{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"hearts","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-fans-to-see-real-kyle-lafferty-soon-craig-levein-1-4567582","id":"1.4567582","articleHeadline": "Hearts fans to see real Kyle Lafferty soon – Craig Levein","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506144655000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein has backed Hearts’ marquee summer signing Kyle Lafferty to ignite over the coming weeks.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567581.1506096797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein has been pleased with Kyle Lafferty's efforts"} ,"articleBody": "

The much-hyped Northern Irishman has scored six goals since signing a two-year contract with the Tynecastle club in June, although only two of those have come in the Premiership.

Levein has been encouraged by the way Lafferty has settled in at Hearts and senses that, after showing glimpses of his quality in the Betfred Cup and scoring in each of his last two starts in the league, the 30-year-old former Rangers and Norwich City striker is ready to start making his presence felt on a consistent basis.

“I’ve been really pleased with Kyle but you have to remember he’s still getting up to speed,” the Hearts manager told the Evening News.

“He hasn’t played a lot of football in the last couple of years – he’s probably played more for Northern Ireland than he has for his club.

“He’s a great character and a really good lad to have about the place. He’s worked ever so hard in training and when he’s played, he’s done well – I’ve been happy with him. He’s been a good addition, but there’s still a lot more to come from him. A month from now, he’ll be a different animal altogether.”

Lafferty returned to the starting line-up to play alongside Esmael Goncalves in attack in the 2-1 win over Hamilton last weekend after dropping to the bench for the goalless draw against Aberdeen at BT Murrayfield a fortnight ago. Levein is keen to see the pair forge a partnership in the long term, but the manager explained that, with Hearts currently facing an arduous run of away games, there may be times when he opts not to play his two main strikers.

“Playing Kyle and Isma as a two going forward is something we’ve discussed and we gave them a run out together at Hamilton last week,” said Levein. “Developing a partnership there is very much at the forefront of my mind, but, particularly just now when we’ve got a lot of away games, I’m not always convinced that we need two strikers. Last week I felt we did, and it worked well for us, but there are no hard and fast rules regarding that.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4567581.1506096797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567581.1506096797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein has been pleased with Kyle Lafferty's efforts","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein has been pleased with Kyle Lafferty's efforts","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4567581.1506096797!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-christophe-berra-has-learned-from-no-nonsense-coaches-1-4567598","id":"1.4567598","articleHeadline": "Hearts’ Christophe Berra has learned from no-nonsense coaches","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506144648000 ,"articleLead": "

Christophe Berra believes he has flourished by spending the bulk of his career playing under highly-regarded former international centre-backs like Mick McCarthy and Craig Levein who appreciate the fundamental principles of defending.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567596.1506097808!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts captain Christophe Berra"} ,"articleBody": "

The Hearts captain is being managed by Levein for a second time at Tynecastle after he was given his debut by the Fifer 14 years ago. The pair also had three years working closely together when Levein was in charge of Scotland between 2009 and 2012, while Berra spent the majority of his eight-and-a-half years in England playing under McCarthy, the no-nonsense Yorkshireman and former Republic of Ireland player and manager, at both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ipswich Town.

The 32-year-old, who has never been renowned as a ball-playing centre-back, bases his own success primarily on being solid defensively.

“The manager just wants us to do the basics – head it, put tackles in, get our blocks in,” said Berra, ahead of today’s trip to Partick Thistle. “That’s not just the defenders, that’s over the whole pitch. Especially up here in Scotland, you have to be competitive first and foremost, win the first contacts and the second balls, and if you do that well you’ve always got a chance to win the game.

“I made my debut under the manager and look at all the defenders who have worked under him – your job first and foremost is to defend. The manager I have worked under the most is Mick McCarthy and he was similar as well. I think as a defender, football changes but first and foremost you’ve got to defend and try and keep the ball out of the net.”

Berra has forged an impressive career by making himself a nightmare for opposition strikers to play against. “Craig and Mick were both centre-backs, so they know what it means if you can dominate your striker – it gives you a foothold towards winning the game,” he said. “If the opposition striker is having a bad day, it’s good for you.

“I’ve learned a lot from Craig and Mick but they can also be my biggest critics! That’s something you need to take on the chin.”

After a couple of resolute displays against Aberdeen and Hamilton Accies over the past fortnight, Berra and his team-mates have so far managed to avoid being lambasted by Levein since he returned to the dugout a few weeks ago. The captain knows a rant from the manager won’t be far away if standards dip below the levels Levein wants

“He has been out the game for a while but he’s finding his feet,” said Berra. “At the moment, because we played well against Aberdeen and Hamilton, it has all been hunky-dory. But I’m sure when we don’t reach the standards he expects, we’ll know all about it. I have still to see that this time, but I have seen it in the past so we know we can’t afford to drop our standards.

“We’ve had jokes about it in the changing-room and it’s something that some of them have not experienced yet – it’s maybe only me and Prince 
Buaben (from Levein’s time at Dundee United).

“I’d like to see some of the faces when it happens. I might be on the end of it, but you have to take it on the chin. When I look back at 18, 19 you feel maybe a bit undone by it but when I look back now it was really good for me. It was a learning curve and probably made me the person I am.”

Levein this week told the Evening News that Berra has been “a godsend” in terms of helping Hearts rediscover some resilience following a dire finish to last season. The centre-back has been a commanding and steadying influence since returning to the Tynecastle club in the summer, but is not taking the high praise of his manager for granted.

“I read that article and thought ‘don’t, you’re setting me up to fail here’,” said Berra. “I take it with a pinch of salt, I don’t get carried away, although it’s nice to get nice things said about you. In the end, I’ll be judged by what I do on the pitch. It’s good having that extra responsibility around the changing-room and on game days as well. I try and be vocal. But I’m not a robot and there will be times when I might be at fault for things and maybe just off it – that’s when you need your team-mates around you.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4567596.1506097808!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567596.1506097808!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts captain Christophe Berra","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts captain Christophe Berra","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4567596.1506097808!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/maroon-memories-terrible-trio-smash-hibs-1-4567149","id":"1.4567149","articleHeadline": "Maroon Memories: Terrible trio smash Hibs","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506144420000 ,"articleLead": "

It was a game of which they and Edinburgh can be proud. It was fast; it was entertaining. Some of the moves by both sides were really worthy of the interest evinced in them.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567148.1506077100!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jimmy Wardhaugh, Willie Bauld and Alfie Conn"} ,"articleBody": "

There was a Lawrie Reilly cut through; there was a Bobby Dougan-Jimmy Wardhaugh move and there was a delightful piece of studied play by Gordon Smith which left Dougal Matheson looking like the proverbial carthorse and from which both Eddie Turnbull and Reilly might have profited more than they did.

But everything else was capped by the tremendous shout which greeted the Hearts’ opening goal in eight minutes.

It showed the Hibs’ defence in a sad light as Alfie Conn cut through the backs like lightning, evaded a hesitating Jimmy Kerr and smashed the ball into the net.

After a quarter of an hour the crowd went daft. Reason? A second goal for Hearts.

Hibs’ defence, bewildered and pulverised, made a mess of dealing with a Tommy Sloan raid on the right and centre forward Willie Bauld came up to smash the ball past a helpless goalkeeper.

Those two lightning profitable raids of Hearts had set Hibs a sore puzzle and given the game a tingling tang. Dithering, swithering Hibs steadied.

But the Hearts defence had the answer to everything the Easter Road chaps flung at them. Reilly was quicksilver in the Hibs centre, but his wings were sluggish to respond to his almost inspired lead.

But he had nothing on his opposite number Bauld. This young man was astuteness itself. Twice it needed all the calm experience of Kerr to thwart him.

Bauld, the man who would be “King”, who had only started playing for Hearts in 1948, had already begun forging a partnership with Wardhaugh and Conn that would be nicknamed The Terrible Trio.

Again it was the goalkeeper who stopped a Bobby Flavell shot when the winger connected up with a Bauld pass.

The second half was barely a couple of minutes old before the Hearts unleashed their third thunderbolt. Conn was the man again.

Picking up the ball near the edge of the penalty area, he found himself unmarked and unchallenged and rightly decided to let go with all his might. Kerr did get in the way of the “jet-propelled” ball but the velocity was vicious enough to make it rebound from his body into the net. Three up, it was a rampaging, robust Hearts who sailed in to Hibs’ defence.

Within a minute this bewildered Easter Road combine had yielded a penalty. Flavell took the kick and sent it yards past, but it was a measure of this astonishing game that within another three minutes the winger scored the most brilliant goal of the four notched.

That did not end it. There was no holding Hearts.

As far as those Tynecastle forwards were concerned the Easter Road defence might have been something that had newly emerged from C Division football and the Maroons’ joy was unbounded when Bauld dashed in to smash the fifth past Kerr, who had surely seldom had such an unhappy day.

Hibs’ only answer to this wizardry was a bit of nostalgic sand-dancing by Gordon Smith, which didn’t get him or his side anywhere.

Eventually they did get a crumb of comfort. James Combe, with the whole of the Tynecastle defence apparently transfixed, was allowed to swing the ball calmly past a helpless Jimmy Brown.

But Hearts were dominant and rightly triumphant. It was seldom that they out of touch with Kerr.

A Smith goal eight minutes from time was a wee bit of a face-saver for Hibs. But nothing could take the gloss off this Hearts win.

Hearts: Brown, Parker, Matheseon, Cox, Henderson, Dougan, Sloan, Conn, Bauld, Wardhaugh, Flavell.

Hibs: Kerr, Govan, Shaw, Cairns, Aird, Buchanan, Smith, Combe, Reilly, Turnbull, Ormond.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Hearts 5, Hibs 2. September 24, 1949"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4567148.1506077100!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567148.1506077100!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jimmy Wardhaugh, Willie Bauld and Alfie Conn","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jimmy Wardhaugh, Willie Bauld and Alfie Conn","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4567148.1506077100!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/partick-thistle-v-hearts-match-preview-and-probable-line-ups-1-4567281","id":"1.4567281","articleHeadline": "Partick Thistle v Hearts: Match preview and probable line-ups","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506084859000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts travel to Maryhill tomorrow hoping to build on impressive results against Aberdeen and Hamilton Academical, while Partick will be looking to bounce back from their midweek Betfred Cup exit at the hands of Rangers.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567239.1506083973!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie of Hearts and Partick's Sean Welsh battle for possession at Tynecastle last year. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

The appointment of Craig Levein as Ian Cathro’s successor in the dugout has seen a more resilient, and improved, Hearts side in recent weeks.

Aberdeen had Joe Lewis to thank as the ‘keeper’s heroics prevented Hearts from taking all three points from the match with Derek McInnes’s side and while they rode their luck at times against Hamilton, the teams ended a three-game run without a victory and will fancy making it two wins out of two against a Jags side currently sitting joint bottom and without a league win to their name.

The match at the Energy Check Stadium will kick off at the later time of 4pm, as a result of the Rangers v Celtic match earlier in the day.

Craig Levein has a near-full squad to choose from, with Arnaud Djoum the only absentee with a knee injury. The Cameroonian midfielder is likely to be out for around five weeks, but Connor Randall should be fine to play despite suffering from a tight hamstring.

Partick, however, are without long-term injured trio Callum Booth, Mustapha Dumbuya and Callum Booth while striker Conor Sammon is ineligible to play against his parent club. Midfielder Chris Erskine is suspended while goalkeeper Tomas Cerny is hoping to recover from a stomach strain in time to face Hearts. Striker Miles Storey returns to the squad after being cup-tied for the midweek cup match.

Last five meetings: Hearts 2-2 Partick Thistle; Partick Thistle 2-0 Hearts; Hearts 1-1 Partick Thistle; Partick Thistle 1-2 Hearts; Hearts 1-0 Partick Thistle

Probable Partick team (3-5-2): Cerny; Keown, Devine, Turnbull; McGinn, Bannigan, Edwards, Barton, Elliott; Spittal, Storey. Subs from: Scully, Nitriansky, Nisbet, Osman, McCarthy, Lawless, Doolan, Sneddon.

Probable Hearts team: (3-4-1-2): McLaughlin; Souttar, Berra, Hughes; M Smith, Callachan, Cowie, Smith-Brown; Walker; Goncalves, Lafferty. Subs from: Hamilton, Nowak, Grzelak, Brandon, Buaben, Martin, Milinkovic, Stockton, Moore, Currie.

Referee: Don Robertson

Kick-off: 4pm

Odds: Partick 12/5 Draw 23/10 Hearts 23/20 (Odds from Bet365, correct at the time of writing)

For more statistics, visit our dedicated Hearts page

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "PATRICK McPARTLIN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4567239.1506083973!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4567239.1506083973!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Don Cowie of Hearts and Partick's Sean Welsh battle for possession at Tynecastle last year. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Don Cowie of Hearts and Partick's Sean Welsh battle for possession at Tynecastle last year. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4567239.1506083973!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-player-given-ban-after-women-s-derby-match-chaos-1-4566907","id":"1.4566907","articleHeadline": "Hibs player given ban after women’s derby match chaos","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506064335000 ,"articleLead": "

A HIBS reserve player has been handed a six-match ban after a women’s derby was forced to be abandoned when a scuffle broke out on the pitch.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566906.1506064343!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A Hibs reserve player was handed a six match ban after a women's derby was abandoned. Picture; SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The sanction follows a clash in the dying minutes of the game at Foresters Park in Tranent on June 25.

The incident – in which a 14-year-old Hearts player is alleged to have been punched – was passed on to the Scottish Football Association, with the ban dished out following a judicial panel hearing. Records show the sanction was awarded for a “DR 202” rule breach, namely that no player “shall commit excessive misconduct at a match”.

The player who has been banned is understood to be over 18. Eyewitnesses say the father of the young Hearts player ran on to the pitch in order to protect his daughter when the referee failed to separate the players.

Other spectators, including the father of one of the Hibs players, are then said to have run on to the field, before the referee abandoned the game.

One witness said: “No punches were thrown by any of the parents or spectators.

There was pushing and shoving among them, but most of the people involved were just trying to break things up.”

The SFA, Hibs and Hearts declined to comment.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4566906.1506064343!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566906.1506064343!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "A Hibs reserve player was handed a six match ban after a women's derby was abandoned. Picture; SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "A Hibs reserve player was handed a six match ban after a women's derby was abandoned. Picture; SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4566906.1506064343!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/craig-levein-warns-hearts-over-dangerous-partick-thistle-1-4566711","id":"1.4566711","articleHeadline": "Craig Levein warns Hearts over ‘dangerous’ Partick Thistle","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506058255000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein has warned Hearts not to allow Partick Thistle’s lowly league position to lull them into a false sense of security ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Firhill.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566710.1506017121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein says his players are 'feeling better about themselves'"} ,"articleBody": "

The Jags sit second bottom of the Premiership with only two points from their six games so far. However, Levein is adamant Alan Archibald’s team should have had far more to show for their performances this term and believes that strong back-to-back displays against Rangers in the league (2-2) and Betfred Cup (3-1 loss to Rangers after extra-time) over the past week hint at a team ready to take off. “Partick are due a win,” said the Hearts manager. “They’re dangerous. They’ve played very well in their last two matches against Rangers and, although they didn’t get their just rewards, I think they’ll take some confidence from those games. I’ve watched all of their matches and they’ve been unfortunate on a number of occasions. Archie will be sitting there wondering why his team only have two points as they have played very well in spells in all of their games.

“They have been unlucky on a number of occasions that they haven’t managed to pick up more points. I hope that misfortune continues against us. We are expecting a tough game.”

Hearts make the trip along the M8 for tomorrow’s 4pm kick-off with renewed confidence after strong back-to-back performances against Aberdeen and Hamilton Accies since Levein became manager three weeks ago,

“Confidence is a big thing,” he said. “It’s hard to quantify. We gained confidence from the Aberdeen game, when we got a point and the performance was good. Then we got three points from a pretty scrappy match last week, so the players are feeling better about themselves. I was pleased with the win against Hamilton because if we had won 4-0 I would not have learned anything. It was a hard game. It was horrible but rewarding.”

Levein has challenged his players to maintain the work rate they have shown in recent matches.

He said: “You work as hard as you can and I will support everybody to the end. If you don’t work hard then ...

“For me, it’s simple. Our supporters expect the team to give everything they have got and, if they do and even if we lose, I will have no complaints. That is the minimum, and I expect them to play well.”

Levein, who first took charge of Hearts between 2000 and 2004, explained that the biggest change in his management style since then is that he is now more hands-off and willing to delegate more work to his trusty assistants Austin MacPhee, Jon Daly, Liam Fox and fitness coach Tom Taylor.

“I suppose everybody changes and evolves as they get older,” said the 52-year-old. “I’m different now to how I was at the start of my coaching career here. I’ve got more trust in my staff – I don’t need to do absolutely everything. That has been quite a big benefit, to let Jon, Foxy and Austin do what they’re good at – and just keep an eye on things.

‘That’s been the biggest change, I think, in how I work. It’s not hard to be less hands-on. I think the director of football thing has helped with that. I’ve been standing back – and I feel comfortable doing that. When I’m standing back as director of football, watching coaches, I think: ‘They’re doing all right.’ We’re all working together, so it’s never a matter of me stepping in.

“We’ve all got responsibilities – Jon, Liam, Austin and Tom. I say what we’re going to work on this week, and they come up with the training plans. Years ago, I would have done absolutely everything, but I feel all right about this. Pretty much the beginning of the week belongs to everybody else. We do video analysis, of course – we go over things that have happened in previous matches.

“I’m always there at training, every day. But the people who are working are good people, they’re coming up with good ideas, so I let them get on with it. I feel like Thursday, Friday and Saturday are mine – I come into it on a Thursday and Friday, and a match day.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4566710.1506017121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566710.1506017121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Craig Levein says his players are 'feeling better about themselves'","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Craig Levein says his players are 'feeling better about themselves'","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4566710.1506017121!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-john-souttar-could-easily-have-still-been-on-sidelines-1-4566660","id":"1.4566660","articleHeadline": "Hearts’ John Souttar ‘could easily have still been on sidelines’","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1506058206000 ,"articleLead": "

When John Souttar crumpled to the Celtic Park turf with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon at the end of January, he was staring at the very real prospect of being sidelined until October.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566659.1506013040!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Souttar"} ,"articleBody": "

Remarkably, with a week of September remaining, the Hearts defender has already started seven of his team’s ten competitive games this season, including each of the last five Premiership fixtures. In addition, since making a rapid recovery from this most wretched injury, he has helped Scotland Under-21s to a magnificent victory over the Netherlands. Within these eight outings for club and country, there have been five clean sheets. The 20-year-old has found light at the end of the dark and demoralising journey he was forced to embark upon in the early part of 2017.

“I could have easily still been out right now, so the fact I’ve played so many games, been away with Scotland Under-21s, and kept a few clean sheets is a massive bonus,” Souttar told the Evening News ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Partick Thistle. “The injury feels like it’s all gone – it just feels like a normal Achilles now, which is brilliant. When you get back from an injury like that it makes you appreciate massively just being able to play again. To look back to where I was six months ago, you have doubts about how you’re going to come back and people doubt if you’ll be the same player if you do get back, which is natural because it’s probably one of the worst injuries you can get. For me to be back and feel like I did before it happened is brilliant. I always believed I would recover but I’ve surprised myself with how quickly I’ve got back.

“I’ve never had any doubts about going in for any challenges. People sometimes get put off by things when they’ve had a bad injury but I’ve been lucky enough that I’ve not had that. I’m still probably getting back to my full fitness but I’ve been out for a long time so that’s to be expected.”

Having returned to action in July, less than six months after sustaining an injury which normally carries a prognosis of six-to-nine months on the sidelines, Souttar was reminded of the soul-destroying effect of a ruptured Achilles when he learned that Jordon Forster had become a victim while playing for Cheltenham Town against Exeter City four weeks ago. The former Hibs defender told the Evening News earlier this month of the support he had received from Souttar. The Hearts player felt obliged to contact his stricken fellow centre-back even though they barely knew each other.

“A few of the boys mentioned to me what had happened to Jordon,” Souttar explained. “When I did my Achilles, it was a lonely time – you Google to see who else has done it to try and get some reassurance. I just wanted to let him know I was there if he had any questions about it because I’ve been through what he’s going through now. I just thought anything that could help put his mind at ease would be worth doing. I’ve played against him a few times, and he’s from Edinburgh, but if it was anyone I knew I’d have got in touch because it’s a traumatic injury and it’s tough to deal with mentally. I know how hard is to get through it, and when you’re sitting there in the first two weeks and you can’t move, it’s a dangerous time. Your Googling all sorts of things, so for someone just to say ‘look, I’m back and you can get through it’, I think that would help, so hopefully it helped Jordon.”

In addition to offering advice in recent weeks, Souttar has also been benefitting from the experience of others. The defender, who turns 21 on Monday, feels his return to the team has been smoothed by playing alongside Christophe Berra and Aaron Hughes, two international centre-backs who are 12 and 18 years his senior, respectively. “They’re both experienced professionals who I can learn from, and that’s what I’m doing,” said Souttar. “When there’s players like that next to you, you’ve just got to take advantage of it and ask them questions. I’m still young for a centre-half, so anything I can pick up off them is valuable.

“To have someone like Christophe, who’s a first pick for Scotland, is always going to make things easier for you. I’ve always wanted to play as high as I possibly can in the game, and Christophe and Aaron show what’s required to play regularly for your national team. When you’re younger, I think the hardest thing is to find consistency and do it week in, week out, but I think together, as a defence, we’ve started the season pretty consistently. The clean sheets and the away wins we’ve had suggest we’re more solid than we were last season because you need to be defensively solid to get results away from home. It’s been a good start considering we’ve played so many games away.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4566659.1506013040!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4566659.1506013040!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "John Souttar","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "John Souttar","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4566659.1506013040!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/big-interview-ex-hearts-winger-sam-nicholson-on-life-in-us-1-4565578","id":"1.4565578","articleHeadline": "Big interview: Ex-Hearts winger Sam Nicholson on life in US","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505971837000 ,"articleLead": "

Eight games and almost three months into his American adventure, it is clear Sam Nicholson has no regrets about his decision to swap his hometown of Penicuik for Uptown, Minneapolis.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565577.1505942515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sam Nicholson feels his career has been enhanced since leaving Hearts"} ,"articleBody": "

He may have initially had genuine trouble handling the heat, and pined for Nando’s chicken at times along the way, but the 22-year-old former Hearts winger is otherwise content and upbeat as he reflects on a revitalising start to his time with Minnesota United, the recently-formed MLS franchise he boldly opted to join in the summer following a demoralising final season at Tynecastle.

“I’ve loved it so far,” Nicholson said. “The lifestyle change has obviously been massive. The weather’s been decent – I can’t complain. And I’ve really enjoyed the football. I’ve had the chance to play against players like Bastian Schweinsteiger (the World Cup-winning German, currently with Chicago Fire) and Clint Dempsey (the former USA captain, currently at Seattle Sounders), so it’s been a really good experience. I’ve got my love for football back. I wouldn’t say I’ve got my spark back because I’m still not at my best yet, but I’m getting there.”

Nicholson, who signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Minnesota in June, has started seven of his new team’s eight matches since becoming available for selection midway through the MLS season two months ago. As he continues acclimatising to his new environment, he is already relishing the chance to hit the ground running when his first full campaign Stateside kicks off next March. “I can’t wait until next season so I can start a full fresh season here because it’s hard going in midway through the season,” he said. “I’d had a month and a bit off at the end of Hearts’ season so when I first came over here, I went straight into training with the team and I had to do extra work with the sports scientist to get myself fit. It was hard because I was doing a lot of double sessions, but I liked the way the club looked after me and worked with me.

“In the first few games, it took me a bit of getting used to because I wasn’t match fit. In my first game against New York Red Bulls, I was really struggling because the heat was crazy that day. The humidity went up to about 89 per cent and after the first ten minutes, I couldn’t deal with it. Even after doing two jogs across the pitch in the warm-up, I was sweating. I had to come off after about 60 minutes and they put me straight into an ice bath because they thought I had heat illness! That’s been strange to get used to but it’s not the case in every game. A lot of the games are at night so it’s not as hot.”

Nicholson has been impressed with the quality of football he has encountered Stateside. “I suppose it’s a similar standard to Scotland but it’s hard to compare the two,” he said. “Here, you obviously have exceptional players like Giovinco (the Italy internationalist at Toronto), David Villa (the Spanish superstar with New York City) and Schweinsteiger, who’s the best player I’ve played against. I don’t know how people can say it’s a poor standard. You have teams like Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto, who I think would do well in England, certainly at Championship level. Some defences are harder to play against than Scottish defences and some aren’t. What I’ve noticed over here is that the league is full of athletes – every player is fast and strong, so I’ve had to deal with that in terms of getting a bit stronger on the ball. I wouldn’t say I’m bigger, but I’m stronger and dealing better with the ball when I’m up against someone.

“I’ve not scored yet but one of the coaches was saying the other night how unlucky I’ve been. I’ve had about eight shots on target, and I’ve had a couple of really good strikes that have been against some of the best keepers in the league. I’m going through one of those stages where I just can’t find the net, but I’m hoping that once I get one, it’ll kick off for me.”

While a long trek in Scottish football constituted a three-hour bus journey from Edinburgh to Inverness or Dingwall, travelling to away games has become a totally different ball game for Nicholson in recent months. “I’ve just been away for the full week in Canada as we were away at Vancouver and then Montreal last week,” said the Hearts academy graduate. “The travelling is a massive thing here. When we travel, the whole schedule changes. We had two days off when we got back to make sure we were recovered and then the rest of this week will be relatively light because the travelling really takes it out of you, especially when you’re going through different time zones.”

While Nicholson is finding his feet in a new environment, so, too, are his team. Minnesota only joined the MLS this season and are still a work in progress under their English manager, Adrian Heath. Ahead of this Sunday’s home match against Dallas, they lie ninth in the 11-team Western Conference, nine points outside the play-off zone with six games remaining. Victories over Chicago Fire (Schweinsteiger’s team) and Montreal Impact over the past four weeks have raised belief levels within the Minnesota camp as the regulation season nears its conclusion in a month’s time.

“We’re brand new to the MLS and the manager has only really started building the team in the last transfer window, when I came in,” said Nicholsom. “We’re just trying to establish ourselves this season. I think next season we’ll do well. The manager is looking for us to finish the season strongly, but he knows that next season will be totally different for us. If we don’t make the play-offs, we’ll stay on for another few weeks of training at the end of the season so we we’re not losing fitness compared to everyone else who is in the play-offs.”

Off the field, Nicholson has settled better than he anticipated. His girlfriend, Amy, is with him Stateside but she is unable to set down roots there just yet due to visa issues. “I was in a hotel for the first month or so, and now I’m living in a really nice apartment in Uptown, Minneapolis,” said Nicholson. “The area is beautiful. I’ve had my family over, my agent [Paul McHale] has been over and Amy’s grandmother’s over right now – everyone loves it. I’m a two-minute walk from a massive lake and right next to loads of nice restaurants. It’s incredible, really nice.

“I’ve been taken with how nice the people are. Apparently the people are well known in this part of America for being particularly friendly. Everywhere you go, people talk to you. I live really close to the supermarket, but by the time I get there, you probably have about three or four people saying ‘hi’ or asking how you’re getting on. It’s not a case of people recognising me from playing for Minnesota, it’s just people being friendly. The people are lovely.

“It’s actually been alright in terms of being away from home for the first time. I feel like I’ve dealt with it quite well. I’ve been Facetiming my family and friends, and Amy’s been doing the same. It’s helped me being away from home because I’ve been able to just totally focus on my football.”

Assuming his team don’t defy the odds and make it all the way to the MLS Cup final in December, Nicholson is likely to get the chance to return to Scotland in November before flying back to America early in the new year. “I’m excited to get back and enjoy Christmas with my family because I’ve not really had Christmas off since I started playing professionally,” he said. “I’ll still need to do some training to keep ticking over when I’m back home in the close-season and I’ve got a lot of people to see, so I’ll need to work all that out.”

He also needs to fit in several visits to his favourite eaterie. “Nando’s is the thing I’m missing most,” he said. “I need that. That’ll be the first thing I get when I get home!”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4565577.1505942515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565577.1505942515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Sam Nicholson feels his career has been enhanced since leaving Hearts","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Sam Nicholson feels his career has been enhanced since leaving Hearts","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4565577.1505942515!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/malaury-martin-still-in-craig-levein-s-plans-at-hearts-1-4565505","id":"1.4565505","articleHeadline": "Malaury Martin still in Craig Levein’s plans at Hearts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505971820000 ,"articleLead": "

Forgotten man Malaury Martin has been told he will be given a chance to return to the fold once resurgent Hearts have re-established themselves as a team able to play confidently on the front foot.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565504.1505923862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Malaury Martin is yet to establish himself in maroon"} ,"articleBody": "

The French midfielder has struggled to make an impact at Tynecastle since arriving on a three-and-half-year contract in January and has found himself out of the picture so far this season.

After making three substitute appearances in the ill-fated Betfred Cup campaign in July, his only Premiership action so far this term came in the form of a last-minute cameo outing off the bench in the win over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. Martin hasn’t featured in the 18-man match-day squad for any of Hearts’ last four games, and interim head coach Jon Daly had hinted last month that the former Monaco, Middlesbrough and Lillestrom player would have been allowed to leave in the last transfer window if he wished.

However, Craig Levein explained that the midfielder will get another chance to prove himself once Hearts, who have been grinding out some morale-boosting results in his absence, are back on an even keel following a disastrous first half to 2017.

The manager is hopeful that Martin, renowned predominantly for guile rather than grit, will flourish within a more harmonious environment going forward than that in which he has operated for the bulk of his Hearts career to date.

“Malaury’s still got a chance, no doubt about that,” Levein told the Evening News. “He’s a different type of player. At this moment in time, while we’re scrapping and fighting for points, there are other types of player who are more important to us. But once we get on track and start to have more of the ball, then I think he’ll come into his own. I’ve had a couple of chats with him and he’s in a decent place.

“He’s working hard in training and he’ll get an opportunity, for sure.”

Martin was one of several January signings who struggled to impose themselves amid the negativity that engulfed Hearts under Ian Cathro in the second half of last season. The 29-year-old has scored twice in 21 appearances for the Tynecastle side. Of his nine starts, only two have come since he was substituted at half-time in the Scottish Cup defeat by Hibs at Easter Road seven months ago, although both of those came in defeats away to Rangers and St Johnstone in May.

Martin admitted in an interview with the Evening News in July that his first six months at Hearts hadn’t gone to plan and that a lack of match fitness and sharpness when he first arrived had hindered him last term. He was adamant he would be better prepared for the rigours of Scottish football after undertaking a full pre-season, although he is still awaiting a proper chance to make his mark this term.

Martin currently faces competition from Don Cowie, Prince Buaben, Ross Callachan, Jamie Walker, Harry Cochrane and Connor Randall for a central-midfield role, although the fact Arnaud Djoum is now facing a period on the sidelines with a medial ligament injury may increase his chances of a return to the squad in the coming weeks.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4565504.1505923862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565504.1505923862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Malaury Martin is yet to establish himself in maroon","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Malaury Martin is yet to establish himself in maroon","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4565504.1505923862!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hibs-set-to-make-21st-appearance-at-hampden-since-2000-1-4565007","id":"1.4565007","articleHeadline": "Hibs set to make 21st appearance at Hampden since 2000","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505902614000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibs are set to make their 21st cup appearance at Hampden Park since the year 2000, following Tuesday night’s victory over Livingston.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565004.1505902623!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's last trip to Hampden ended in a 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen - but Neil Lennon's men are heading back to G42 for the 21st time since the year 2000. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Prior to the 3-2 triumph, achieved through goals by Martin Boyle, Danny Swanson and an Anthony Stokes penalty, the Easter Road side had appeared at the national stadium 15 times on Scottish Cup duty and five times for the League Cup.

The most memorable trip is surely the 2016 Scottish Cup final, when Alan Stubbs’ side ended Hibs’ 114-year wait to lift the famous trophy.

A total of 21 visits has Hibs third in the Hampden appearance table since 2000 behind only Celtic (41) and Rangers, who are set to make their 32nd appearance following their extra-time victory over Partick Thistle.

They actually split the Old Firm if you only count appearances since 2012, with Hibs making nine trips to G42 over the past five-and-a-half years, three more than Aberdeen and four above Rangers.

Rivals Hearts have appeared at the national stadium only eight times since the turn of the millennium, putting them joint-sixth alongside Dunfermline Athletic, behind Dundee United (13) Aberdeen (12).

However, the Tynecastle side have won two cups in that time, a total matching that of their Edinburgh neighbours.

The Jambos have also had three League Cup semis at Easter Road and one at Fir Park, bringing their overall total down whereas Hibernian have also played two League Cup semi-finals at Tynecastle, both against St Johnstone.

Elsewhere, the 2013/14 Scottish Cup semi-finals between Rangers and Dundee United, and St Johnstone and Aberdeen were both played at Ibrox Park, with the final taking place at Celtic Park.

Other matches at the semi-final or final stage played at a venue other than Hampden since January 1 2000 are:

Aberdeen v Dundee United, Dens Park, Scottish League Cup semi-final, 1999/2000, season

Dundee v Livingston, Easter Road, Scottish League Cup semi-final 2004/05, season

Dunfermline v Livingston, Easter Road, Scottish League Cup semi-final, 2005/06 season

Kilmarnock v Falkirk, Fir Park, Scottish League Cup semi-final, 2006/07 season

Aberdeen v Dundee United, Tynecastle, Scottish League Cup semi-final, 2007/08 season

Aberdeen v St Johnstone, Tynecastle, Scottish League Cup semi-final, 2013/14 season

Dunfermline v Inverness CT, Pittodrie, Scottish Cup semi-final replay, 2003/04 season

• These tallies do not count away cup games against Queen’s Park.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CRAIG FOWLER"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4565004.1505902623!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4565004.1505902623!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hibernian's last trip to Hampden ended in a 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen - but Neil Lennon's men are heading back to G42 for the 21st time since the year 2000. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hibernian's last trip to Hampden ended in a 3-2 defeat to Aberdeen - but Neil Lennon's men are heading back to G42 for the 21st time since the year 2000. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4565004.1505902623!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/christophe-s-a-godsend-how-hearts-have-improved-with-berra-1-4564532","id":"1.4564532","articleHeadline": "‘Christophe’s a godsend’ – how Hearts have improved with Berra","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505890486000 ,"articleLead": "

Christophe Berra is making a pretty good fist of living up to his billing as one of the Scottish Premiership’s transfer coups of the past summer.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4564531.1505890494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "12/08/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP KILMARNOCK V HEARTS (0-1) RUGBY PARK Hearts captain Christophe Berra at Full Time."} ,"articleBody": "

A few weeks after it was confirmed in May that he was returning to Hearts, the 32-year-old centre-back attempted to douse the hype building among supporters in light of the fact he remained a first-choice starter for Scotland who would have still been playing in the English Championship this term if not for family reasons. “There is a lot of expectation, so if I have a bad game, people will be right on me,” he joked, in an interview with the Evening News in mid-June. “I’m human, though – I will have ups and downs. I just want to go in there, do my best and try and lead by example.”

A few months into his second spell as Hearts captain, it is safe to say that Berra is having the desired effect. “Christophe’s been a godsend, really,” manager Craig Levein told the Evening News following a five-game run of Premiership fixtures in which the Scotland defender has helped Hearts keep three clean sheets, concede just three goals and lose only once.

Since a wretched Betfred Cup campaign which led to Ian Cathro’s dismissal and a predictable opening-day thrashing at Celtic Park in the league, the Tynecastle side have embarked on a spirited revival. Kilmarnock, Rangers and Aberdeen have all been shut out over the past six weeks, while Hamilton Accies were unable to break down the door to force an equaliser despite sustained spells of second-half pressure after reducing a 2-0 deficit to 2-1 just before half-time.

The fragility which seeped into Hearts’ play during Cathro’s eight months as head coach is fast giving way to a new-found resolve, with the stabilising influence of Berra underpinning a strong, albeit unspectacular, start to a uniquely demanding campaign in which his team have been unsettled by managerial change and deprived of home advantage.

“Christophe’s brought a level of fight, determination and nous that we were probably lacking,” continued Levein. “With his attitude and the way he behaves himself around the club, he wasn’t made captain for no reason. He brings these qualities to the group, which is really important. He’s relishing the responsibility he’s got at Hearts, he’s taken that on board, and he’s helped enormously with everything we’ve been trying to do.”

It speaks volumes for his longevity that Berra is still going strong 14 years after being handed his Hearts debut by Levein as an 18-year-old in a 2-1 loss away to Dundee United in 2003. In the intervening period, the Edinburgh-born defender has captained the Tynecastle side in his early 20s, been sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers for £2.3m, played regularly for three consecutive seasons in England’s Premier League with the Molineux club, been branded the best centre-back in the Championship by Mick McCarthy during his time with Ipswich Town, and accumulated 38 Scotland caps – the most recent of which were collected when he started against both Lithuania and Malta in the national team’s double-header earlier this month. Despite taking what may be perceived as a step down by returning to Hearts to be closer to his daughter, Levein is adamant that Berra can still be deemed in his prime. The manager is relishing being able to build a defence around two current international centre-backs, with Aaron Hughes remaining a regular starter for Northern Ireland at 38.

“I’d say Christophe’s as good as he ever was,” said Levein. “People may argue with me and say that he played at a higher level in England but the fact he’s playing so well for the national team would certainly indicate that he’s playing as well as he’s ever done. When we can get him and Aaron on the pitch at the same time, then I feel comfortable that we’re going to make good decisions.”

Levein believes that the presence of Berra can accelerate the development of Scotland Under-21 centre-back John Souttar, with the pair having started together in defence to promising effect in the last five league games. Berra himself was the beneficiary of having an experienced partner to learn from in his early days in the Hearts team, when he often played alongside Steven Pressley, a player 11 years older than him. Likewise, Levein recalls learning from Sandy Jardine, 16 years his senior, when he first played for Hearts in the early 1980s.

“I believe in that kind of model,” said Levein of having an experienced defender mentoring a young partner. “I was lucky enough to be brought up playing alongside Sandy Jardine when I was younger. I believe that having an experienced guy round about you and talking you through the game is hugely important and very valuable for a young defender.”

Berra is the only Hearts player to have started all ten competitive matches this season. In addition to playing every minute of those games for his club, he also played the full 180 minutes of Scotland’s recent double-header and was described as “excellent” by manager Gordon Strachan after the 3-0 win over Lithuania in Vilnius before heading the opener against Malta at Hampden three nights later. Clean sheets in seven of those 12 matches for club and country suggest the defender is showing no sign of waning despite being just four months shy of his 33rd birthday.

Levein left 34-year-old Don Cowie out of his starting line-up on Saturday to protect him from the strain of playing on an artificial pitch, while he suggested he would have done likewise with Hughes even if the veteran Northern Irishman hadn’t been injured. The manager never had any thought of doing so with Berra, who has been a regular starter for most of his career and generally managed to steer clear of injuries. “Christophe’s a youngster compared to the other two,” said Levein. “He’s pretty robust – I’m not really concerned about him at this point in his career. I think he’s got a few more years before he needs to start worrying about playing on plastic pitches and things like that.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4564531.1505890494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4564531.1505890494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "12/08/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP KILMARNOCK V HEARTS (0-1) RUGBY PARK Hearts captain Christophe Berra at Full Time.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "12/08/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP KILMARNOCK V HEARTS (0-1) RUGBY PARK Hearts captain Christophe Berra at Full Time.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4564531.1505890494!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hughes-and-randall-in-contention-for-hearts-trip-to-partick-1-4564465","id":"1.4564465","articleHeadline": "Hughes and Randall in contention for Hearts’ trip to Partick","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505885426000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein is confident that both Aaron Hughes and Connor Randall will be back in contention for Hearts’ trip to Partick Thistle.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4564463.1505834633!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes to have Aaron Hughes in his squad for Saturday's match at Partick. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The pair missed the 2-1 win over Hamilton Accies last Saturday through injury after impressive displays in the goalless draw with Aberdeen the previous weekend.

Versatile on-loan Liverpool player Randall was nursing a minor hamstring strain sustained against the Dons, while Hughes sat out the trip to Lanarkshire following a recurrence of the calf problem that has plagued him for much of his time at Hearts, albeit the 38-year-old defender probably wouldn’t have been risked on the artificial surface at the SuperSeal Stadium in any case.

Levein hopes to see the pair back in training tomorrow, with a view to being available for Saturday’s trip to Firhill to face a Partick side still awaiting their first Premiership win of the season. “I’m hopeful that both of them will be fine for the weekend, but I’m not certain yet,” the manager told the Evening News. “Connor felt his hamstring after the Aberdeen game and Aaron has a recurring calf issue that is maybe just down to his age. It flares up every now and then, but it seems to have settled down fairly quickly. It’s just a case of seeing how they are later in the week. Neither of them have trained so far this week, but I’m hopeful they’ll be okay.”

Levein explained that Don Cowie was only omitted from the starting line-up on Saturday to protect him from the rigours of the artificial pitch. The 34-year-old midfielder had started all nine of Hearts’ competitive games this season prior to the trip to Hamilton, where he was restricted to a substitute outing for the last 20 minutes.

“I didn’t start Don because of the pitch,” said the manager. “I think for the older players, it’s more difficult to adapt. Most of the younger lads have been brought up playing on astrofurf, so I was just looking after him more than anything else. I don’t think Aaron would have played on it either, even if he’d been fit.”

Cowie is a prime candidate to come back into the starting XI at Firhill as a replacement for Arnaud Djoum, who is set to be out until late October with medial ligament damage sustained in the first half against Hamilton. Randall, Prince Buaben, Harry Cochrane and Malaury Martin are among the others who could deputise for the Cameroon internationalist. “We have cover for Arnaud but it’s a blow because he’s a really good player and we don’t have any internationalists to replace him with,” said Levein. “We’ll definitely miss him – it’s just a case of making sure the lads that come in are able to step up to the plate.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "ANTHONY BROWN"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4564463.1505834633!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4564463.1505834633!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes to have Aaron Hughes in his squad for Saturday's match at Partick. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts manager Craig Levein hopes to have Aaron Hughes in his squad for Saturday's match at Partick. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4564463.1505834633!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4564464.1505834636!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4564464.1505834636!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Connor Randall should also be in contention. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Connor Randall should also be in contention. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4564464.1505834636!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/michael-smith-interview-i-feel-i-m-flourishing-at-hearts-1-4563545","id":"1.4563545","articleHeadline": "Michael Smith interview: I feel I’m flourishing at Hearts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505799041000 ,"articleLead": "

Michael Smith came to Scotland for multiple challenges. He joined Hearts on a two-year contract in June to fill Callum Paterson’s No.2 shirt. Added to that, he wanted competitive football and craved an international recall with Northern Ireland.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563544.1505750591!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "16/09/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP HAMILTON V HEARTS SUPERSEAL STADIUM - HAMILTON Hearts Manager Craig Levein (L) with Michael Smith"} ,"articleBody": "

So far, he is succeeding on all fronts. The right-back ignored sniping from some quarters in England when he swapped Peterborough United for Tynecastle. He was eager to see how the Ladbrokes Premiership compared with League One and has been pleasantly surprised.

His consistent performances for Hearts have earned him fans’ respect as Paterson’s replacement. Stepping into the Scotland defender’s position might have daunted others but Smith was confident of taking on that mantle.

A call-up by Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill last month fully justified his decision to move north of the Border. Choosing Hearts as his next destination is already proving a sound career move.

“Without a doubt, being at Hearts has helped,” said the 29-year-old, speaking exclusively to the Evening News. “Michael O’Neill lives in Edinburgh and he gets to a few games. Hopefully that will continue and I can keep my form up.

“I’m pleased to be back in the squad. It was good to get recognition and get the call-up. I’m just a little bit disappointed I didn’t get to play earlier this month.”

Smith targeted more international recognition because he is determined not to remain a one-cap wonder. His only Northern Ireland appearance to date came in March 2016 in a friendly against Slovenia.

“I definitely want more caps but, if that doesn’t happen, I’m happy to be in and around the squad,” he added. Excelling in Scotland in the very city O’Neill inhabits can only enhance his chances.

“There’s a wide range of standards in this league We beat Hamilton 2-1 on Saturday but I thought Hamilton were the better team on the day. We battled hard and won the game.

“It has surprised me a little bit up here because people were putting the league down, saying: ‘It’s not great.’ I was up for the challenge. I wanted to come and see what it was like.

“There are big players in this league so I felt I wanted to be a part of that. I’ve thought the standard has been fantastic and I’m happy to be here. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”

At club level, it’s all about building momentum now. Craig Levein’s return as manager offers Hearts the kind of stability lacking in recent months. Smith missed Levein’s first game in charge against Aberdeen at Murrayfield due to illness but his colleagues put in an impressive display.

The 0-0 scoreline left them rather frustrated, which they atoned for on Saturday at Hamilton. The theme of the 2-1 win was Hearts’ defensive resolve and fighting spirit. Smith more than played his part at the back but also claimed a cheeky assist by supplying the cross for Ross Callachan’s opening goal.

“I wasn’t expecting to be in the team but Connor picked up a little niggling injury last Thursday. I played and I’m happy,” he smiled. “I got forward and got an assist so I’m just pleased for the team and pleased for everybody.

“The boys put in a great performance the previous week on the ball and only got a point from the game. On Saturday, it was more about grit and determination in the team to go out and get that win. We got the three points and that’s all that matters.”

Those battling qualities will be critical to Hearts’ hopes of progressing up the Premiership table. The visit to Lanarkshire was the first in another run of four away matches whilst Tynecastle’s rebuild main stand is finished.

Coming up on the fixture list are trips to Partick Thistle, Dundee and Ross County - venues where resilience and grit are a prerequisite for success. Smith is glad to see stability behind the scenes to allow players to focus on on-field matters.

“That’s important, without a doubt. We’ve got a bit of stability now with the manager in place and the transfer window closed. There’s no speculation about any players or anything like that. It’s up to us now to go on a run,” he explained.

He predicted more of the scrapping and scratching Hearts produced at the weekend. “I think most away games will be like that, but that’s what you need to deal with to get three points in this league,” said Smith.

“On Saturday, we definitely showed we can do that. We weren’t at our best on the ball but I’m not going to blame the pitch or anything like that. We battled through it and got a 2-1 win.

“It’s about playing for the shirt. We’re all one team, including the subs, the staff and even the boys who don’t make the bench. We’re all fighting and pulling in the same direction. It’s brilliant to be part of.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4563544.1505750591!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563544.1505750591!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "16/09/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP HAMILTON V HEARTS SUPERSEAL STADIUM - HAMILTON Hearts Manager Craig Levein (L) with Michael Smith","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "16/09/17 LADBROKES PREMIERSHIP HAMILTON V HEARTS SUPERSEAL STADIUM - HAMILTON Hearts Manager Craig Levein (L) with Michael Smith","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4563544.1505750591!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-jamie-walker-is-in-a-good-place-says-craig-levein-1-4563420","id":"1.4563420","articleHeadline": "Hearts’ Jamie Walker ‘is in a good place’, says Craig Levein","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505799015000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts manager Craig Levein reported today that Jamie Walker is focused and “in a good place” because talk of a transfer to Rangers has now ceased.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563419.1505745317!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Walker"} ,"articleBody": "

The 24-year-old produced his best performance of the season so far on Saturday as Hearts won 2-1 at Hamilton Academical.

Levein revealed he hasn’t even needed to speak with Walker about his future since taking charge as manager three weeks ago.

Rangers pursued the player all summer, had two bids rejected and tried to negotiate a deal with Levein on the final day of the transfer window. However, Hearts held firm and Walker remains their player, although his contract expires next June.

Levein today praised Walker’s application in training and games and said he is delighted with his contribution.

“I’m thrilled with Jamie,” he told the Evening News. “Despite all the nonsense that went on before, I haven’t even had a conversation with him about it. From the moment I took over, he’s just trained well and played well.

“I don’t really see the need to do anything. He’s obviously in a good place so we’ll see how things go. I think it has helped him that the transfer window is closed. It must have been difficult for him.

“He seems really focused. He did a lot of things in Saturday’s match which aren’t synonymous with Jamie Walker. He was gritty, hard working, stealing the ball, putting in tackles. If he can add that to his game on a regular basis then he’s going to become an even better player.”

Hearts head to Partick Thistle this weekend but Levein confirmed that striker Conor Sammon will not play for the Glasgow club as part of his season-long loan agreement.

“Connor won’t be able to play. That’s the deal,” he said.

Levein is keen to see the kind of defensive resilience Hearts showed at Hamilton repeated against Thistle. “We’ll need to do that. Christophe Berra is a big help and I thought John Souttar was excellent on Saturday,” said Levein. “Rafal Grzelak had to change his position to play centre-back and he made an error for Hamilton’s goal. What I liked about him was he retained his focus. He didn’t let that affect him and he defended well for the rest of the match.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4563419.1505745317!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563419.1505745317!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Jamie Walker","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Jamie Walker","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4563419.1505745317!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/hearts-hibs-christmas-derby-to-be-shown-live-as-tv-dates-revealed-1-4563486","id":"1.4563486","articleHeadline": "Hearts-Hibs Christmas derby to be shown live as TV dates revealed","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505748481000 ,"articleLead": "

Hibs will have four televised matches in December, with three of them taking place in the space of just six days.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563485.1505748680!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marvin Bartley of Hibs and Hearts striker Esmael Goncalves will meet on December 27. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The second Edinburgh derby of the season – the first at a revamped Tynecastle – will still be on Wednesday, December 27, but now with a 7.45pm kick-off and will be shown on Sky Sports.

Prior to that Hibs will play Celtic at Easter Road on Sunday, December 10, kick-off 12.30pm; Rangers at home on Wednesday, December 13, starting at 7.45 pm, with both games being shown on Sky Sports.

And on Saturday, December 16, they will travel to face Aberdeen at Pittodrie for a 12.30pm start. The match will be screened live on BT Sport

Hearts’ home game against Celtic has been moved back 24 hours and will be played on Sunday, December 17 with a 12.30pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports. The match against Dundee on Wednesday, December 13 has also been put back 24 hours to Tuesday, December 12 to avoid a clash with the Hibs-Rangers match.

Sky Sports & BT Sport – December selections

Sunday 3 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Aberdeen v Rangers

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 12.30pm

Friday 8 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Dundee v Aberdeen

Live on BT Sport, kick-off 7.45pm

Sunday 10 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Hibs v Celtic

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 12.30pm

Wednesday 13 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Hibs v Rangers

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 7.45pm

Saturday 16 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Aberdeen v Hibs

Live on BT Sport, kick-off 12.30pm

Sunday 17 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Hearts v Celtic

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 12.30pm

Saturday 23 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Kilmarnock v Rangers

Live on BT Sport, kick-off 12.30pm

Tuesday 26 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Dundee v Celtic

Live on BT Sport, kick-off 12.30pm

Wednesday 27 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Hearts v Hibernian

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 7.45pm

Friday 29 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Championship

St Mirren v Dundee United

Live on BT Sport, kick-off 7.45pm

Saturday 30 December, 2017

Ladbrokes Premiership

Celtic v Rangers

Live on Sky Sports, kick-off 12 noon

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "DAVID HARDIE"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4563485.1505748680!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563485.1505748680!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Marvin Bartley of Hibs and Hearts striker Esmael Goncalves will meet on December 27. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Marvin Bartley of Hibs and Hearts striker Esmael Goncalves will meet on December 27. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4563485.1505748680!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/our-region/edinburgh/edinburgh-united-the-plot-to-merge-hibs-and-hearts-1-4563317","id":"1.4563317","articleHeadline": "Edinburgh United? The plot to merge Hibs and Hearts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505740889000 ,"articleLead": "

ITALIA 90 was only four days away but the hopes and dreams for Andy Roxburgh and Scotland at the World Cup were forgotten by the news breaking from much closer to home.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563316.1505740878!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Hearts owner Wallace Mercer launched the merger plot in 1990"} ,"articleBody": "

A sense of incredulity, of disbelief, met the revelation that Hearts owner Wallace Mercer had launched an audacious 6.2 million bid to take over Capital rivals Hibs, his Utopian dream to create an Edinburgh side capable of toppling the Old Firm.

But it was also a move which would, if successful, mean the end for the Easter Road club.

Although it created an immediate shockwave which ripped not just through Edinburgh but the entire country, the bombshell news was the result of five months of clandestine plotting, a cloak-and-dagger operation which could have come straight from the pages of a spy novel.

In the shadows, the plotters spoke in code as they planned to create a new company, Edinburgh United, defined as “Diamond” while Hearts were referred to as “Ruby” and Hibs “Emerald”.

Little did managing director Jim Gray, brother-in-law of Hibs chairman David Duff, and Allan Munro, a fellow director, imagine what was in store as they flew to London, summoned to a hastily-arranged board meeting at the Soho headquarters of Inoco, an international property company owned by David Rowland, the biggest shareholder in the club’s parent company Edinburgh Hibernian plc.

What they did know was that Rowland, a Monaco-based businessman, had decided to sell his 29.9 per cent stake in the club’s parent company, Edinburgh Hibernian plc, and they were to meet the buyer.

As they chatted on their flight south Gray and Munro mused on who the mystery man might be, settling on Robert Maxwell, the controversial newspaper magnate and owner of Oxford United, only to be stunned when Duff, who had been asked into the boardroom, returned to tell them it was Wallace Mercer.

The Tynecastle chairman’s plan, as he put it to his stunned audience, was to combine the clubs, to play in a new stadium to be built on land owned by Rangers chairman David Murray at Hermiston on the city outskirts and to challenge the West of Scotland’s football supremacy.

However, a necessary part of the transition would be the closure of Hibs before the next season and the sale of Easter Road, an unpalatable prerequisite and one which immediately split Edinburgh.

Gray immediately told Mercer: “This could be your biggest mistake, it will never work.”

Dinner at the nearby Hilton Hotel followed with Mercer, said to be in an exuberant and loquacious mood, picked up the 341 bill, the wine having flowed freely, – and the following morning Scotland awoke to the shattering news.

The Stock Market was told: “Hearts have received an irrevocable undertaking from David Rowland’s company Inoco plc to accept their 40p per share offer which values Hibs at more than 6m if the Scottish League approves the deal.

“Hearts believe this is a very generous offer given the financial and share price performance. Hearts are in discussion with the Hibs board with the hope that this will lead to a recommendation of the offer.

“Hearts are convinced that advantages will accrue to both themselves and Hibs and to Scottish football, locally, nationally and internationally from the bringing together of Edinburgh’s two Premier Division clubs.”

For their part the Hibs board – which was later to vote 4-2 against the move, Duff, Gray, Munro and Rowland’s first wife Sheila saying “no” while Rowland and his associate Jeremy James said “yes” – were bound by market regulations to say nothing, much as they wanted to voice their opposition. One source close to the action at the time said: “I think the fans were confused, they were wondering why the directors were not screaming what they were screaming.

“But they had to be professional and, I think, the press began to understand that certain things had to happen in a certain order.”

Like the vast majority of Hibs supporters, Tom O’Malley, who would later become chairman of the club, greeted Mercer’s announcement with a scepticism which quickly turned to anger.

Then head teacher of St David’s RC High School at Dalkeith, O’Malley recalled: “We did not know the fine details of the bid at that point, we didn’t know whether it was to be a merger or total extinction.

“It soon became clear it meant the effective elimination of Hibernian Football Club from the Scottish football map. “Mobile phones weren’t so much in evidence then but the lines were on fire with everyone trying to find out the latest, the most up-to-date news.”

O’Malley’s story was repeated throughout Edinburgh as stunned Hibs fans slowly but surely came to grips with the realisation that the very future of their club was under dire threat.

Gary Joyce, a lifelong fan and then a post office worker, said: “We didn’t need mobile phones – not that there were many about in those days – the news spread like wildfire. I have to admit my first reaction was that it can’t happen, it won’t happen.

“I honestly felt it would last for three or four days and then blow over, I didn’t think it would come to anything. But you then started to realise how serious it was.”

Fans descended upon both Easter Road and the Hibs Supporters Association clubrooms at Sunnyside in their droves, desperate for information which remained sketchy – but it soon became evident that Mercer’s hope of a swift coup wouldn’t be realised.

Very quickly an action group, Hands off Hibs, was formed with former club chairman Kenny McLean at its head. His son, Kenny McLean jnr, recalled those hours of chaos and confusion. He said: “I was actually made aware of what Mercer was doing by Stewart Brown, the Evening News football writer who lived round the corner from me. He told me Mercer was trying to shut Hibs down.

“At first I thought it was a joke but I phoned my dad and went down to the Supporters Association.

“It was chaos, the place was besieged by supporters desperate to know what was going on. We then went round to the ground itself and there were literally thousands there, it was a very volatile atmosphere, everyone was very angry.

“It was a shambles, people trying to get in and the police pulling them back.”

According to McLean the police were anxious to have the crowd placated, the fear being they might otherwise have a riot on their hands. Naturally it was Duff they wanted but McLean snr addressed the supporters, telling them that as far as he was aware Mercer had 60 per cent of the shares but needed 76 per cent to succeed.

McLean jnr said: “Duff came out, he was surrounded by police and shaking but he got up on a chair and said there and then, if I recall correctly, he would not sell his shares. I believe he was later put under severe pressure to sell but, to be fair to him, he held on to them.”

Duff’s determination not to sell – the chairman telling a leading member of Hands off Hibs “I’ve been stitched up” – proved to be a major stumbling block for Mercer but before then a short but fierce and, at times highly acrimonious, battle was fought both publicly and behind the scenes before Easter Road fans could rest assured their club wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Hearts chairman.

While Hibs fans reacted with fury to the threat Wallace Mercer’s takeover bid posed to their club, the Easter Road players themselves became increasingly worried about their own futures.

As the news broke between seasons, Alex Miller’s players were as much in the dark as anyone else, reliant on newspapers and television to keep them up-to-date with the fast-moving story.

Naturally, the players began inundating their union, the Scottish Football Players’ Association, desperate for answers as the then secretary, former Hibs star Tony Higgins revealed. He said at the time: “I can assure you it is not a pleasant thing listening to a lot of anxious players on the phone, all worrying about their future.

“There are some who have just signed new contracts and they are wondering who will honour them – or if they will be honoured.”

The fears of Graham Mitchell, the SFPA’s representative at Easter Road at the time, summed up the anxiety felt within the Hibs dressing-room with the knowledge that, between them, the Capital clubs had 64 registered players on their books.

He said: “To be honest, when I first heard about it I felt it was a wind-up, that it wasn’t going to happen. But after the initial couple of days you realised this was pretty serious, that it could happen and, when you look back, it came very close to happening. Usually at a football club, and it remains the same today, what happens in the boardroom is kept away from the players. A change of manager can, of course, cause some uncertainty but players know they have contracts.

“But this was different. It was Hearts trying to takeover Hibs so what was going to happen to the players at our club? Would any of us be kept on rather than the players already at Hearts, what would happen to our contracts?

“It was the same with Alex Miller. There could only be one manager and, to be honest, you couldn’t see it being the manager of Hibs.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4563316.1505740878!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563316.1505740878!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Hearts owner Wallace Mercer launched the merger plot in 1990","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Hearts owner Wallace Mercer launched the merger plot in 1990","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4563316.1505740878!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/ex-hearts-striker-bjorn-johnsen-scores-against-dutch-giants-ajax-1-4563292","id":"1.4563292","articleHeadline": "Ex-Hearts striker Bjorn Johnsen scores against Dutch giants Ajax","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505739575000 ,"articleLead": "

Ex-Hearts striker Bjorn Johnsen has made headlines in the Netherlands after scoring the equalising goal against Ajax on Sunday.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563291.1505739563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Bjorn Johnsen played one season at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

READ MORE - Injured Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum out for several weeks

The striker fired an impressive close range finish into the roof of the net to earn his new club ADO Den Haag a 1-1 home draw.

Johnsen moved to the Eredivisie side at the end of July for an undisclosed fee after one season in Edinburgh.

He’s started all five league games for Den Haag thus far, netting twice, as the club currently sit 14th in the 18-team league.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "CRAIG FOWLER"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4563291.1505739563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4563291.1505739563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Bjorn Johnsen played one season at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Bjorn Johnsen played one season at Tynecastle. Picture: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4563291.1505739563!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/injured-hearts-midfielder-arnaud-djoum-out-for-several-weeks-1-4562560","id":"1.4562560","articleHeadline": "Injured Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum out for several weeks","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505712625000 ,"articleLead": "

Hearts midfielder Arnaud Djoum is facing four to five weeks out with a medial ligament injury sustained during Saturday’s win over Hamilton.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562559.1505654347!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Arnaud Djoum has a medial knee ligament injury. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

The Cameroonian was forced off at half-time after damaging his knee in a block tackle during the first half at the SuperSeal Stadium.

Manager Craig Levein was delighted with the 2-1 victory after his team survived relentless second-half pressure from Hamilton. However, he admitted Djoum’s injury is a blow.

“The disappointing this is that Arnaud could be out now for four or five weeks,” Levein told the Evening News. “It’s a real blow for us because he’s one of our most important players. Unfortunately he’s got a medial ligament injury so he’s going to be out.”

Hearts face away matches against Partick Thistle, Dundee and Ross County over the next few weeks before a home game against St Johnstone at Murrayfield.

Levein was hugely encouraged by Saturday’s dogged defensive display as Hearts clung to their 2-1 half-time lead to see out the victory.

Ross Callachan’s first goal for his new club allied to Kyle Lafferty’s penalty gave the visitors control in Lanarkshire before Rakish Bingham halved the deficit.

The second half was dominated by Hamilton but Hearts’ defence was unyielding. “It’s important we recognise what we need to do to win games in this league. On Saturday, we showed that in abundance. It wasn’t a great match and at times it resembled a game of ping-pong,” admitted Levein. “To be 2-1 up at half-time away from home in the Scottish Premiership, and to be able to defend the way we did in the second half, is hugely pleasing for me. I’m sure we’ll need more of that going forward over the next few weeks.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4562559.1505654347!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562559.1505654347!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Arnaud Djoum has a medial knee ligament injury. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Arnaud Djoum has a medial knee ligament injury. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4562559.1505654347!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/gary-mackay-hearts-showing-resilience-and-self-belief-1-4562670","id":"1.4562670","articleHeadline": "Gary Mackay: Hearts showing resilience and self-belief","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505712614000 ,"articleLead": "

Slowly but surely Hearts are starting to rediscover their self-belief.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562669.1505674647!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan, left, celebrates his goal"} ,"articleBody": "

At Hamilton on Saturday, we set out with a positive approach to win the game, and got our reward. It became a bit fraught towards the end after Hamilton got a goal back, but that was understandable given the fact away wins have not exactly been common recently, especially not on Accies’ plastic pitch.

We’re also still in the process of trying to rebuild confidence levels following a very difficult period for the team, so there is always likely to be a bit of edginess when that is the case. Those confidence issues won’t just disappear overnight, but hard-earned victories like Saturday’s will certainly help on that front.

It was notable that two of the players singled out for praise by Craig Levein – Ross Callachan and Jamie Walker – were boyhood Hearts supporters who know what the club is all about. Jamie may have let his head drop in the recent past, but his performances in the past two games suggest he is getting back on track.

To have two Hearts supporters in the middle of the park is a big thing for me. I’ve always felt that, if you have a sprinkling of players who have a feeling for the club, it helps the team play with a bit extra passion, and that’s something that should never be underestimated, especially with an Edinburgh derby looming next month.

Eight points out of 18 might not look great on paper, but I think our points return so far is pretty much bang on in relation to the formidable and disrupted start to the season we have faced. We have only had one home game and that was against the second best team in the country so we can be pretty encouraged by how things have gone.

We could hardly have asked for any more from the two games since Craig took over. We’ve looked organised and resilient, and we’re also causing problems for our opponents.

Hopefully we can build on our past two results by winning at Partick Thistle on Saturday. They might be struggling at the moment but against Rangers on Friday, they played with real spirit and showed that they remain a very capable side. The way we’re defending at the moment, however, we’ve got to fancy our chances because we’ve certainly got enough of a goal threat about us.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4562669.1505674647!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562669.1505674647!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ross Callachan, left, celebrates his goal","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan, left, celebrates his goal","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4562669.1505674647!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hearts-reaction-craig-levein-quick-to-stamp-his-style-on-team-1-4562624","id":"1.4562624","articleHeadline": "Hearts reaction: Craig Levein quick to stamp his style on team","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505712602000 ,"articleLead": "

Combative and spirited Hearts is what Craig Levein desired and he seems well on the way to achieving his goal.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562622.1505661073!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan reacts after claiming his first goal for Hearts, scoring after just three minutes by converting a cross from full-back Michael Smith"} ,"articleBody": "

Saturday’s 2-1 win at Hamilton was hard-earned, gritty, determined, dogged. Use any adjective you like, a blind man can see Levein is restoring heart at Hearts.

Ross Callachan’s first goal for his childhood idols and Kyle Lafferty’s penalty-kick put the visitors in command inside 25 minutes at the SuperSeal Stadium. Rakish Bingham reduced the deficit on 33 minutes, knocking Hearts out of their rhythm. Just a few weeks ago, they could have capitulated and conceded a second, possibly even a third, goal.

Instead, the trademark resilience of Levein’s teams through the years kicked in to underpin the first victory of his second managerial term. Hamilton spent most of the second half camped in opposition territory but couldn’t break through to equalise. Hearts’ work rate simply didn’t let them.

Players have quickly realised they won’t play under the new manager if they don’t work tenaciously. Christophe Berra won umpteen tackles, John Souttar umpteen headers, and in goal Jon McLaughlin caught every high ball. In front of them, midfielders Callachan, substitute Prince Buaben and even Jamie Walker pressed, harried, chased and tackled like a pack of pitbulls.

Levein stood calmly in his technical area watching it all unfold. It wasn’t pretty. He said it wouldn’t be. However, it was functional, effective and heartwarming for the 2000 fans who journeyed from Edinburgh.

When Ali Crawford’s free-kick roared towards the top corner, McLaughlin sprung up to his left with a one-handed save. When Hamilton’s Darian MacKinnon got physical in midfield, so too did Walker and others. It was a sight which perhaps typified the attitude Levein demands, and is receiving.

“One thing about the gaffer is that he will take no nonsense. If anyone is not working hard then they will be sat beside him,” admitted Lafferty. “No matter who has been in charge this season, we have got a good, honest squad.

“We will work for whoever is in charge but I think everyone is doing that little bit extra now because we know we have a manager who wants us to work hard. If you are putting in a shift then you are going to be playing.

“The gaffer has managed Scotland and done well at Dundee United as well. He has come in and put down his authority quite quickly. As I say, if you work hard then you will be on the team sheet. You saw in Saturday’s performance that everyone has worked their socks off and there is no better feeling than getting three points.”

A draw against Aberdeen last weekend followed by a win at Hamilton is a solid start to Levein’s second tenure in Gorgie. His methods are getting results and his authority over players is already evident. “You look at the size of him and the way he is built! No, it’s about how he is,” smiled Lafferty.

“He’s built a team that wants to work hard. We have workers and players who can play and go and damage teams. That’s the way we have been doing things up until now. To be honest, the manager hasn’t said that much. It has been about working hard and the goals will come and the points will come.”

The Northern Irishman is prepared to put in the extra endeavour knowing he and his team will benefit. Saturday was his 30th birthday, marked with a convincing penalty to double Hearts’ advantage. Callachan had taken just three minutes to break the deadlock by converting Michael Smith’s cross, followed by an ecstatic celebration in front of the away support.

“It’s nice to score in any game but it being my birthday makes it extra special, as does the three points. I’m going to lie low,” said Lafferty, still feeling the effects of a challenge from behind by Hamilton defender Xavier Tomas. “I’ve currently got a dead bum cheek so I’ll be trying to rest. I’m getting old now.”

Ten minutes after Lafferty’s penalty, Hearts conceded a cheap goal which left Levein angry in the technical area. Rafal Grzelak, playing on the left of a back three, hesitated as a high ball dropped towards him. Former Hearts winger David Templeton – Hamilton’s best player on the day – sprinted in to chest the ball down. He entered the penalty box and crossed low for the unmarked Bingham to convert at the back post.

“I think we probably made it tougher than we should have. We were playing well and showing confidence inside the first half hour but then we gave away a silly goal. That put a bit of pressure on us and we didn’t recover well enough to get on top again,” admitted Lafferty.

“But these are the games you’ve got to win. We know that we can damage teams going forward but sometimes it’s about grinding out a result and that’s what we did.” Templeton tired and was substituted early in the second half, which helped the visitors’ cause. Might Hearts have struggled to see that game out a month ago? “Yeah, maybe. We had a tough game last week against Aberdeen, who will be right up the league again this season, and we defended well and came away with a point.

“At Ibrox we were also put under pressure and got a point. So we are getting the points where people maybe think we shouldn’t be getting them. It’s a start. Hamilton have started the season well and they are more used to the [astroturf] pitch. It’s a difficult place to come but we have come here and got three points.”

Lafferty has more to gain than most if Hearts can be successful. He is a key part of a Northern Ireland squad which has a realistic chance of qualifying for next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia. “It’s an incentive for me. That’s why I came here,” he admitted.

“I wanted to play football and the last three years at club level hadn’t really panned out the way I wanted. But I can go away with Northern Ireland, score goals, and then come back here and help the team get three points. I am in a good place at the moment. Hopefully, if I keep playing games I can get fitter and sharper and score more goals.”

Inspiring a charge into the Europa League qualifying rounds would only help. “Grinding out results, I think we’ll be up there. I think we’ll get results we need if we go in front and make it difficult for teams to break us down.

“It is going to be a long hard season. Teams will take points off each other. If we keep on going the way we are, we will be up there. I have come here expecting to be in the top six, the top four, and helping Hearts into Europe.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4562622.1505661073!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562622.1505661073!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ross Callachan reacts after claiming his first goal for Hearts, scoring after just three minutes by converting a cross from full-back Michael Smith","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan reacts after claiming his first goal for Hearts, scoring after just three minutes by converting a cross from full-back Michael Smith","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4562622.1505661073!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4562623.1505661076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562623.1505661076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Kyle Lafferty scored Hearts second goal a perfect way to celebrate his 30th birthday","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Kyle Lafferty scored Hearts second goal a perfect way to celebrate his 30th birthday","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4562623.1505661076!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/hamilton-1-2-hearts-ross-callachan-scores-first-goal-in-craig-levein-s-maiden-win-1-4562052","id":"1.4562052","articleHeadline": "Hamilton 1-2 Hearts: Ross Callachan scores first goal in Craig Levein's maiden win","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505578151712 ,"articleLead": "Craig Levein enjoyed his first win back in charge of Hearts as goals from Ross Callachan and Kyle Lafferty secured a narrow 2-1 victory at Hamilton.","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562051.1505578295!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan's ecstatic celebration after scoring Hearts' first goal against Hamilton"} ,"articleBody": "


The Edinburgh club went 2-0 ahead before Rakish Bingham reduced the deficit, all in the first half. They survived a second-half onslaught by the home side to take all three points in the second match since Levein returned to the dugout.

Childhood Hearts fan Callachan enjoyed his first goal for the club before Lafferty's penalty appeared to have put Levein's side in total control. They conceded a sloppy goal moments later, which seemed to destroy their rhythm.

A combative second half ensued with Hamilton giving as good as they got. However, they lacked the required quality to fashion clear scoring chances.

Mindful that Hearts hadn't won in Hamilton for six years, Levein named a strong team for his second game in charge. Michael Smith was reinstated after illness and Ashley Smith-Brown made his first Ladbrokes Premiership appearance after constant injuries since he arrived on loan from Manchester City.

Hamilton started the former Tynecastle winger David Templeton hoping he would be keen to cause damage against his old club. Instantly, Templeton and his colleagues were facing a deficit as Hearts scored from their first attack on three minutes.

Jamie Walker's pass found Smith on the right and his low cross was side-footed home by Callachan via a slight deflection. The midfielder, a recent deadline-day signing from Raith Rovers, then conducted a particularly jubilant celebration in front of the travelling fans.

Bingham wasted a glorious chance to equalise on 18 minutes. Sent through on goal by Ali Crawford's intelligent threaded pass, the striker miscontrolled and the ball ricocheted out for a corner. Hearts were rightly relieved after their defence was carved open, and they punished Bingham's profligacy moment later.

Referee Bobby Madden awarded a penalty for Ioannis Skondras's challenge on Esmael Goncalves near the edge of the box. Lafferty stepped up confidently and slammed the spot-kick low to the right of the Accies goalkeeper Gary Woods.

The visitors were now 2-0 ahead and in a commanding position, but Hamilton sowed some seeds of doubt by reducing the deficit on 33 minutes. It was no surprise to see Templeton as chief architect.

The Hearts centre-back Rafal Grzelak hesitated at a high ball on the edge of his own penalty area and Templeton sprinted in to chest it down. He continued into the box to deliver a low cross which the unmarked Bingham converted easily at the back post.

Templeton had another attempt moments later from a corner which caused momentary consternation in front of the Hearts goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. Bingham then glanced a header wide from Crawford's free-kick before John Souttar's tackle deflected a Crawford shot wide of target.

Levein would have been content seeing Templeton substituted early in the second half given he had influenced much of Hamilton's threat. McLaughlin pulled off a stunning one-handed save to prevent Crawford's 59th-minute free-kick nestling in the top corner of his net.

The match was simmering close to the boil at that point due to several late challenges. Hamilton's Darian MacKinnon became involved in off-the-ball skirmishes with Walker and Christophe Berra and referee Madden had to work hard to maintain control. The hosts continued pressing and were enjoying their best spell of the match.

Indeed, Hearts spent most of the second half on the back foot. They battled hard and showed commendable spirit to protect their goal and, in the end, got their reward when the final whistle sounded.

Hamilton (3-4-1-2): Woods; Sarris, Tomas, McMann; Skondras, MacKinnon, Docherty, Imrie; Crawford; Bingham, Templeton.
Subs
53: Boyd for Templeton
75: Redmond for Imrie
84: Longridge for Bingham
Unused subs: Jamieson, Gogic, Biabi, Donati.

Hearts (3-4-1-2): McLaughlin; Souttar, Berra, Grzelak; M Smith, Callachan, Djoum, Smith-Brown; Walker; Lafferty, Goncalves.
Subs
46: Buaben for Djoum
71: Cowie for Goncalves
90: Milinkovic for Walker
Unused subs: Hamilton, Milinkovic, Stockton, Currie, Baur.

Referee: Bobby Madden.
Attendance: 3551.

" ,"byline": {"email": "barry.anderson@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Barry Anderson at New Douglas Park"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4562051.1505578295!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4562051.1505578295!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ross Callachan's ecstatic celebration after scoring Hearts' first goal against Hamilton","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ross Callachan's ecstatic celebration after scoring Hearts' first goal against Hamilton","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4562051.1505578295!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/ex-hearts-ace-templeton-got-lost-at-rangers-says-levein-1-4561082","id":"1.4561082","articleHeadline": "Ex-Hearts ace Templeton ‘got lost’ at Rangers, says Levein","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505539827000 ,"articleLead": "

Craig Levein believes former Hearts winger David Templeton “got lost” at Rangers, but is delighted to see him back in the Premiership with Hamilton.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561081.1505471697!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts could come up against one of their former players in David Templeton when they travel to Hamilton today. Pic: SNS"} ,"articleBody": "

Levein takes Hearts to Lanarkshire to face Accies today as Templeton prepares to face his old club. He left Tynecastle for Ibrox in August 2012 but fell out of favour amid injuries and loss of form.

Now 28, Templeton is attempting to rebuild his career at Hamilton. “He went to Rangers and just got lost,” said Hearts manager Levein. “That can happen when you go to a big club and aren’t a big signing.

“You go to a big club and become surplus to requirements and then you can get lost. It’s good to see him back playing.

“Of course, he had his injury problems as well so it’s great to see him over that. He’s featured a few times for Hamilton. He’s an ex-Hearts player and we wish him well.”

Templeton is one of a few creative Accies players who could pose Hearts problems at the SuperSeal Stadium today. Ali Crawford and Steven Boyd will also demand close attention and Levein has warned his defence to be diligent.

“I like Boyd, who is a good young player. Hamilton have always given opportunities to young lads,” he said. “They have got creativity and pace in attacking areas. We have to defend very well through there.

“Last week, against Aberdeen, was good defensively. [Goalkeeper] Jon McLaughlin wasn’t called upon too often, which makes me feel pretty good. It’s just whether we can do the same again this week in a different set of circumstances.”

Although he employed a three-man defence against Aberdeen, Levein is considering switch to a four this weekend.

“Normally, I play a back four but it just depends what we’ve got, who is available and, sometimes, who the opposition are. I’m not saying a back three won’t happen again but we’ll see.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4561081.1505471697!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561081.1505471697!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts could come up against one of their former players in David Templeton when they travel to Hamilton today. Pic: SNS","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts could come up against one of their former players in David Templeton when they travel to Hamilton today. Pic: SNS","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4561081.1505471697!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/esmael-goncalves-new-hearts-boss-is-making-us-earn-day-off-1-4561144","id":"1.4561144","articleHeadline": "Esmael Goncalves: New Hearts boss is making us earn day off","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505539826000 ,"articleLead": "

Esmael Goncalves today revealed how Hearts players are being made to work for their days off as manager Craig Levein tries to incentivise his squad.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561143.1505473417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "14/09/17 HEARTS TRAINING ORIAM - EDINBURGH Hearts Esmael Conclaves."} ,"articleBody": "

A new training schedule at Riccarton has helped re-energise the first team, who must now prove they deserve each Wednesday off by working tirelessly on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Levein was appointed manager at the end of last month and has implemented some subtle changes in his first two weeks at the helm. Goncalves, the Portuguese striker, explained players are very much in favour.

“It’s been a little bit different. There has been a little bit of change, more work, it’s more physical. It’s good, all the players are liking it,” he said.

“I’m definitely going home more tired. When Craig came in he said we’re going to work on a Monday and Tuesday, off on Wednesday and back Thursday and Friday.

“To win the free day on Wednesday we must deserve it, and he means it. Monday and Tuesday are runs and small games, so on Wednesday we have a good rest. So far, we’ve had our Wednesdays off.”

The 26-year-old went on to admit that Hearts needed to improve fitness levels after a slow start to the season, including an early exit from the group stage of the Betfred League Cup.

“We needed it. In football, now you must be fit to win games. Quality is not enough, you must work hard,” he said.

The required endeavour was certainly evident last weekend during the goalless draw with Aberdeen at Murrayfield. “All the players understand what Craig wants and we did well against Aberdeen,” continued Goncalves. “They’re a good side, [joint] top of the league.

“We can see the manager’s methods work against a good team and we did well against the side in first place. We played as Craig wanted and also showed fight.”

Hearts’ next assignment is away to Hamilton this afternoon. The SuperSeal Stadium in Lanarkshire is, of course, a far more modest venue than the salubrious home of Scottish Rugby.

“It is difficult on one hand, but not the other. In our situation you need points and that’s the motivation for every game, even in the smaller stadia,” said Goncalves.

“Of course, I’m even more motivated this week because we lost two points against Aberdeen. We should have won and now we need to recover. It is a game we must win.”

Goncalves was just one of a number of Hearts players thwarted by the Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis last week. He explained the process he goes through at times when he fails to find the net.

“Their keeper did amazing, after the game I was a little bit sad but now it’s a new week, it’s in the past and we must look forward to Hamilton.

“On Saturday I went home and felt a bit sad and disappointed not to have scored because I tried hard. Afterwards, I spoke to Craig and Austin and they told me I did everything I could but the goalkeeper just had one of those days.

“I also watched the game again on BBC Alba. I learn, maybe I should shoot on the right next time, for example, and I will score. I see new things and I believe I will learn.

“I’m my own biggest critic, all the time after games or even if I’ve trained poorly I always look inside and tell myself I have not given enough. I always look at myself and know when I’m wrong and when I’ve performed poorly.

“I look first of all at me always for what I can do better and then I can speak with the other players.”

Goncalves is enjoying life under Levein having been brought back to Scotland by the former Hearts head coach Ian Cathro in January. The Dundonian lost his job at Tynecastle following that Betfred Cup exit.

“Cathro also had the mentality of winning games,” explained Goncalves. “He was a good tactician but we didn’t have the players for this style. Scotland is not for this style.

“Here, it’s tough and what Craig says is right. It doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you win. He also has good tactics to play, as well as put the fight in the team.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "BARRY ANDERSON"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4561143.1505473417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561143.1505473417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "14/09/17 HEARTS TRAINING ORIAM - EDINBURGH Hearts Esmael Conclaves.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "14/09/17 HEARTS TRAINING ORIAM - EDINBURGH Hearts Esmael Conclaves.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4561143.1505473417!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hearts/maroon-memories-bragging-braga-brought-to-earth-by-hearts-1-4560297","id":"1.4560297","articleHeadline": "Maroon Memories: Bragging Braga brought to earth by Hearts","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505539800000 ,"articleLead": "

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4560296.1505562615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts line up for the clubs first ever game at Murrayfield. Scorers Patrick Kisnorbo (second left back row) Andy Webster (third left back row) and Paul Hartley) back row second right)"} ,"articleBody": "

AS the triumphant Hearts players made their way off Murrayfield, David Bowie’s Heroes was belting out from the PA system, a fitting send-off for the Jambos who had just taken a huge stride towards the lucrative group stages of the UEFA Cup.

However, while gladly basking in glory in the immediate aftermath of another magnificent European result, the Jambos know they must regard themselves as such for just the one day.

Bragging Braga boss Jesualdo Ferreira had gone into last night’s first round, first leg encounter confident his side were too good for the hosts – but how he underestimated the spirit and determination of this Hearts side.

The 3-1 triumph sent the near-19,000 Jambos who descended on the home of Scottish rugby into raptures, goals from Andy Webster, Paul Hartley and Patrick Kisnorbo earning a stirring victory.

However, Craig Levein and his men know that their job is only half done, with a stiff examination awaiting them in a fortnight’s time in the Estadio Municipal.

Last season in Bordeaux the Gorgie outfit understandably let their celebrations spill over after a famous victory, perhaps thinking the hard work had already been done with ‘Fortress Tynecastle’ awaiting the French in the second leg – 90 minutes which ultimately taught Levein’s young squad a harsh lesson in the realities of European football with Bordeaux easing into the next round.

With that experience in mind, the scenes of celebration were somewhat more measured in comparison last night, the players content in the knowledge they had done an excellent professional job.

While the concession of the away goal to Paulo Sergio, criminally just two minutes after Hartley had blasted Hearts 2-0 ahead with a superb volley, took the edge off a superb result, the home side had achieved their primary objective - to give themselves something to defend in Portugal.

“There were a lot of things against us going into this game but I am not surprised how we coped,” said Levein.

“I know what great character and resilience there is within the squad.

“It was a difficult occasion for them with all the things which have been going on and European games are difficult enough without added pressure. But I thought they handled it very well.

“Most importantly, we gave the fans something to cheer about and that in turn allowed us to feed off what the supporters did for us.

“Overall I was pleased with the night’s work.”

No praise can be too high for Levein and his players after their efforts last night, with circumstances appearing to have contrived against them in the build-up to the kick-off.

It was bad enough that they were forced to play in the unfamiliar surroundings of the home of Scottish rugby, a cavernous cathedral of a stadium which can hold 67,500 spectators. But fears of a poor atmosphere were quickly dispelled as the Gorgie faithful cranked up the decibel level from the first blast of Anton Genov’s whistle.

At least the players had known about that for long enough and had time to adjust to the idea. Levein, however, saw his plans for the game thrown into disarray through illness and injury, with Graham Weir sidelined by mumps just 24 hours before kick-off.

With Ramon Perreira out with a twisted ankle and the Hearts boss unable to call on Kevin McKenna and Stephen Simmons as possible partners to Mark de Vries – who himself wasn’t fully match fit – Levein had even considered asking defender Alan Maybury to tackle the role of emergency striker. In the end he decided against that particular option, with Phil Stamp handed the task of pushing forward to assist the giant Dutchman at every opportunity.

The ‘home’ side made light of their alien surroundings to continue where they had left off against Rangers at Tynecastle on Sunday, carrying the game to their more technical opponents. Jamie McAllister, making his first start for his new club, had two decent shooting chances in the opening seven minutes but on both occasions lacked the necessary accuracy to test Paulo Santos. Despite having been pinpointed by Braga as Hearts’ main danger man, De Vries was able to cause the Portuguese back line all sorts of problems with his aerial prowess.

It was on the deck, though, that he almost made a telling contribution in the 36th minute, the Dutchman being sent tumbling by Nunes just inches outside the penalty box, Stamp wasting a good shooting chance by driving his effort straight at the defensive wall. Two minutes later and the midfielder produced a superb one-handed stop from Santos after De Vries had set him up.

With Hearts dominating proceedings, the nearest the visitors came in the opening period was a shot from Jaime Junior which deflected wickedly off Webster, Craig Gordon reacting well to spare his defender’s blushes.

Having gone in at the interval on level terms, it was clear Hearts had the measure of Braga, who time and again resorted to play-acting in an attempt to stop the flow of the game.

And six minutes after the restart, the opening goal Levein had been craving duly arrived from the unexpected source of Webster. The impressive Joe Hamill set off on a trademark jinking run, whipped in a cross to De Vries whose header back was met by the former Arbroath stopper, who stooped to head home his second UEFA Cup goal after last season’s counter against Zeljeznicar at Tynecastle.

De Vries then presented Stamp with a chance to run in on goal but with the midfielder lacking the pace to carry him past his marker, he opted for a shot from 20 yards which rose narrowly over the bar. There was plenty of encouragement for the home fans and with 62 minutes played Murrayfield erupted when Neilson’s cross was brilliantly volleyed home by Hartley, the reaction of Steven Pressley as he pumped the air time and time again on the half-way line telling its own story.

The Jambos’ joy was short-lived, however, with poor marking at a Junior free-kick allowing Sergi a free header inside the six-yard area.

Hearts had committed the cardinal sin of conceding at home and while the players were unsettled for a brief period – substitute Joao Tomas came close on two occasions – the introduction of Dennis Wyness helped sway the game back towards Hearts.

With 90 minutes on the clock, he came agonisingly close to finishing off a superb piece of skill when he turned inside the Braga defence and slipped the ball just wide of Santos’ left-hand post. With the fans – and Levein – thinking that was their last opportunity gone, Kisnorbo popped up in injury time to control Hartley’s corner and smash a shot into the back of the net – his first goal for the club.

“That third goal might be vital if we can do our job properly defensively in Braga,” said Levein.

“We were very conscious after the game that we celebrated a lot after beating Bordeaux in France only to be left with egg on our face so we will save any celebrations, if there are to be any, until after the second leg.”

Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley, Webster, Maybury, Hamill (MacFarlane 81), Kisnorbo, Hartley, Stamp (Wyness 79), McAllister, de Vries. Subs Not Used: Moilanen, Janczyk, Sloan, Berra, Stewart

Braga: Paulo Santos, Abel, Paulo Jorge, Nunes, Jorge Luiz, Luis Loureiro, Vandinho, Kenedy, Paulo Sergio (Cesinha 75), Baha (Jaime 37), Wender. Subs Not Used: Cicero, Mauricio, Joao Tomas, Marco, Barroso

Referee: Anton Genov (Bulgaria)

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Hearts 3, Braga 1 Uefa Cup. September 16, 2004"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4560296.1505562615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4560296.1505562615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Hearts line up for the clubs first ever game at Murrayfield. Scorers Patrick Kisnorbo (second left back row) Andy Webster (third left back row) and Paul Hartley) back row second right)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Hearts line up for the clubs first ever game at Murrayfield. Scorers Patrick Kisnorbo (second left back row) Andy Webster (third left back row) and Paul Hartley) back row second right)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4560296.1505562615!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hamilton-s-david-templeton-out-to-prove-hearts-boo-boys-wrong-1-4561267","id":"1.4561267","articleHeadline": "Hamilton’s David Templeton out to prove Hearts boo boys wrong","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1505477776000 ,"articleLead": "

David Templeton is determined to prove the boo boys wrong when Hamilton face Hearts tomorrow.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561266.1505480226!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Templeton"} ,"articleBody": "

The 28-year-old admits he may not be the most popular player with the visiting Hearts fans following an acrimonious departure five years ago.

However the winger is hoping a new lease of life at Hamilton can help him prove a point when the boos inevitably ring out at the Superseal Stadium.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s one of the ones I looked for when the fixtures came out.

“It will be good to play against my old club, I’m sure if I get involved I’ll get a few boos from some of the fans.

“It would be nice to get a cheer from them, but the way things happened when I left - I think they didn’t like me for that.

“But there was a lot of stuff in behind that they didn’t know about.

“Hopefully if I am involved and they do boo me, that will inspire me to do better.”

Templeton’s departure from Tynecastle came at a time when big things were expected of him, but a run of injuries and poor form held him back before leaving Rangers last year.

His progress since joining Hamilton towards the end of last season has been slow – with just one start in the league before featuring in the play-offs – but he is keen to take it slowly after an injury-plagued few years.

He said: “You never want to be an impact player so for me I want to try and get as fit as possible and get in the team.

“If I can do that and do well, I’m sure ill be able to keep myself there.”

After narrowly avoiding relegation from the top flight last season, Hamilton have started this season impressively and Templeton admits there is an added incentive among the players to prove the doubters wrong.

He said: “In the last few seasons we have been flirting with relegation.

“Having witnessed it last year at the end, none of the players want that so we are pushing on to make sure we’re not in that spot again.

“To come here and be written off so early (in the season) is strange.

“The boys don’t mind that really, because it gives us an extra push to do well and keep the pundits quiet.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "PETER WALES"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4561266.1505480226!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4561266.1505480226!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Templeton","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Templeton","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4561266.1505480226!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}