John Souttar has warned Hearts’ new signings they will be taken aback playing Celtic inside a full-capacity Tynecastle Park.
The Premiership champions visit today for Gorgie’s first high-profile fixture of the new campaign and Souttar has told new team-mates to be prepared for a raucous atmosphere.
Hearts have played Cove Rangers, Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hamilton Academical since competitive matches began in the Betfred Cup last month. None of those encounters will prepare manager Craig Levein’s 13 summer signings for this afternoon’s televised home match with Celtic.
“I think they will be in a for a wee shock,” said Souttar. “Once the game starts it can often pass you by but you have just got to enjoy it. It is why you become a footballer, to play at Tynecastle, on a Saturday against Celtic. There is nothing better.
“I think just to play at Tynecastle, in front of a full house, I think that’s what they are looking forward to. When you sign for Hearts you hear all about the Tynecastle atmosphere and that is what you look forward to.
“That’s what the guys will be thinking. They will be thinking that they have done the hard work of going to Hamilton, and then played the early cup games where there wasn’t much of a crowd, so they will be looking forward to playing in front of a full Tynecastle.”
Souttar’s best memory of such an intense fixture came in November 2016 when Hearts beat Rangers 2-0 at home. It was the final match in charge for then-head coach Robbie Neilson as he headed south to join MK Dons.
“The biggest atmosphere was probably the Rangers game, at night, just before Robbie Neilson left. Robbie Muirhead scored two,” recalled the 21-year-old.
“I remember I came on at half-time and the game just flew by. It was the first time I thought ‘wow’. The noise of the fans just dragged us through that game. That is the impact this crowd can have and the atmosphere at Tynecastle can help drag us through games.
“I think it just gives everyone an extra boost when you hear the crowd. Once they get behind the team and we are all together, it is difficult for any team to stop us. You saw that in that 4-0 game against Celtic last year, once the first goal went in the place was absolutely bouncing.”