The Hearts team have truly lost the support of the Tynecastle crowd
It was another testing evening for Hearts as fans voiced their displeasure once more
Twice in the bowels of the Main Stand of Tynecastle Park in the aftermath of the 1-1 draw with Livingston the alarm went off, indicating an emergency.
The signal was quite apt after what unfolded in EH11, and what has been unfolding for quite some time.
One hack pondered if the alarm was indication that Hearts had appointed a new manager, like white smoke billowing from the Vatican roof to indicate the election of a new Pope.
Wishful thinking, but that wasn’t the case, and going by interim boss Austin MacPhee’s post-match comments it won’t be the case for the next few days at least.
The alarm was just one of a number of unsought noises which emanated from Tynecastle on Wednesday night. It had proceeded an evening of booing and fans voicing their displeasure at the team’s performance.
Even the late equaliser to rescue a point did little to dissuade fans from greeting the full-time whistle with a brief but hearty boo.
The support made it clear that they are not naive and that they weren’t going to allow Steven MacLean’s goal to paper over the cracks. Cracks which are widening and deepening.
The club’s board, chairwoman Ann Budge and coaching staff have come in for severe criticism in recent days, weeks and months. There was even a small chant during the second half regarding the running of the club.
Yet, last night appeared to be a staging post in the connect between the players and the support.
The booing and frustration from the stands which has accompanied the team this campaign like an additional squad member has often been a message to those in the dugout and those in the directors’ box.
Against Livingston there was a real sense that the support were sending those pulling on the maroon jerseys a strong, pointed message: ‘Enough is enough. Start performing or leave’.
It was a feeling backed up back in the walk back to the car, in the pub and on message boards and social media.
While there was enough fight and dig to rescue a point, it still wasn’t good enough. The attitude, the application, the standard of play wasn’t, and hasn’t been, of the standard required at Heart of Midlothian Football Club.
Between Steven Naismith going off injured after 26 minutes and the late surge which brought about the equaliser, then nearly a winner, one of the team’s best attacking moves was a Christophe Berra run down the left-hand side, into the final third. The end result: a Livingston throw-in.
Naismith’s substitution encapsulated on-field issues at Hearts. His presence is so important to team, his exit acting as a switch. From a decent, positive start to nothing.
On the face of it, aside from Loic Damour, there were few error-strewn performances. But within that you find a glaring problem. There were actually a number of error-strewn performances. It’s just that individual and collective displays such as last night have become the norm, fans become numb to it.
Normally such portrayals at home to Livingston would largely be the exception to the rule. Instead it has got to the point where they are the rule.
Lacking inspiration and direction, attacking verve and vibrancy.
This is a group of players, with or without Steven Naismith, which should be winning home games against Livingston – just won one in six against the West Lothian side – as well as Motherwell, Hamilton and Ross County.
Since beating St Johnstone on 26 January, Hearts have won twice at home in the league, against Aberdeen and St Mirren.
Remove the influence of the manager, the system, the message and the noise which has engulfed the club, the players have to take a large slice of responsibility. It is so far from good enough that the line between good enough and not good enough is a mere dot in the distance.
There is a worthwhile debate as to whether the group of players are as good as many believe or at least expected at the start of the season. But they are surely still good enough to have picked up more points and wins than they have done.
When it comes to the connection between support and players, there is a balance to be struck in terms of who lifts and inspires who. At Tynecastle there is no connection whatsoever, no balance.
The all too often soporific displays have been sucking the energy, the voice, the life out of those paying to go week in, week out, hoping for better, hoping to be enlivened, but expecting nothing more than frustration and irritation.
For many, last night seemed the final straw.
Steven MacLean mentioned after the match that the prospective new manager will have been watching games of the club on Wyscout. Many in the dressing room will hope he has not read the views of fans.
There is no longer any hiding place for the players, no one to hide behind. It is time they step up, even with the new manager there will be little slack cut in the Tynecastle Park stands. Alarm bells should be ringing.