Captain Danny Wilson believes Hearts and their supporters are now back where they belong after promotion to the Scottish Premiership was confirmed.
Wilson played through the pain of relegation last year and has now skippered the team through a historic title-winning campaign in the Championship.
Rangers’ win at Easter Road yesterday afternoon secured the title for Hearts, who beat Falkirk 3-0 on Saturday. They cannot now be caught by either Rangers or Hibs and are already planning a celebratory afternoon at home against Queen of the South this weekend.
Wilson was mindful of Hearts’ harrowing descent into administration in 2013 when speaking about their recovery over the last year. Fans were at one point fearful of whether their club could go to the wall, making their rebuild all the more enjoyable for Tynecastle regulars.
A capacity crowd is now expected on Saturday when Robbie Neilson and his players will walk out as league champions. “I’m sure Tynecastle will be full, it will be a great atmosphere and we’ll all be desperate to play in it,” said Wilson. “The fans have been fantastic and this is what they deserve after so many tough years. Hopefully this is us on the road to recovery, back in the Premiership. That’s where the fans of this club deserve to be.”
Asked if he could sum up what the triumph means to Hearts as a club, Wilson admitted even he found it difficult. “I don’t think I could sum it up,” he replied. “I’ve been a part of it for a few years now and I’ve been through bits and pieces but it’s just one of those things that can happen at a football club. We find ourselves playing in a league we didn’t want to be in. We wanted to be in the Premiership but we’re on our way to playing there next season.”
The rampant nature of Hearts’ title win has surprised many observers this year. They currently sit 23 points ahead of second-placed Hibs and 26 ahead of Rangers in third. What was predicted as the most competitive Scottish second tier in history has proven to be quite the opposite.
“If you’d said to me at the start of the season it would be like this, I don’t think I would’ve believed you,” conceded Wilson. “We’ve gone about our business in the right fashion and we’ve seen the results on the pitch. I’m delighted it’s gone this way but at the start of the season I would never have thought there would be this distance between us.
“Since late December/early January, people have had us as champions. It’s difficult to put that to the side when people are talking like that about you. I think we’ve done that.
“The fans wanted to make sure they enjoyed Saturday against Falkirk. We just wanted to get the three points on the board and then let Sunday take care of itself. Falkirk had been doing really well and they are the only team to beat us in the league this season. We wanted to put that wrong right, get the three points and take that next step towards winning the title.”
From a personal perspective, Wilson has revitalised his career in Gorgie after a frustrating period of inactivity at Liverpool. “I’ve enjoyed it because I’ve had a chance to play. Whatever came with it, came with it. I haven’t looked into it too much,” he said.
“Parts of it haven’t been enjoyable but I’ve still enjoyed the playing part. This season has been great because we’ve won more often that we’ve lost. Last season wasn’t like that but football is football.”
Now Hearts must prepare for Scotland’s top league next season, which Wilson feels is difficult to predict. “I don’t know, it’s too early to say. We’ll just take that when it comes,” he said.
“We’ve got a good team. Unfortunately we’ve drawn Celtic twice in the cups this year and they’re the best team in the country so it’s difficult to judge yourself. We’ll get this season finished and then we’ll take it from there.”