Gary Mackay: We need flair at Hearts – and to hear from Craig Levein

Hearts director of football Craig Levein watches on during Friday nights match at Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS
Hearts director of football Craig Levein watches on during Friday nights match at Kilmarnock. Pic: SNS
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I wasn’t surprised the statement from Ann Budge last Wednesday was so in-depth about all matters at Hearts and I wasn’t surprised to see the owner outline her support for the footballing department.

However, I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that it would have held more clout if the director of football had addressed the footballing issues. Craig Levein was put in charge of the football department, and at a time when there is clearly some concern about the way our season has panned out, I think a lot of supporters would have appreciated some form of explanation from him on certain matters.

A lot of boxes have been ticked with regard to the strategy put in place at the club three years ago, but there is no getting away from the fact one or two boxes haven’t been ticked. For me, supporters who are ploughing money into the club are entitled to hear the thoughts of the man overseeing the football department.

Ann implied that we were forced into our January overhaul of the squad, and I know there were a couple of mitigating factors that prompted us to utilise the last transfer window so heavily, but we also have to remember that it was our choice to allow players to leave. I genuinely can’t think of one club in Britain who would have seen fit to change the personnel to the level we did in January.

In football, you never get everything right, but I do concern myself a little bit that it seems like we’re trying to reinvent the wheel of professional football in terms of how we go about our business. With the way we have been trying to play recently, it just feel like we try to over-complicate things. I acknowledge that football has become a lot more strategic now, but I can’t help but feel it’s still a more simple and straightforward game than we are making it look.

For me, the priority going forward has to be to establish an identity associated with a bit of flair. That is sadly missing at the moment unless Jamie Walker is on his best form. There are several good players at Hearts just now, but a lot of them are foreign players who haven’t been at the club long and are still trying to find their feet. That was evident again to an extent at Rugby Park on Friday when we just couldn’t quite click into gear.

If your cup’s half empty, you focus on the fact it was a poor game to watch and we didn’t create much as an attacking force. If your cup’s half full, you’re pleased we came away with a point and a clean sheet from a ground where we’ve not had a particularly good record in recent times. Either way, it certainly wasn’t a game for the purists, but in the end it turned out to be a point gained as both St Johnstone, directly above us, and Partick Thistle, beneath us, lost.

For all that it was pretty disappointing that we weren’t able to go to Kilmarnock and win, if we were to beat Partick at home in our first game after the split, then we would have taken seven points from a possible nine. That would make things look a lot rosier, and would give us a fighting chance of attaining fourth place.

We were always going to have three away fixtures, so I’m not overly fazed by our fixture list. The only thing I would have preferred is if we had St Johnstone before the Rangers game as that would have given us a better chance of keeping the pressure on them. Even though we’re four points behind them, I still feel we’ve got a decent chance of getting fourth. But the key to that is making sure we take an absolute minimum of four points from our next two home games against Partick and Aberdeen. If we could do that, I’d like to think it would keep us in contention ahead of our trip to McDiarmid Park. We need to make sure we hang in there long enough to make our penultimate games against St Johnstone a shootout for Europe.