if Hearts are doing well or badly or neither. In the context of this season Hearts finished
fifth in the League. That’s good. In the context of football played, Hearts
were rubbish. That’s bad. And next year? No-one knows. We might play just the same next year only to
end up embarrassingly tenth (like some team that finished embarrassingly
tenth this year) but I think Hearts might well be in better shape for
the first game of next season than we were at Almondvale last August. What determines next season and the seasons
after that is, of course, team leadership and the quality of (usually foreign) midfielder. Hearts have got good young players, but
getting the best out of them may prove tricky if all they’ve got are themselves
to look at. A good example is ManU a
while back – they would run round in meaningless circles, but all it took was a
Cantona pass to make sense of those circles, while Steve Bruce provided the
necessary leadership. Next year
our inconsistency can be explained, if not explained away. Transition may be a cliché, but Hearts have
been transient throughout the season when you compare us with
Broto, Brinquin, Bollan, Rubio, Andrews, Wilson, Fernandez, Bingham, Quino, Xausa, Lovell.
On Sunday their team (when they beat Hearts) was
Broto, Brinquin, Santini, Rubio, Andrews, Wilson, Fernandez, Makel, Quino, Xausa, Lovell.
All that Hearts had in common, apart from the poor standard of football, were McCann, McKenna, Severin, and Adam, and the first and last-named were only there on Sunday for non-footballing reasons. No, Hearts went into the season with the wrong players, and it’s impossible to have a settled side when that happens. Then Tomaschek was injured, Cameron left, Adam was injured, Juanjo left, Fuller arrived, Pressley got his fitness back, Gronlund arrived and the defence suddenly stopped conceding goals. A period of decent performances with bad results was followed by lesser performances with great results. Gronlund then broke his leg having been unable to break anyone else’s. Pressley was injured. Tomaschek returned. And was injured again. You will have your own thoughts whether Alan Maybury has epitomised Hearts’ inconsistency throughout the season, or the consistency of something thick and brown. Add Austin McCann, Steven Boyack and a touch of Kenny Milne to the mixture and we’re not talking Bisto...
neither I nor the Chief Grouser nor Davy Allan nor Ken Lightly has any idea
what Hearts will be like next season, but the fans of other clubs will be
thinking the same about their mob.
There is no such thing as a Third Force: there is only
I Was There:
"Whatever the linesman is saying to the referee,” the Chief Grouser was heard to puff from the centre stand, "You can bet he's not going to give Hearts a penalty." Well, that's now three times he’s been wrong in the last ten years. Once the referee starting walking to the penalty spot Dunfermline got more Athletic than they’d been all day and from our distant perch all we could see was a mob of players; and seconds later, a flag was hoisted from somewhere inside this scrimmage (“send reinforcements and tell my wife I love her!” seemed to be the semaphore message). Only The Scotsman noticed the leg-shaver’s comedy moniker – Ricky Mooney (one for the Spoonerists amongst you). Simmonds slotted in the penalty. Yesss. And Big Big Thanks to Steven Pressley for his penalty, Antti Niemi for his signature, and Ricardo Fuller, for being the greatest footballing talent since Willie Hamilton to pull on a Hearts jersey.