I wrote last week that the next two games were massive for Hearts and we’ve gone and got a brilliant result in the first of those, which is really pleasing.
Clubs could have come to Tynecastle and taken advantage of our situation when we were going through a difficult time with the unpaid wages, but generally our players stood firm and did themselves proud with the results they achieved in that time. On Saturday, the shoe was on the other foot as we went through to Ibrox looking to capitalise on Rangers’ problems, and we did that.
In some ways, Rangers going in front just before half-time did us a big favour because it made us alter our approach. The manager went there looking to sit tight early on, but we weren’t really getting men forward to trouble Rangers. When they scored, it probably confirmed in Paulo Sergio’s mind that things weren’t working and prompted him to take off a midfielder and put on a second striker which ultimately worked out well.
Craig Beattie came on and made a big difference and if he stays fit, he could go on to be an important player for us. We may have been the beneficiaries of a slightly dubious decision for the penalty, but we’ve been on the receiving end of plenty ropey decisions against Rangers in the past, so I think it would be churlish for anyone to complain too much. It says a lot about the manager that he was adaptable enough to change things because some managers might have just stuck to their guns. Paulo also deserves maximum respect for the way he spoke after the game. There’s a lack of real class in modern-day football. However, I thought our manager was class personified in the manner he celebrated the victory on Saturday.
Having been through a similar situation to Ally McCoist – albeit on a lesser scale – when his players were unpaid not so long ago, Paulo was aware of the need not to go shouting his mouth off or rubbing Rangers’ noses in it over their current troubles. The way he spoke, with humility and dignity, was absolutely magnificent. It capped a fine day for Hearts after a difficult few weeks.
I was pretty demoralised after last weekend’s defeat to Dundee United, especially as it looked like all our nearest rivals were pulling away from us, but we’ve gained a bit of ground on St Johnstone and, more importantly, we’ve boosted morale ahead of a massive Scottish Cup game against St Mirren on Saturday. We’ve set ourselves up nicely for what is an absolutely huge game and have hopefully added a few fans to the gate for that game on the back of Saturday’s result.
I’d like to think we can carry some of the momentum gained from Ibrox into Saturday’s game, although it doesn’t always work like that. The key thing now is that we don’t slip up on the proverbial banana skin because, although we’ll go in as favourites, St Mirren are no mugs.
They have kept four clean sheets in their last five league games, and they’re unbeaten in their last seven, so it certainly won’t be an easy game. Hopefully it will be a rip- roaring cup tie, but at first glance it doesn’t look like the sort of game that’s going to throw up loads of goals at either end. They’ve been rock solid, so it will take a massive effort but it’s a game that we’ll go into in far better fettle than we might have feared just a few days ago.
There was a real sense of doom and gloom about the place after recent results, but if we were to follow up a league win at Ibrox with reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup for the first time in six years, it would really kick the season back into life for us.