After the high of the Europa League draw on Friday, I think most Hearts supporters were expecting a positive response from the team against Hibs yesterday, but we didn’t really get that, unfortunately.
The performance was disappointing but sometimes you have to give the opposition credit and I think Hibs merit praise for the way they went about their business. They got in our faces and made it much harder for us than they have in recent games between the teams. It was a battling performance – away from home in a derby, you’d always settle for a point. If you win your home games and pick up draws away from home, you’ll have a relatively successful season.
We did well against St Johnstone last weekend but although we didn’t hit those heights yesterday, the main thing was that we came out of the game unscathed.
Despite the performance, we’ve now taken four points out of six and I think you’d always settle for that in your first two games of the season.
I know some supporters have been a bit critical of the performance but everyone needs to remember that the team extended their unbeaten derby run to 12 games. They should be relatively happy with that because there was a lot of pressure and expectation on the Hearts players yesterday given that the fans were talking about going down to Easter Road for a big cup final celebration party. This was always going to be a transitional period in terms of what is being asked of John McGlynn and the team. We’ve lost a lot of players and not replaced them, so there were always going to be teething problems. There needs to be an understanding from the fans that, especially with so many young players involved, the performances are not going to be as consistent as we would like.
I have a wee concern about the balance of the midfield at the moment. For me, the blend is not perfect yet. The manager is still working on shaping the team the way he wants and seems to want to work with a midfield three of Darren Barr, Scott Robinson and Ryan McGowan. I’m still a little unconvinced about the balance of that trio together so far. Having said that, the manager sees the players on a daily basis in training, so he is in a better position than me to make a judgement. On the positive side, Andy Webster’s performance was once again impressive. The way John uses the squad over the next few games will be interesting because we’ve now got a run of league games interspersed with the two games against Liverpool. You could see how hard John Sutton worked yesterday, but that will take its toll, so we’ll need someone either to play alongside him or to stand in for him on occasions to keep him fresh. Gordon Smith is possibly the most natural replacement on the books at the moment.
The Liverpool games give us something else to look forward to alongside our league campaign. It really is a brilliant tie for the club. I’m so envious of the players. I think I played about 20-odd European games for Hearts but I never got to play against an English side. The boys there now are going to get the chance to play against English sides two years running. Tottenham, who we played last year, are a big club, but Liverpool are a massive club.
They’ve got a huge tradition and I think it will be an absolute joy for the Hearts supporter. The home leg will be good, but the away leg will be even better at Anfield – what a theatre that is for Hearts to play in.
The main aim is to try and keep the tie alive after the first leg, but we’ve got an important league game at home to Inverness to take care of before we think about Liverpool.