Just as it was when we had the high of drawing at Anfield and then the low of losing at home to Dundee a few days later earlier in the season, Hearts fans have had to endure another week of contrasting emotions.
Wednesday’s League Cup triumph over Dundee United was massive for the club, both in football and financial terms. Reaching the semi-final of the League Cup is brilliant reward for all those fans who go week in, week out, and we’ve now given ourselves a realistic chance of potentially having both domestic cups in the cabinet next March if we can go all the way and win it.
But for all that getting to the semi-final is set to give us a vital financial boost, it will be offset if we continue to suffer disappointing results in the league like Saturday’s and end up missing out on the cash windfall that comes from qualifying for Europe. If we keep doing well in the cups and not so well in the league, it’s almost a ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ situation.
Myself and many supporters had called for John McGlynn to try two up front and he has tried that over the past two games with varying degrees of success. However, the main problem the manager is having is that he doesn’t have too many options to mix things up, especially when we have two games in the space of just a few days. Beyond his regular starting XI, there are very few tried and tested players on the fringes to bring in and freshen things up and I think that could be taking its toll.
I’ve said it many times before but managers want players they can trust to perform week in, week out. It’s no use having players who produce “nine out of ten” performances one week and then a ‘five out of ten’ the next. You need a core group who are producing “six or seven out of ten” performances on a regular basis, but there are just not enough Hearts players producing the goods on a consistent basis.
The fans who travelled to Dundee on Saturday had every right to be disappointed with the nature of the performance because it was well short of what the same group of players had produced across the road at Tannadice just a few days previously. We had been well warned of Dundee’s danger by the fact they beat us at Tynecastle, so complacency certainly shouldn’t have been an issue.
Fans are paying hard-earned cash to go and watch the team in difficult financial times. The people who are running the football club may be having to juggle things financially to keep the club in business, but let’s not forget that the fans are also being asked to dig deep. Two back-to-back trips to Dundee and then a long journey up to Inverness this weekend will take its toll on the bank balances of those loyal fans who go both home and away, so I was a bit disheartened that some of the players seemed to be smirking at the fans as they took some flak upon leaving the field.
The players need to remember that, fundamentally, the fans are the lifeblood of the club. It’s never nice to get criticised but the players would do well to bite their tongue at times like that and not bite back at the very people who could have a big part to play in ensuring the long-term survival of Hearts.
The frustration of the supporters has probably been slightly exacerbated by the fact our city rivals are up the top of the league, while we are nearer the bottom. However, we’ve proved, particularly in the cup competitions, that we can beat any team on our day, while it wasn’t so long ago that we were running Liverpool close, so I’m not overly worried about becoming sucked into a relegation battle just yet.
But we do need a bit more consistency, and, we need everyone to stick together.