Hearts lifted after well-earned victory Levein signings, McKenna and Fuller, give Tynecastle side a welcome win
Graham Spiers AT tynecastle
12 Nov 2001
hearts 2 dundee 0
It is hard to exaggerate how badly Hearts needed this result.
Tynecastle on Saturday was a place full of gloom and foreboding, and throughout the second half an extraordinary sky that was first crimson and then maroon and finally a veil of pure black seemed to glare over the stadium.
After weeks of wretched fate, though, Craig Levein's team finally saw light.
With tonight's AGM at Tynecastle, and a chief executive, Chris Robinson, looking and sounding more embattled than ever, Hearts couldn't afford any more ghastly defeats.
Suffering six in their previous seven SPL matches had been bad enough, let alone seeing groups of howling fans seeming to take up permanent leaseholds on the pavements surrounding Tyne-castle in protest at Robinson.
If this win hadn't been secured even Levein's rock-like character might have wobbled.
Levein is moulding a new Hearts team at a time of penury in Gorgie.
With big earners being ejected, the wage-bill being slashed, and the squad being made leaner and fitter courtesy of cheaper, youthful alternates, these are among Hearts' most testing times in 25 years.
In his new job, Levein sometimes resembles a builder clean out of bricks and mortar.
Little wonder there was a terrible nervousness about Hearts on Saturday.
Little wonder much of their play, especially in a gruesome first half, had a kick-and-rush feel to it.
The root of all this was anxiety and shattered confidence.
Never mind one win in seven, Levein's team haven't managed to win two successive games all season, and with Celtic coming to Tynecastle this Saturday, they probably aren't about to.
This defeat of Dundee, though, was finally about resolute character.
After half-time, many were the strong and pleasing aspects to Hearts' play.
In Steven Pressley, they have a considerable captain who, in the words of Tommy McLean, is ''the classic example of a player making the very most of his ability.'' In Stephen Simmons and Kevin McKenna, Levein surely also has wholesome parts.
In Steve Fulton, he also has an outright enigma.
This shaven-headed, pudgy midfielder looks less like an athlete with every passing month, his backside now hovering ominously above the grass, yet Fulton on Saturday was everything to Hearts, in spirit, effort, and nicely-conceived passes.
Symbolically, it was from two of his prods, the first a free-kick, the second a header, which gouged open Hearts' goals.
Ricardo Fuller also typifies everything about the plight of Levein and these fragile times.
Young, Jamaican, and seemingly gangly and awkward in motion, Levein has plucked Fuller because he is cheap and because Levein says he has spotted talent welling up inside him which he hopes to nurture.
It is a gamble taken by a young manager on a young player that seems hopelessly exposed to ridicule.
We spent much of the early moments on Saturday privately sniggering at Fuller and lamenting his lack of skill.
On one occasion, he stood on the ball and the next he would crunch an opponent's ankle instead of maintaining possession.
But then the fates seemed to turn.
He embarked on a good run, then another, and slowly but surely the Jamaican's confidence began to flower before he popped in Hearts' second goal with a deftly executed shot which evaded Jamie Langfield before nestling in his net.
''I've looked at him and seen some wonderful things in training and decided to take the chance,'' said Levein of Fuller later.
''I'm just keeping my fingers crossed because he's different from other players.'' Ivano Bonetti's Dundee were the Dundee we've come to expect - you never know what to expect.
It would seem a mistranslation of the truth to say they were anything other than disappointing.
With Zuru Khizanishvili in defence, Beto Carranza on their left, the restored Javier Artero on their right and Temuri Ketsbaia marauding around midfield, so much of this team has a habit of promising more than it actually manages to deliver on the park.
A couple of long-range Ketsbaia bashes over the crossbar notwithstanding, it didn't seem sufficient that the best Dundee could offer was a Mark Robertson shot on the hour which only arose from a defensive blunder.
In any case, the shot whistled harmlessly wide of Antti Niemi's post.
Bonetti is an engaging character, likeable one day, a little objectionable the next.
He mumbled away slightly incoherently on Saturday night in swift, fractured English, in the end seeming a little incomprehensible to the hard of hearing.
One of his gripes seemed to be that Hearts had scored with their first and only attack.
Typically, though, he was then gracious about Levein and Hearts.
''This is a good result for them,'' said Bonetti, ''because of the pressure they are under.'' The first half of this match had been parlous before Hearts found new life.
McKenna put them ahead after 54 minutes with a high, looping header which found the net beyond the questionably-positioned Langfield.
Fuller's second after 72 minutes was then a clever piece of finishing from eight yards, especially as Walter Del Rio seemed to be clambering awkwardly all over him.
They weren't exactly clambering with joy over Chris Robinson after this, but the result could make his ride tonight a mite more smooth.
Taken from the Herald