It’s really difficult to win a game against the champions when you perform the way Hearts did in the first half.
We were really poor and I felt the formation we started with allowed Celtic to get control of the game and push us right back. Thankfully, we did well to identify where we had gone wrong and made some changes at half-time to address the problems. We managed to get an equaliser which had looked highly unlikely through the entire first half, but were then undone by a couple of bad mistakes. In the end, it was a really disappointing game from a Hearts perspective and leaves our season in danger of petering out.
There was talk of us needing to be more fired up, and I think that was quite clear to see. People under-estimate the value of passion in football these days. It’s all well and good having ability, composure, resilience and concentration, but you also need to play with a bit of passion as a team, especially when you have a stadium like Tynecastle, where the crowd thrive on high-intensity football. We need to use that to our advantage.
Celtic have had a lot of criticism this season but there’s clearly still a gulf between them and the rest of us. The aim is to overcome that and I believe it is possible, although, in the short term at least, it looks like it will be reliant on some shrewd recruitment as there doesn’t seem to be many new faces coming through from the academy, while Jamie Walker was the only homegrown player in the starting XI.
That means we’ll have to continue getting the majority of our signings right. I was surprised to hear that Miguel Pallardo will not be retained as I felt he had done a decent job for us. The club have been pretty ruthless in terms of cutting players loose in search of sustained improvement, but, in my opinion, there has to be a balancing act between continual change and retaining consistency and harmony among the squad. I always believe you need a core group of seven or eight players, and you mix and match around them.
Hopefully, now that we know we can’t finish second, the players will relax and we can enjoy some kind of upturn in the last three games because our last three matches have been very disappointing.