Hearts are living on their nerves. That has been apparent in their recent performances, and was again noticeable against lowly Clydebank at Tynecastle,
But Alex MacDonald’s men are handling the situation wonderfully well, and no-one better than the manager himself, who has quietly nursed the side along on an unbeaten league run that now stretches back 27 matches. Both he and his assistant, Sandy Jardine, who looks after things on the field from the centre of the defence, have been through it all before as Rangers players and are now able to encourage the others through the final stages.
They are also the perfect examples of level-headedness. Said MacDonald after the match: “I don’t accept the championship yet – that would be foolish, for we haven’t won it. We need one more point from our last match against Dundee at Dens Park to be absolutely sure.”
When the players looked as though they were about to embark on a lap of honour after beating Clydebank, Jardine, obviously thinking along the same lines as the manager, quickly led them back up the tunnel to the dressing-room.
Although Hearts may have to wait until the weekend before officially calling themselves champions of Scotland for the first time in 26 years they could, in fact, lift the title on Wednesday without kicking a ball. On that day Celtic, the only team who can catch Hearts, play their game in hand against Motherwell and if they drop even a point the race will be over.
Should it go to the last game of the season, however, it will be just like a home game for Hearts, for at the weekend their fans were queuing from 9 o’clock in the morning to buy out the ticket allocation of around 12,000 for Dens Park.
All credit to Celtic for keeping the pressure on the Tynecastle side, but, really, the title has seemed destined for Tynecastle for some time now, and their 35th minute goal on Saturday was fit to win any competition.
The move began back near the Hearts’ goal-line when Sandy Jardine played a short pass to George Cowie and the full back went on a run up the right touchline. He played the ball on to Gary Mackay and the young midfield man strode through the middle before unleashing a glorious 25-yard drive into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Clydebank, the last side to beat Hearts, back in September, have given MacDonald’s men quite a bit of bother this season, and the reason for that, I think, is that Hearts are much better equipped for the counter-attack. They have proved that against Rangers, Aberdeen and Dundee United.
On Saturday, before a crowd of more than 20,000, the onus was on them to go after Clydebank. They wanted to win their final home match, and with a bit of style, but it just did not happen for them.
Hearts: Smith, Cowie, Whittaker, Jardine, Berry, Levein, Colquhoun, Black, Clark, Mackay, Robertson