Hamill and Co travel to Rugby Park with a score to settle after sore defeat to Celtic, writes Barry Anderson
THE Hearts team coach will carry a lot of pent-up anger and frustration travelling down the M77 tomorrow morning. Emotions remain raw within the Tynecastle squad following Wednesday night’s 4-0 loss to Celtic. Some took the defeat worse than others and fully intend taking their fury out on Kilmarnock.
Jamie Hamill certainly falls into that category. Despite spending eight years at Rugby Park in both a youth and professional context, he will not allow sentiment to derail his mission this weekend. Hearts need a victory in Ayrshire to help banish the memory of their midweek capitulation against a rampant Celtic side, and Hamill fully intends Kilmarnock to be their victims.
The defender freely admits to being a bad loser. Even playing games consoles with team-mates, his winner’s mentality and competitive edge take hold. The manner of Wednesday night’s defeat hurt him deeply and the experience is fresh in his mind heading back to his former club. To him, that is a good thing. It can only help motivation if other Hearts players feel the same.
“I never want to lose anywhere, it doesn’t matter where I’m playing,” Hamill told the Evening News. “Even on the Playstation I don’t want to lose, never ever. Kilmarnock will give us a tough game because they pass the ball really well and they have some talented players, but we’re going there to beat them.
“It’s difficult to take losing 4-0 to Celtic. All we can do is put that behind us and look forward to the next game. Thankfully that’s coming round quickly so it’s a chance to put things right.
“We’ve had a couple of days training and we know the gaffer will have us right for tomorrow. We focus on each game individually and we forget about the last game. It wouldn’t have made a difference if we’d won 7-0 or 8-0 on Wednesday night, we would have put it behind us and started afresh at Rugby Park.
“The good thing is we have another game now after the Celtic match, so we’re going down to Kilmarnock determined to get things right and get a good result. We need to get the heads up and go at it. There’s no point dwelling on it and letting that situation arise again. We will be nice and positive going into the Kilmarnock game. I enjoy going back down there. It was a weird experience the first time I went down [a 0-0 draw last August] but I’m looking forward to going back and seeing a few old faces.”
Hamill was handed a right wing-back role against Celtic as the Hearts manager Paulo Sergio selected what looked like a 3-4-3 formation on the night. The Portuguese is expected to revert to a conventional back four tomorrow. Hearts’ hopes will depend heavily on the fitness of winger David Templeton, who hopes to be available after a tendon injury precluded him from the Celtic match. Ian Black is definitely available and will return to the starting line-up after serving a one-game suspension in midweek.
“I enjoyed my role on Wednesday night, although I certainly didn’t enjoy the result,” said Hamill. “The formation was set up with three centre-backs and I was a full-back and a midfielder in one. I felt good going into the game, in fact I’ve felt good since I joined Hearts. I don’t really feel like I’ve moved clubs because everyone’s been so helpful. I’ll keep working hard to make sure I do my best here.”
The goal that Hearts were denied in the second minute against Celtic still irks not only Hamill, but many connected to the club. Stephen Elliott’s header struck Joe Ledley and bounced over the goal line before being clawed out by the visiting goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Hamill revealed that Elliott felt particularly bad for not producing a more decisive header.
“Obviously it was difficult the other night with the way the game started. I thought we started positively and then the goal we scored wasn’t given. Everybody in the stadium could see it had crossed the line, even the announcer had the music on and everything. That shows you how bad it was.
“Stevie was kicking himself in the dressing room but it’s just one of those things. I could see from a distance that it was over the line but maybe Willie Collum, the referee, didn’t get a good view of it.
“I don’t think we were caught cold after that. Celtic are an extremely good team and that’s why they’re in the position they’re in. They went up the park and scored and that was really unfortunate timing for us.”
Hamill refused to offer any excuses for the defeat, stressing that Hearts are more than capable of beating Celtic, as they proved last October at Tynecastle. “You could look at a number of things that went against us the other night,” he mused. “You could look at the fact we didn’t have Temps, Marian isn’t available, then the goal wasn’t given. You could point to pretty much anything and say that was the reason we lost 4-0. But, at the end of the day, we’ve got 11 players on the park and we should be able to go out and beat Celtic on the night.”
After an impressive sequence of five wins and a draw over Christmas, Hearts head to Rugby Park needing to halt a disappointing mini run of two defeats and a draw. Losses to Celtic and Inverness bookended last weekend’s Scottish Cup fifth round draw with St Johnstone, the replay of which takes place next week.
“You can look at a number of things relating to the last few results,” said Hamill. “I’m not going to comment and say this happened or that happened. That’s behind us now and we’re looking forward to tomorrow. We want to get a win at Kilmarnock and then push on after that because we have a busy week ahead.”