Peter Haring explains how Hearts are closing in on Rangers and Celtic

Football budgets are significantly larger at Ibrox and Celtic Park than Tynecastle, something you wouldn’t necessarily learn from the current cinch Premiership table.

Friday, 10th December 2021, 10:30 pm
Hearts midfielder Peter Haring is enjoying life at Riccarton.
Hearts midfielder Peter Haring is enjoying life at Riccarton.

Newly-promoted Hearts are third, nine points behind leaders Rangers and five adrift of Celtic in second place. The gap between the Glasgow duo and their nearest challenger is closer than it often is in mid-December despite the financial gap – although Hearts have played one game more.

Rangers and Celtic both spend around £30million per year on players’ salaries, whereas Hearts’ first-team wage bill is roughly a fifth of that amount. Keeping pace with richer rivals is therefore difficult – likewise for every other Premiership side – but those from Gorgie are making a decent fist of the challenge so far this season.

They beat Celtic in Edinburgh on the opening weekend of the campaign and lost by a single disputed goal at Parkhead last week. Their only meeting with Rangers to date produced a 1-1 draw at Ibrox in October, and the champions travel to Gorgie at lunchtime tomorrow.

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“We are in December already and we're still up there with them. We have done well in the last few games against them,” said Peter Haring, the Hearts midfielder. “Also away from home, which has been very tough in recent years. We can compete with them and at Tynecastle it's always different. I think we can be quite confident going into the game.

“It's definitely a well-balanced squad here. It is the best squad we have had since I have been at Hearts. There is loads of competition for places and players trying to make it as hard as possible for the gaffer to pick the team.

“Things don't change too much if you put players in and out. The way we try to play football will always be the same. I'm excited and looking forward to Sunday, especially because it's at home. I can't wait.”

Having joined Hearts in 2018 from the Austrian second division club SV Ried, Haring has been around Tynecastle long enough to understand the meaning of fixtures against Rangers, Celtic and Hibs.

“They are special, they’re different,” he said. “Sold out Tynecastle on Sunday, playing Rangers at noon. The atmosphere is always electric, especially at home when you play the Old Firm or Hibs.

“We just have to understand that on the pitch it should be the same as any other game. We need to stick to our game plan, play our best football and then we’ll have our best chance to win the game.”

The 28-year-old is expected to return to Hearts’ staring line-up after influencing the turnaround at Livingston last week. With his team being outplayed and outfought, manager Robbie Neilson introduced Haring in place of Ben Woodburn after 29 minutes.

The visitors gradually gained a foothold in proceedings and scored the game’s only goal shortly after the break through the predatory Liam Boyce. Haring was pleased to make a difference and, in the process, stake his claim to face Rangers.

“I try to. When you see the change that early you have to change things, that’s why he brings you on. I felt when I was on the pitch we were quite comfortable. They didn’t really create much and we had loads of chances in the second half. You have to understand what he expects from you and do it.”

His commanding presence, reading of the game and composure will all be needed against a Rangers team unbeaten in five matches under new manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

The Austrian’s campaign hasn't always been so upbeat. He spent weeks out of the Hearts side sitting among the substitutes. An inactive 90 minutes was not uncommon for a player considered a mainstay at Tynecastle not too long ago. Now he is grateful for the minutes again.

"I’m old enough now to understand what it is like. It’s not the first time I have been in this situation,” explained Haring. “I know how it is, you have to get on with it and deal with it. I’m not the most complicated guy in these situations so I know I have to do my stuff right to get my chance again and take it.

It's always hard to change the team when you are getting results. The only thing you can do is train well, work hard and when you get the chance show the gaffer what you're capable of.”

A number of summer signings strengthened the competition within Neilson’s squad, not least in the midfield area. Cammy Devlin and Beni Baningime have been automatic starters due to their dominant displays. The latter is now sidelined with a knee injury.

“He [Neilson] brought the players in so he knew what he wanted,” said Haring. “We don’t have a very big squad but it’s really balanced and every player in the team deserves to start week in week out. We've been together for quite a while now so we know each other as well.

“You never know that you're going to be playing every week. That's just not the case, but you always want to compete at the highest level. Every day in training is more enjoyable if the standard is as high as it can be.

“You are at this level for a reason. If the gaffer brings new players in, you know it's going to be tough. Every sportsman wants to prove yourself and compete with the best at the highest level. That's normal.”

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