Sometimes you get a player who has a special relationship with the supporters of a club and, at Hearts, Rudi Skacel is certainly one of those.
When you see Rudi talking in the weekend papers about the future of the club, you can tell he’s talking in a heartfelt manner and then he follows that up by being the talismanic figure in the match against Aberdeen with two excellent goals.
Even when he’s not at his best, his mere presence seems to give the crowd a lift. I was speaking to the legend that is Drew Busby at the Willie Bauld Dinner on Saturday night and he was saying he was at the cup replay at St Mirren Park. He said he impressed by the way Rudi was revered by the supporters even though he hadn’t really contributed much to the game. But then he came up with the goods for the crucial second goal. These sort of guys who can be out of a game for 70 minutes and then pop up with a bit of class to change the match can be hard to come by. In fact, guys like Rudi are priceless.
Some loyal Hearts fans have been buying season tickets as early as March despite not knowing if players like Rudi are going to be retained for next season. I can only hope that loyalty from supporters is rewarded by seeing players like Rudi handed new contracts for next season to ensure that there is still an exciting product on offer for the Hearts faithful.
Rudi was the man who made sure of an excellent win against Aberdeen and it’s great that we’ve now managed to get the top six tied up because it gives the manager a chance to freshen the team up at Dunfermline on Saturday with the Scottish Cup semi-final the following weekend in mind. I would expect the team that starts at East End Park to be similar to the one that played at St Johnstone last weekend and I think that’s perfectly understandable as the manager will want to protect his strongest XI available for the Celtic game. I would suspect that the semi-final line-up wouldn’t be far away from that which started against Aberdeen and also in the replay against St Mirren, barring any training-ground injuries. Some supporters may be disappointed if the manager doesn’t field his strongest team at Dunfermline, but I would totally understand his reasons for mixing things up.
Saturday’s win also saw us maintain our excellent home record. Those fans who mostly go to home games will have seen some excellent wins this season – ten out of 16 is a good return – and that is surely a factor in the early uptake of season tickets. It’s not been as good away from home, which I feel is largely due to the personnel available. We maybe haven’t had enough support for Stephen Elliott to allow us to get at teams effectively, although hopefully the arrival of Craig Beattie can help spark an upturn in our form away from Tynecastle.
I don’t want to sound like a wet blanket after a good victory, but I just have my niggling concerns about what the future holds in terms of who will still be at Hearts come the start of next season.
I’d like to hope that efforts are made to keep players like Rudi, Beattie, Elliott and Ian Black, as well as the manager, because allowing these people to leave the football club would ultimately be a snub to those loyal fans who have already parted with their hard-earned cash to commit to a season ticket for next term. It’s remarkable that some Hearts fans have dug deep as early as March without having any real idea about what sort of team they are likely to be watching.
I just hope they are suitably rewarded with a team which will remain competitive at the right end of the SPL. With that in mind, signing up Rudi Skacel would be a welcome step in the right direction.