Hearts reached their lowest moment since administration against Hibs - and there's no sign of it getting better
Hearts find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table with no sign of progress
19 June, 2013. The darkest day in the history of Heart of Midlothian. The day when the club officially entered administration.
Hearts were on the brink with debts of £25million, eight years on from Vladimir Romanov purchasing a controlling stake in the Tynecastle side in 2005. Accountancy firm BDO encountered a club which hadn't been plundered but one which had been left unloved and heading to a place no football fan wants to see their club.
Fast forward to the present day and Hearts are bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership, staring at a relegation right in the face. It's akin to a nightmare where you are falling, yet can do nothing but watch on in horror. As of 2.20pm on Boxing Day, the club had slumped to its lowest point in six-and-a-half years.
The situation was grave when fans woke on derby day. There was only one thing which could have made it worse: defeat.
Forty-five of the most insipid minutes resulted in Hibs taking a commanding two-goal lead. As soon as Scott Allan dispossessed a dawdling Loic Damour to send Martin Boyle away from the plodding pairing of Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett to score, there were legitimate fears that it would be a thumping.
Hearts had already showed their altruistic qualities against Hamilton and St Johnstone. Down on your luck and in need of three points? Don't worry, we have you covered. Still, despite the horrible run, the lack of confidence, the angst-ridden squad, the derby seemed to be the perfect fixture. Some amongst the Hibs support had seen this show before. A struggling Hearts side who themselves require a pick-me-up.
Instead of acting as that transformative match, the one which would ease the pressure and get fans back on their side, it only amplified the despair, the anger, the unease. In the eyes of many, it confirmed their relegation concerns, that this squad of players is more than capable of sending the club down to the second tier.
The sombre nature of the build-up around a quieter than normal Gorgie on the walk to the ground was swapped for fury and indignation come full-time.
It is hard to remember a Hearts squad that has been disliked more than the one put together over a number of transfer windows by Craig Levein. Players who have performed previously in a maroon jersey, internationalists, experienced individuals ... they have all come and supporters just want the majority of them gone.
When asked by the press after the match how many players he required in January, manager Daniel Stendel smiled wryly. It said a whole lot about his view of the squad at his disposal and the club in general. Yes, the team should have done better in his four games so far, but it is hard to feel anything but sympathy for the German. This is a man who, within a few weeks, appears to have worn down by the calamity around him.
At Tynecastle on Thursday, you saw Hibs boss Jack Ross turn to his bench to speak with his No.2 John Potter. Conversely, Stendel turns and he has no familiar faces. No one who knows his style, or him.
While he has to take an iota of responsibility for the recent run, this demise isn't his fault. It is far from it.
The Chinese have a saying that defeat should be celebrated because you are being educated by your opponent. Hearts fans have all the knowledge there is, and all roads lead to the club's leadership.
'George Burley moment'
Owner Ann Budge has admitted her mistake of allowing Craig Levein to continue in the summer, to have another shot at putting together a squad. This admission - and the fantastic work done in yanking the club up from near-oblivion five years ago - doesn't absolve her from criticism.
The decision to back Levein in the summer is her "George Burley moment". However, it is on course to be far more destructive than when Romanov sacked the club's manager with the team sitting top of the league in 2005.
The aftermath of the Scottish Cup final in May appeared the perfect time to part ways, which would allow a manager to have a full pre-season with a group of players. But all the signs, made clear week after week by a growing number of the club's suffering supporters, were ignored.
You line up the squad built by Levein two things stand out: 1. Bloody hell, there are a lot of players. 2. What exactly was he trying to do in terms of system and style?
Stendel has essentially walked into a new flat he has rented only to find radiators on the roof, a freezer-fridge rather than a fridge-freezer, no hot water and a bean bag for a bed. The previous occupant had been given carte blanche by the landlord and spent a small fortune on Porcelain Safari.
Yet Levein - along with others who will forever be synonymous with failure in the eyes of many fans - has a continued position at the club, with reports he and Austin MacPhee will play key roles in the January transfer market.
It doesn't make any sense at a time when the club should really be making a break from the old, especially those who have had such a negative influence in the transfer market. Scottish football's supermarket sweep. To highlight such an issue, since Levein came back as director of football in 2014, there have been 26 (TWENTY SIX) players to have played left-back for the club.
Something really isn't right here.
It is hard to remember a time of such despondency with regards to on-field matters. The relegation side of 2013/2014 were handicapped and went down with a fight, showing spirit. The class of 2019/2020 are meekly heading in the same direction, showing nothing but indifference.
As Hearts fans trudged away following referee Don Robertson's final whistle, Frightened Rabbit played over the tannoy. A lyric from one of their songs encapsulates the way many fans felt and continue to feel about a club they nearly lost six years ago.
"I need a black suit for tomorrow, I'm in mourning."