Stand-in Hearts captain Peter Haring today condemned Wednesday’s scenes against Hibs as “disgusting” and admitted he fears future Edinburgh derbies could be played behind closed doors.
The Austrian took the armband after injuries to several colleagues for a game overshadowed by fan disruption the likes of which he has never seen in his career.
The Hearts goalkeeper Zdenek Zlamal was hit by a Hibs fan while trying to retrieve the ball and Hibs manager Neil Lennon was struck by a coin thrown from the home support. Zlamal’s incident came less than two weeks after an Aberdeen supporter threw a microphone at Jimmy Dunne at the same end of the ground.
Haring stressed such acts have no place in football and expressed concern that if they aren’t stamped out it could eventually mean supporters being locked out of matches.
“No-one wants to lose the atmosphere,” said Haring. “Everyone who comes to Tynecastle for the first time, people who are from Austria come here, and they love it. It’s something really special that you’re close to the pitch.
“That’s how it should be and why we have that atmosphere in our stadium. Everyone loves it. The players on the pitch, the supporters in the stands, everyone.
“But if things like that happen, what happened to Jimmy Dunne against Aberdeen, what happened to Bobby [Zlamal], they’ll put supporters behind anything.
“I realised what happened during the game. I just saw Bobby lying on the floor. I was thinking: ‘What’s going on?’ He stood up and he looked alright. Those things shouldn’t happen. That’s disgusting and it’s not football. I think the atmosphere here in the Edinburgh derby is really, really special but things like this shouldn’t happen in a football stadium.”
Haring pointed out that the image of football, not only in Scotland, suffered as a result of Wednesday night’s violence. “It is bad for the image of football, not only for Scottish football,” he continued. “Things like this happen again and again and again, not only in Scotland.
“The same thing happened in Austria like three or four months ago. There was a linesman hit by a coin. What can you do against people throwing a coin? You can’t say: ‘Now you’re not allowed to throw coins in the stadium.’ So what can you do?’
“Things like this happen in a derby quite often. I don’t know why. I don’t know what people are thinking when they do this. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper getting punched by a fan or throwing a coin at people. No-one wants to see it.
“The atmosphere was great and our fans are great but even if there’s just one or two people who behave wrong, that’s enough. I think it’s not the main crowd who are behaving wrong. Most of the time it’s just a handful of people, especially here in the UK. The SPFL – I don’t know does it – but they are doing a good job sorting people out.”
Haring played as a striker in Wednesday’s match with Steven Naismth and Uche Ikpeazu injured and Steven MacLean suspended. He was surprised to be given the role.
“It was funny because I came here as a centre back,” smirked the 25-year-old. “Even the move to central midfield was a little bit surprising. The manager told me in the morning what he was thinking and I said: ‘If that’s where you need me the most then I’m going to give my everything.’
“That’s what I did. It felt a little bit weird on the pitch because I felt in the wrong place sometimes because I obviously was.”
He reported feeling improvement in his hernia injury and is unsure when or indeed if it will require surgery. Hearts hope to nurse him through to January before any operation. “I don’t know if I am [going for an operation]. Things are going well now, I feel good and it’s getting better,” said Haring.
“We’ll see how it feels after the next games and the international break. It wasn’t good on Sunday but got much better over the last couple of days so I feel ready to play. If I’m ready to play I won’t need to do that.”