It is hard to recall a relationship as bizarre as the one Jamie Hamill holds with a section of his own supporters.
The Hearts midfielder has long since grown tired of the criticism and, at times, abuse he has been subjected to both from the stands and online. As a result, he has little hesitation in putting his fingers to his lips in the direction of the Hearts fans whenever he scores, as he did twice in the League Cup semi-final defeat by Inverness.
The 27-year-old makes little secret of the fact he feels any bond with the fans has long since disintegrated and, after scoring the winner against St Mirren last week, he jogged off the pitch at full time instead of taking the fans’ acclaim.
There are plenty fans who have sympathy for Hamill. The relationship started to unravel in the summer, when he saw his performance in a pre-season friendly being picked apart on a fans’ forum. Hamill, then a prolific and jovial Twitter user, tweeted a tirade aimed at his dissenters which exacerbated the situation.
Gary Locke, the Hearts manager, was irked that one of his senior players had become involved in an internet row and the player soon deleted his account. At that point, Hamill, having just taken a paycut in order to stay at the club, had the support of the rational majority.
In fact, he probably still does now. However, there are some who have taken a dislike to the little bearded anchorman and view him in a different light. While the 22-year-old Danny Wilson may be the club captain, Hamill has, undoubtedly, been their on-field leader this season.
He would never claim to be the most technically gifted at the club and his critics like to dwell on his occasionally erratic distribution, but when you touch the ball as often as Hamill does, it is inevitable that mistakes will be made. No matter how things are going, he is invariably at the hub of everything his team does. As an older head, he has made it his responsibility to go the extra distance for his team-mates.
Hamill has often played through the pain barrier this season and the fact he has kept soldiering on while feeling that his own support are against him makes his willingness to don the maroon jersey every week more admirable. On Sunday, he was one of the few Hearts players who wanted to get on the ball and make things happen when the frustration from the stands became more audible.
Hamill’s value to youngsters was illustrated against St Mirren when he ran 30 yards to console Jordan McGhee after noticing that the 17-year-old had been rattled following a mistake which drew a rollicking from Wilson. He may come across as an angry man, but he is an amiable and popular figure inside Riccarton. While Hamill’s detractors may disagree, those who work alongside him are of the belief that Hearts would have been a far less competitive proposition without him fighting their corner.