I AM not surprised at all by how this season is panning out for our young, inexperienced side. I wrote at the start of the season that it would be an incredible feat if Hearts could even get close to surviving and nothing that has happened since has changed my view.
I am hurting at the current predicament of my football club and I am angry at certain individuals for allowing things to get like this. But make no mistake, there are three groups of people who are totally exempt from blame for the fact we find ourselves 15 points adrift at the foot of the table: the management team, the players and the supporters. We allowed ourselves to dream of the Great Escape back in August when we were grinding out victories over Hibs and Aberdeen, but the reality of our plight is really starting to hit home now.
I hear some people questioning the manager and suggesting that a tweak in personnel, tactics and approach might yield better results. What utter nonsense. Lockey’s critics keep banging on about how the first team should be playing the same style as the Under-20s, but considering they just lost 5-0 to Aberdeen I’m not certain that’s the way we should be going. Ask anyone who has played first-team football and they will tell you that it has totally different demands to a youth team environment, so anyone who thinks these youngsters can just come into the first team and replicate their 20s form is living in cuckoo land.
When I was coming through the ranks at Hearts, I had Rangers Cup Winners’ Cup winners from Rangers helping me settle into the team; these players don’t have that level of guidance. The team, through no fault of its own, lacks the necessary experience and savvy of how to win games in the Scottish Premiership. It is basic errors that are costing us. And that is no criticism of these players. It is a part of the learning curve. These players have probably been promoted without being ready to handle the magnitude of trying to keep Hearts in the top flight.
They are trying their best and I really do feel sorry for them all because they are totally hamstrung by having been thrown in en masse and by the fact they are going into games without a recognised striker and without anyone, bar full-back Kevin McHattie, who can get to the bye-line and whip in a cross from the left. It is not Gary Locke’s fault that the squad was allowed to become so imbalanced. Long before we were hit by administration, this should have been addressed. And not just by the now-departed Lithuanians.
Anyone criticising the manager must realise that we have no superstars waiting in the wings to come off the bench and change things – only more unproven youngsters. Every player has had a decent opportunity this season and they have all done their best, but, unfortunately, we are just being shown up for what we are: the youngest, most inexperienced team in the league and the only team in the league operating without a recognised striker. Our two main rivals for relegation have Kris Boyd and Steven Thompson. We could only dream of having firepower like that. I’m being serious when I say we’d probably be better off with a 49-year-old John Robertson playing up front.
In the short term, we can only hope the team are able to overcome recent disappointments and bounce back with victory at Easter Road in the League Cup on Wednesday. Like every other game, it will be a really tall order.