Hearts are under no pressure heading to Glasgow on Sunday hoping to prevent Celtic finishing the league campaign undefeated.
Winger Jamie Walker believes his team can afford to play with a certain freedom, although he conceded that some of Celtic’s marquee players are “too good” for the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Celtic’s unbeaten run has stretched through the entire domestic season and only Hearts can now stop them finishing the league without a single loss. The Edinburgh club will finish fifth in the table after a disappointing few months which saw them fall out of contention for European places.
With little to play for, Walker believes they can head to Parkhead without any undue stress about facing the champions.
“They’re obviously playing well, no-one else has beaten them, but we have nothing to lose. It’s a no pressure match,” he said. “Hopefully we can go there and maybe relax and see what happens. Everybody is writing us off. We have just got to try and work hard and hopefully get a result.”
Speaking about Celtic’s expensive imports from England, Walker added: “They’re all good players, they’ve played in England and been bought for millions of pounds. [Patrick] Roberts and [Scott] Sinclair are too good for this level, but they’re here and they are producing week in, week out.
“I can learn from them, definitely. When you play for Celtic you get more chances, too. We can look at them and learn stuff from them, for sure.
“I think it says a lot about them, to go through a whole season up to now and not lose one game is pretty incredible. They went into the Champions League and held their own against teams like Manchester City as well. It shows they are a good side – and they’ll only get better. We’ve had a disappointing campaign so if we were to go to Celtic Park and end their run it would be fantastic. We’re going there, there’s no pressure on us and it’s a game we’re looking to win.”
Victory on Sunday looks unlikely given Hearts have only six victories from their last 25 matches in all competitions. Should they pull off the unexpected, it would provide some welcome positivity to end a wretched campaign. It would also give some momentum ahead of summer matches in the Betfred League Cup.
“We’re not going to be in Europe so we have the Betfred Cup and hopefully we can get a bit of momentum going in that. If we win on Sunday we can take that into next season,” said Walker, who added that Hearts players must take responsibility for their performances under head coach Ian Cathro.
“The gaffer has obviously taken a lot of criticism but I think the players need to have a look in the mirror as well and take part of the blame. Everyone just wants to see the back of this season and get back for pre-season. Hopefully we can bring in the right players, the gaffer can get his ideas across and we can have a successful season.”
Colleagues like Callum Paterson and Sam Nicholson are expected to leave Tynecastle this summer on freedom of contract, while Walker’s agreement runs until next summer.
The departure of home-grown Scottish talent signals the end of an era and Walker admitted it is down to the Hearts hierarchy to recruit the correct replacements.
“It’s disappointing but it’s part of football, you’re always going to lose your best players if you’re a club like Hearts,” he explained.
“It’s up to the backroom staff to bring in the right people for us to be successful next season. I’ve still got a year left on my contract so I don’t know if anything will happen in the summer or any offers will come. As it stands I am still here, I am looking forward to getting a holiday and looking forward to next season.”