Regardless whether Edinburgh Council declare Hearts’ new main stand safe today, tomorrow or six weeks on Thursday, manager Craig Levein insists it is a miracle.
He recalls the dark days of 2004, when Hearts moving permamently to Murrayfield seemed inevitable towards the end of his first spell in charge. He is simply elated to see owner Ann Budge rebuilding the club’s spiritual home.
“It’s a miracle,” Levein said of the £12million-plus structure, which needs a safety certificate before Sunday’s match with Partick Thistle can go ahead in Gorgie. “If you think about it, three years ago Ann bought the club and the Foundation of Hearts’ plan to was to pay Ann back once the club was stabilised and such like.
“Then the second plan was to build the new stand and, if you look at the money we’ve spent and the things we have done over the last three years, it’s just remarkable.
“Even the academy, we have over-tripled the budget there. We have started a new performance school at Balerno, which is a hugely expensive project as well. There’s been a lot of stuff which has been really positive.
“This stand is about the long term and it’s a miracle that the club is where they are at the moment. I was there back in 2004 when there was talk of leaving the stadium and going to Murrayfield].
“The supporters were up in arms because they wanted to stay at Tynecastle. Now we are not only staying at Tynecastle, but it is a new Tynecastle with much better facilities. We’ve had a period of administration and supporters having to dig deep through the Foundation of Hearts, season tickets and commercial investors.
“So many things have happened that have been hugely positive. The academy stuff is really good too so I’m really pleased with where we are.”
Levein has prepared his players all week with the assumption that tomorrow’s match will go ahead as planned. It is a tentative situation, however. Safety officers from City of Edinburgh Council have inspected Tynecastle’s new stand throughout the week but, as of last night, had yet to issue the required safety certificate.
If one doesn’t arrive in time, tomorrow’s match will be postponed. “We have basically planned for the game going ahead at Tynecastle,” said Levein. “If it is off, it is off and we will have to take it on the chin.
“The difficulty with that is that it will slot in somewhere and the other teams round about us will have an advantage because we will be cramming three games into a week.
“I would rather it was on. We also have a few players coming back from injury and that makes me feel better.”
Hearts’ first-team squad plan to train on the Tynecastle pitch today, including those declared fit again. “We have so many games coming up at Tynecastle and [grass] growing season is finished.Now there is a huge focus on protecting the pitch,” explained Levein.
“We will be training at Tynecastle on Saturday to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings.
“Aaron [Hughes], Arnaud [Djoum] and Don Cowie have all had another week’s training under their belts. Conor Randall had a problem but he will be okay. Jamie Walker is close to being ready to play and he may start. I’m pleased with all of that.
“There will be a different look to the team in the next few weeks, although I still have an issue with left-back.
“Ashley Smith-Brown has been down at Man City to have a wee op and we have been trying to get him back up to speed. I have had to just park that. If we fix that then I would feel completely comfortable.”
Levein returned to the dugout little over two months ago having been Hearts’ director of football for the previous three years. He was asked to steady the ship. “My view at that point was: If we could hang in there, we’d be okay. We’re in the top six. Okay, I’d rather have more points and I think we should have more points, without doubt. But we are where we are,” he said.
“I want confidence and points [from the upcoming run of games back at Tynecastle]. That would do me and I would be quite happy with that.
“Historically, we get more points at home than we get away from home. The new stand will make a difference as well. The atmosphere will be amazing. It really does feel more enclosed, and the noise will stay in because of the shape of the new stand. It looks brilliant.”
After a run of three successive defeats, the new stand should not be interpreted as an instant fix for Hearts. “That’s not what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen is we’re going to go back there and feel better, but that doesn’t guarantee we are going to win any games.
“We’ll feel better and our supporters will be relieved to get back to Tynecastle as well. We’ve come a long way. I was down last Friday but the other day I thought it looked good. Even the kids were down putting numbers on seats!”