London Hearts Supporters Club

Report Index--> 2006-07--> All for 20061119
<-Page <-Team Sun 19 Nov 2006 Hearts 0 Rangers 1 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Eduard Malofeev <-auth James Atkinson auth-> Douglas McDonald
[I Novo 78]
14 of 014 ----- L SPL H

The clash of the big little men

James Atkinson

Round 15 of the Scottish Premier League and there was no question which fixture grabbed the attention - the Hearts v Rangers clash at Tynecastle. But it was not for the reasons they would have liked.

At the beginning of the season, many thought this would have been a battle between two potential champions. Hearts had lost two important players over the summer and not really replaced them, but after finishing runners-up and winning the Scottish Cup last year, their supporters believed things would just keep on improving. Meanwhile, Paul Le Guen was appointed as the messiah who would revive Rangers and bring trophies back to Ibrox.

How wrong things have gone! Not only are Celtic miles ahead, but the sorry pair can't even put distance between themselves and the chasing pack. At kick-off on Sunday, Aberdeen were second in the table, courtesy of their victory over St Mirren the previous day. Yes, broke, success-is-but-a-distant-memory Aberdeen. There's not so much a big three at the moment, as a big one.

So this fixture was compelling not because the clubs are doing so well, but because they are doing so badly. The ongoing crises at Tynecastle and Ibrox have provided the SPL stories of the season so far - and are both inexplicable, in their way. On the one hand, you have Vladimir Romanov, a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a puzzle, or whatever it was Churchill said about the Russians; a man who has claimed a grand vision for his club, but has a very strange way of trying to achieve it. Then, you have Le Guen, recognised as one of the most talented coaches in Europe, who has not only failed to improve Rangers, but has made them worse.

As it was, Rangers won the match, with a late goal from Nacho Novo. The wee Spanish forward is one of the club's few success stories this season - all but ignored by Alex McLeish, he is playing more regularly now under the new gaffer, and scoring goals again. Barry Ferguson also had one of his better games in recent times.

So Rangers have jumped above the Dons into second place, but time will tell whether their nightmare is over. They only beat Hearts, after all, in a poor game between two teams in poor form. The Ibrox club have been heavily engaged in the dark art of PR over the past week or so, firstly issuing a statement of confidence in the manager, and then throwing their beleaguered supporters some titbits, by leaking news of an imminent bid for a Hibernian midfielder or two. But just because the Glasgow papers might lap it up, doesn't make it so. It is not the chairman's opinion of Le Guen that really matters, but the fans' - and only a continued sequence of wins will appease them. And unless David Murray digs into his own pocket, there won't be any money for new players in January; certainly not Kevin Thomson or Scott Brown.

The best PR savvy in the world couldn't spin the Hearts story in a positive light at the moment, because the outlook is bleak. They have now gone seven games without a win, and - like Rangers - desperately need to conjure a run of results from somewhere. But they seem utterly incapable of doing so.

It was hardly surprising they lost. The build-up to the game had been dominated by speculation over whether Craig Gordon would play - or would he, too, be dropped like the other members of the "Riccarton Three"? In the end, he did play, as did Paul Hartley, but it was hardly ideal preparation. Handing the captain's armband to Hartley on Sunday might have been seen as an attempt to heal a rift, except that Steven Pressley is still excluded.

It was Edouard Malofeev's last game in charge, as he has now left to get his Uefa coaching badge - at the age of 64! If he waited a year, he could retire to Sochi instead. Eugenijus Riabovas was supposed to be taking over, but the BBC is now claiming he isn't after all. Meanwhile, assistant John McGlynn, the only constant in the coaching staff over the past two years, and caretaker manager twice, is seemingly leaving to become the boss at second division Raith Rovers. So Hearts are currently directionless.

Bizarrely, given his hands-on management style, Romanov wasn't in the country at the weekend, but is expected in Scotland this week. He's got plenty to keep him busy - Hartley has asked for a chat, and he will need to deal with the fall-out from the match, after director Alex Koslovski accused the fans of booing some players just because they were Lithuanian, and 200 or so supporters held a protest after the game.

So Rangers and Aberdeen are now on 25 points, with Hearts on 22 with Kilmarnock and Hibs. It is hardly where these two big spenders thought they would be at this stage of the season.
<-Page <-Team Sun 19 Nov 2006 Hearts 0 Rangers 1 Team-> Page->
| Home | Contact Us | Credits | © 2006 |