Gary Mackay: Hearts can't be left trailing again next season
Wednesday's rousing victory over Hibs being followed by yesterday's defeat at Kilmarnock probably sums up the fickle nature of this season for Hearts.
Of course, yesterday there were significant mitigating circumstances because we had so many players missing, but throughout the season we’ve been unable to build any real momentum and ultimately we’ve been left lagging well behind the likes of Aberdeen and Hibs – two teams, with the size of our budget, we should be expecting to compete with over the course of a campaign. To finish 24 points behind second-place Aberdeen and 18 points beneath fourth-place Hibs is not a situation we can allow to be repeated next season.
We’ve got a lot of work to do over the summer to bridge those gaps, especially if those teams are able to maintain the same level next season. The League Cup campaign under Ian Cathro started our season on a negative note and it took us a while to get going in the league after that. We picked up once we got back to Tynecastle and our home form has been pretty good in recent months but our away form has been really poor. We need to get that sorted for next term, and that will require a more positive approach to matches. We’ve shown we can get at teams at Tynecastle but we need to take that same aggressive mentality into away games because all the teams above us in the league seem to be a lot bolder than us on the road.
My top man for Hearts this season has been Christophe Berra – he’s been a colossus in defence. Jon McLaughlin has run him close while Kyle Lafferty has produced some good scoring form. He’s hit 19 goals this season, but I think we could get even more from him in a more creative Hearts side. I hope he’s still here next season because it will be very hard to replace a player who can score so many goals in a team that has struggled the way we have at times.
The victories against Celtic and the two wins over Hibs are our highlights this season but, if we are to start living up to expectations, we need more than just a few notable victories to sustain us over the course of a season. Hopefully we can show far greater consistency next term.