The guy I was with the game at on Saturday said to me at half-time: “This is really good.” And he was right. It was a really good game and Hearts were playing really well.
At that point, two goals up and with a man advantage, I don’t think anybody could have foreseen how the second-half was going to unfold. However, any team led by Terry Butcher will never be anybody’s pushover and Inverness deserve real credit for the way the came back into the game.
The Hearts players will be disappointed and the supporters will be frustrated that we were unable to hold on to the lead and open up a wee gap at the top of the table. In the circumstances, it feels like a defeat. However, we have to remember that everybody is still fine-tuning at Hearts. We are working on a new system, with a much-changed group of players under a new management team, so it’s inevitable that we’ll have hiccups like Saturday’s along the way.
I was slightly disturbed ahead of the game that there was maybe a wee bit too much talk about the Liverpool game and that we might not be focused enough on Inverness. However, that certainly wasn’t the case judging from the first half. I spoke last week about being unconvinced by the balance of our midfield, but I was much happier with the shape on Saturday until Marius Zaliukas had to go off.
We played really well, passed the ball well and scored a really good first goal and then got a penalty that, admittedly, bemused me. But then we lost our captain and that seemed to upset the balance. Then Inverness got a penalty that bemused everybody and after that Hearts got a bit nervy. People should remember that this is not just a problem with this group of Hearts players. As far as I can remember, for whatever reason, Hearts have never been the best at having a man extra and being in front. It’s been like that for many decades, and it’s certainly been the case in our last two home games.
At least after such a deflating ending to the game, we now have the Liverpool game to look forward to. It will be brilliant for the fans and the players. We have to remember the gulf that there will be between the teams, so everybody should just try and enjoy it. I think on the night we should all spare a thought for the likes of Paulo Sergio, Ian Black, Rudi Skacel, Craig Beattie and all the others who played a part in making this massive game possible. The history of Liverpool Football Club is second to none despite their recent barren period. Players train day in, day out for big games like this, so they need to try and make the best of it and try to achieve the ultimate, which would be to beat Liverpool over two legs. Yes, it’s unlikely, but anything is possible in football. I don’t think many people would have expected West Brom to beat them 3-0 at the weekend. We’re sitting disappointed at losing a two-goal lead but we’re still round about the top of our league. Liverpool, by contrast, will be asking themselves a few questions after the result on Saturday, so they maybe have a few more questions to answer than we do.
After Liverpool we have a really tough trip to Aberdeen. I felt Aberdeen lacked width and penetration last season but they have addressed that by bringing in Jonny Hayes and a couple of talented youngsters, so it’s going to be really hard going up to Pittodrie on the back of the Liverpool game. They will be one of the teams we’ll be battling it out with, so there’s an argument that games like that are even bigger than the Liverpool game. Nonetheless, it’s a week to savour for everyone connected with Hearts.