Craig Levein insists hosting Hibs is the ideal way for Hearts to finish the season at Tynecastle Park. The club’s final home game is tonight’s Edinburgh derby and manager Levein is relishing the opportunity to end the campaign strongly.
Injuries, a delay to the new main stand and wretched away form have led to a frustrating season in Gorgie. Hearts will finish sixth in the Premiership while Hibs chase second place.
Levein feels home derbies bring out the best in his team and is happy to see the Easter Road club as this evening’s opponents.
“It’s been frustrating as hell this season. I’m glad this is the game we’re finishing the season on at Tynecastle. I know we’ll dig deep and put in a performance. I just feel really good playing at home,” he said.
“I thought we were really good at times against Celtic on Sunday. The Hibs games are just special. They’re different from all the others. I get a good feeling about it and I know that, particularly here, we will give them a run for their money.
“Our last experience against Hibs here was a positive one. We beat them 1-0 to stop all the nonsense of ‘how many in row’ and all that. We aren’t a million miles away from them, Rangers and Aberdeen because we can compete with them. If we had done better away from home, we’d have been much higher in the league. Our home record is comparable with anybody’s. It’s just turning draws into wins, winning games which are 50-50.”
Levein explained why he is encouraged about Hearts’ prospects for next season. “I feel positive about a lot of things. I’m happy with some of the new signings we’ve got. There are more to come. We have other business to do and I have all the loan players to sort out as well.
“I think we’re fairly well positioned already. I’ve certainly been in worse positions as a manager going into a new campaign. I’ve gone into the start of pre-season needing half a dozen players in the past.”
John Souttar is out for Hearts tonight, while Kyle Lafferty remains doubtful. David Milinkovic should be available. “Milinkovic trained on Monday. He has taken a wee bit longer than we thought to recover. He finished the session although he had a little niggle,” said Levein.
“John had a scan and is very tender around the hip area. The fact he isn’t walking pain-free means he is struggling. He looks like he’s got no chance.
“Steven Naismith has played centre-forward for us before. We only have two strikers so, if Kyle doesn’t make it, then that’s the straightforward choice.”
Levein also answered comments from Brendan Rodgers about Tynecastle’s pitch. The Celtic manager claimed the grass was too long despite his team beating Hearts 3-1 there on Sunday.
“I sat with Brendan for 20 minutes after the game and he never mentioned it,” revealed Levein. “I would have hated to see the fury and the froth if they had actually lost the game.
“If we want to talk about a level playing field, if they bring a team through here that earn the same money as our players do, then we will put them out on the pitch and see who wins.
“There is not a level playing field in Scotland and I make no apologies for staying within the rules and trying to win the game. None at all. He can moan and bleat all he wants, it will be the same again next season.”