Majority of Hearts fans believe their club will finish above Hibs this season

The majority of Hearts fans believe the club will finish ahead of Hibs this season.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 7:00 am
Hearts and Hibs played out a 0-0 draw at Tynecastle recently. Picture: SNS

The two sides are locked on 11 points after five games in the 2021/22 cinch Premiership following Sunday’s stalemate at Tynecastle in the first Edinburgh derby of the campaign.

Though a disappointing result for the home side, supporters are still optimistic their heroes will better Jack Ross’ men when it’s all said and done.

In a survey conducted by the Evening News, 60.1 per cent of Hearts fans polled believe Robbie Neilson’s side will finish the campaign above their arch-rivals. Only 7.4 per cent said they didn’t believe it would happen, with 31.7 per cent describing the situation as ‘too close to call’.

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Last season Hibs finished in third place, often labelled ‘best of the rest’ in Scottish football, for the first time since Tony Mowbray’s beloved side of the mid-noughties, which bettered Hearts and Aberdeen in the 04/05 campaign.

The Easter Road side managed to hold on to their key talents this summer despite serious interest from elsewhere, including leading striker Kevin Nisbet and highly-rated teenager left-back Josh Doig. They even managed to keep in-demand attacker Martin Boyle with the Aberdonian Australian international signing a new and improved contract.

Despite this, only 50 per cent of Hibs fans believed their side would finish ahead of their Edinburgh rivals.

The optimism in the appears to be fuelled by the satisfaction the maroon half of the capital have taken from the club’s summer transfer business. As well as getting winger Josh Ginnelly and back-up goalkeeper Ross Stewart tied down to permanent deals following loan spells last term, they were also able to add Beni Baningime, Cammy Devlin, Alex Cochrane, Taylor Moore, Barrie McKay and Ben Woodburn.

Baningime, in particular, has been a sensation in the middle of the park and put in another man-of-the-match calibre performance in the recent draw with Hibs 0-0, while Woodburn stood out as the home side’s most creative outlet in what was only his second start since joining the club on loan from Liverpool.

Cochrane has been solid as a rock either at left-sided centre-back or left wing-back, while Moore has dutifully filled in at different positions across the back five in two substitute appearances since moving on loan from Bristol City.

There’s a lot of hype around Devlin, who fits the Baningime role as a combative midfielder, while McKay joined following the conclusion of the summer window as a free agent and looked lively in his cameo against Hibs.

Just under half of Hearts fans polled described themselves as “very happy” with the transfer business conducted this summer, while 39.4 per cent said they were “happy” with the additions brought in. Another 7.8 per cent described themselves as “content”.

When quizzed on which player would have the biggest impact, the overwhelming majority pointed to Baningime, who signed from Everton on a three-year deal. He received a whopping 70.6 per cent from a supporter’s base which is clearly already smitten with his ability in the centre of the park.

The rest were all fairly close with Woodburn finishing second with 8.4 per cent of the vote, while Ginnelly finished in third (6.2). It thereby followed: McKay (5.5), Devlin (5.1), Cochrane (3.3), Moore (0.6) and Stewart (0.2).

One area of concern is at the striker’s position. Sporting director Joe Savage tried to get a deal over the line before the end of the window but was unsuccessful in doing so, leaving last season’s top goalscorer Liam Boyce and former Blackpool forward Armand Gnanduillet as the only recognised strikers at the club, especially in the wake of Euan Henderson’s departure to Alloa Athletic on loan.

Just over 70 per cent of fans believed this was the area of the team which needed strengthening the most, as 67.2 per cent said they didn’t believe Boyce and Gnanduillet would score enough goals between them.

Another area of concern was the full-back position, with 27.8 per cent stating it as their preferred area to strengthen. Hearts have played almost exclusively with wing-backs this term but Neilson has tended to opt for a traditional full-back, such as Michael Smith or Alex Cochrane, in the role. With youngster Cammy Logan still struggling to get back to fitness following summer injury troubles, and Michael Smith recently celebrating his 33rd birthday, there is a concern the team will be left short on the right-side of midfield.

Of the other positions, 21.9 per cent wanted further depth at centre-back, 12.7 at goalkeeper, 6.5 for central midfield and 4.1 for another winger. Just 7.8 per cent thought the squad was strong enough.

With the loan market still open throughout September, 63.8 per cent felt it would be more beneficial to impressive teenager Finlay Pollock to go out and gain regular first-team experience.

The vast majority believed transfer flop Loic Damour had run out of opportunities in Gorgie and was deservedly shipped out on loan, as only 7.9 per cent felt he deserved another chance.

Only nine per cent of fans reckoned it was beyond Hearts to win the Scottish Cup this campaign, as 49.5 per cent felt they had the quality to do so with another 41.5 per cent opting for the fence-sitting option of “it depends on the draw”.

Finally, 39.6 per cent were confident enough to predict a top three finish for Hearts in their first season back in the cinch Premiership, while 53.6 per cent went for the safer option of a top six finish. Just 3.9 per cent were brave enough to call them title contenders despite the unbeaten start to the campaign.

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