All is not necessarily lost at Hearts - but support is sick of waiting for jam tomorrow

Judging football teams after just two matches of a new league campaign is rarely recommended and often proves to be a futile exercise.

Sunday, 11th August 2019, 11:59 am
The cumulative effect of drawing with East Fife, losing to Aberdeen and yesterday's stalemate at home to Ross County - has left the Hearts support angry and demoralised

For instance, anyone looking to draw conclusions from the first two games of last term would have had Hearts down for a strong season - possibly even as title contenders - following impressive back-to-back wins over Hamilton Accies and Celtic. In the end, they finished sixth - for the second year running.

And that is largely why, rightly or wrongly, there is a clamour to form opinions on the Tynecastle side so early in the current season. Because of the underwhelming, exasperating nature of recent seasons, Hearts and their increasingly embattled manager, Craig Levein, desperately needed a strong start to the current campaign to quell the dissenters - of which there are now many - and create a positive environment for the team to operate within going forward.

The cumulative effect of the last four games - falling behind to Stenhousemuir, drawing with East Fife, losing to Aberdeen and looking totally bereft of ideas in a stalemate at home to Ross County - has left the Hearts support angry and demoralised, with any pre-season optimism quashed earlier than usual.

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Things could yet turn for the better, of course. Hearts have a strong squad on paper - arguably their best for several years - and will - surely - pick up at some point. Indeed, the last time they took only one point from their opening two games, under Robbie Neilson in 2016, they subsequently elevated themselves to second place by November before it all went haywire under Ian Cathro.

All is not necessarily lost just yet, but the problem for supporters is that, in the early days of August, it already feels that way.

Had Hearts followed up the promising signs from their defeat at Pittodrie on the opening day with a win - ideally a comprehensive one, but any victory would have done - against County, there would have been legitimate reason for optimism.

Instead, it became an excruciating afternoon at Tynecastle as the silence from the stands in the first half - which reflected the lack of spark on the pitch - gave way to sporadic periods of agitation as the game wore on, culminating in an angry outburst of sustained booing at full-time.

Despite being augmented by several promising new signings over the summer, such as Craig Halkett, Conor Washington, Jamie Walker and Loic Damour, it looks like, if this team is to ignite, it will require time to do so.

Time requires patience, which is clearly in short supply among a Hearts support who have grown weary of waiting for jam tomorrow.

Having not witnessed a victory in any of their last nine league fixtures - Aberdeen home at the end of March was the last triumph - and seen only two Premiership wins at Tynecastle this calendar year, all most supporters can envisage at this point is - at best - another mid-table finish, which would represent their fourth in succession outwith the European places.

Things don’t get much easier for Hearts in terms of trying to spark their season into life, with their next two fixtures away to Motherwell, in the Betfred Cup, on Friday and away to Celtic. Cathro was dismissed two years ago after early Betfred Cup elimination came at the end of a period of sustained malaise.

Levein will be all too aware of the need to ensure, by hook or by crook, that he can haul Hearts into the quarter-finals and ease the summer gloom threatening to engulf his team.