If I could genuinely see the first team and the club progressing, I would be absolutely delighted.
But, as a lifelong Hearts supporter, when you don’t see that, it’s very hard to sit back and say nothing.
Probably the best summary of our situation is that we have been stagnant, at best, ever since Robbie Neilson left to join MK Dons almost three years ago.
Since that day, I haven’t seen us make any notable progress as a football team, and, based on the early evidence this season, I’m not convinced we’re about to either. Given the amount of money we’ve invested in the football team during that time, that is an alarming situation.
The way the players are being asked to play clearly isn’t getting the best out of them. We were second-best all over the park at home to a newly-promoted team in our first home league game of the season. With the budget and the squad we have, we should be beating Ross County at home with a bit to spare. Our budget, our support and our Foundation of Hearts establishment means there’s an expectation and if those expectations aren’t being met, somebody has to be answerable.
Of further concern to me, we had a situation on Saturday where we were chasing a winning goal and we sent on Euan Henderson, who has barely featured in pre-season. No disrespect to the lad, but he wasn’t even a guaranteed starter at Montrose last season. In an ideal world, I’d like to see all of our young players come through and play in the first team but sometimes you wonder if some of them are just being added to the mix in an effort to convince people that the academy is thriving.
There needs to be scrutiny on the whole football club. I’ve asked the question before, but who are the football department answerable to? I don’t see anyone being held accountable for this ongoing malaise. If I was advising the Hearts board, I’d be ensuring that they were asking serious questions of the football department in the wake of Saturday’s match, which represented a continuation of our poor form and grim playing style from last season.
Rangers and Celtic are continuing to progress and look like pulling away, so realistically we are going for third or fourth place. I accept that we won’t win every week – every team drops points. But the warning signs we saw in the Betfred Cup group phase would suggests that Saturday won’t go down as a one-off blip. We made excuses after the Betfred games, saying that it was predominantly about building up fitness and making sure we got through, which we managed to do. But it doesn’t look like the flaws which were evident in some of those games have been ironed out.
We’re only a few months into the season and already we have a critical match away to Motherwell on Friday. The way we have started the campaign has brought huge pressure on the team and the manager for a match at a very tricky venue. It must be remembered that the reason we’re away to a Premiership team is because we missed out on a seeding after making heavy weather of the group phase. It really is a must-win game if we are to give the supporters some degree of enthusiasm going forward. If we lose on Friday, I dread to think what the mood will be like.