Hearts fans rate Championship-winning season out of 5 as they have say on protests, Brora defeat and cautious Premiership return
Normally, a winning league campaign breeds confidence. For Hearts fans, that hasn’t quite been the case.
Supporters of the Jam Tarts seem unsure on what to expect on their return to the Premiership.
It follows an unusual campaign where Robbie Neilson led the team to the Championship title, winning the league by 12 points – an impressive gap considering there were only 27 games.
Despite the high of beating Hibs in the rearranged Scottish Cup semi-final, it was matched by the low of defeat to Brora Rangers in the same competition.
These contrasts have led to mixed feelings about the season just past and the one on the horizon.
That is reflected in the Evening News' Big Hearts Survey, looking back at the 2020/21 campaign and ahead to 2021/22.
Starting with the Championship-winning campaign, nearly 48.1 per cent of respondents gave the season a score of two out of five, labelling it ‘disappointing – could have been better’. The other popular answer was ‘good – we did what was required’ with 42.4 per cent giving the season a three out of five.
Manager Robbie Neilson often said that getting back to the Premiership was the "objective” and it was achieved comfortably despite dropped points against the likes of Queen of the South, Greenock Morton and Arbroath.
Due to the size of the club and budget, expectations were high with 64.9 per cent believing a league win and good cup runs were required.
Hearts, of course, went out of the Betfred Cup to Alloa Athletic and Scottish Cup to Brora. More than 77 per cent labelled the latter the worst result in the club's history.
It prompted protests against Neilson and Ann Budge at the home game against Queen of the South. Fewer than 25 per cent believed it was the right thing to do. However, 34.3 per cent reckoned the message was right but the delivery was wrong. Another 32.9 per cent understood the protests but didn’t agree with them.
At one point in the campaign the noise around Neilson's position as Hearts boss was as loud and constant.
Looking back at the campaign, more than 58 per cent think the manager under-achieved, while 40.7 per cent rated his performance back in the hot seat as doing what was expected.
Supporters did agree with their manager with regards to the lack of fans.
Neilson talked about the impact a packed Tynecastle has and the intensity it creates, while putting extra demands on the players.
Of the respondents, 42.5 per cent reckoned behind closed doors game negatively affected performances with a further 31.9 per cent of the opinion the team would have won the league more comfortably in front of supporters.
Fans will be back in Tynecastle with 48.4 per cent planning on buying a season ticket. Of the remaining 51.6 per cent, they are split between no and undecided.
Supporters haven’t quite caught the Premiership bug. Rating their optimism out of ten, 23.4 per cent said six, 22.3 per cent chose seven ad 19.4 per cent a five.
With the current squad, 46.8 per cent of respondents would expected a top six finish. Only 6.6 per cent would be confident of a place in the top four, while 37.6 per cent reckon the team would finish in the bottom six.