There is so much uncertainty surrounding our club on and off the field this season and I think Saturday’s game reflected that perfectly. Once again the fans, players and management were put through the whole range of emotions as we ended up with a result that some saw as two points dropped and others saw as a point gained.
From week to week, we never know what’s going to happen with our club, and it’s hard to tell how our team are going to fare on a match-day. There are so many ‘what ifs?’ when it comes to Hearts at the moment. One minute we’re up and the next we’re down and that was the case on Saturday. You get a lift with an unexpected win at Aberdeen that makes you think ‘hang on, we might have a chance of staying up after all’, but then we get a stark reminder of how hard that’s going to be against a struggling Ross County side.
We contributed to our downfall against County. Some people say the youthfulness of the side hasn’t been a factor in how difficult we have found it this season, but I have to disagree. There have been so many times this season when basic inexperience and poor decision-making has cost us dear and that was definitely the case on Saturday. In fact, I would say all four goals we’ve conceded against County this season have been entirely avoidable. In the end, we produced a rip-roaring finish to get a draw and, for me, it’s a point gained, especially as Kilmarnock, who look to be in real turmoil themselves, lost again.
We will always pull the odd results out the bag, like those against Hibs and Aberdeen this season, that instantly raise expectation on the team. But I think everyone at the club knows there are young players in the team playing who are nowhere near ready for the demands of playing for Hearts. Unfortunately, the manager doesn’t have the option to take them out the firing line because those on the bench are even less ready for it. The only players he can really hang his hat on at the moment are the four more experienced boys in the team – Jamie MacDonald, Jamie Hamill, Danny Wilson and Ryan Stevenson.
Automatically, when a struggling team like County or St Mirren come to Tynecastle, our fans think we should be beating them, but, with the team we are operating with, there shouldn’t be an expectation to win any game in this league. We are effectively being asked to punch well above our weight every week. Some weeks we manage it and others we don’t.
At least we can comfort ourselves with the fact we have the perfect man in charge. I spoke to Gary Locke after the game on Saturday, and asked if he could help us out at a function on Friday night, but he said he wouldn’t be able to do it as he and Billy Brown are going to watch Dundee United – our next league opponents – on Friday. That might not seem that significant, but not every manager goes to watch their opponents these days, especially not when they have a big Scottish Cup match against Celtic to focus on just two days later. Gary and Billy are also at every under-20 match without fail, which not every manager does. It just underlines the kind of professionalism this management team are showing. That hasn’t always been the case at Hearts.
Off the field, the picture remains no clearer with regards to our future. For me, Donald Ford and Alex Mackie will be a big loss to the Foundation of Hearts. I know Donald always planned to step aside when it got to this stage, but Alex has been involved from the outset and I can’t emphasise enough just how crucial a part he played in getting the Foundation to this stage. I am sad to see him go but hopefully the Foundation can get good some news if and when this CVA meeting goes ahead.