Hearts: 'Spicy' opener against Celtic in positive fixture list - but 21 game winless run in Paisley and Perth key
Fixture release date is a key moment in the football calendar. Not only do clubs in the newly-named cinch Premiership find out when they will play the other 11 three times, it marks the point where the coming campaign becomes this season after a period of awkwardness.
For Hearts fans it takes on even more significance as they are no longer a Championship club after winning the league and returning to the top-flight at the first season of asking.
In turn, they have been welcomed back with a real spicy encounter. Not only do Robbie Neilson’s men welcome Celtic to Tynecastle but they do so on a Saturday at 8pm in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
There is every likelihood it will be the first time supporters are back at the ground for a league match since a disappointing 1-1 draw with Motherwell back in March 2020. In addition, it wouldn’t be a surprise if there were no away fans in attendance with a reduced capacity an expectation.
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It should be a hugely exciting prospect for both fans and players, especially with Celtic in a period of substantial transition. They will have a new man in Ange Postecoglou in the dugout overseeing a potentially much-changed side who have not experienced a raucous Tynecastle.
Even if the stadium was to be a half or quarter full, such will be the excitement of such a massive game to begin the league campaign, the atmosphere will be electric, aided by the later kick-off.
In the main, there should be little to fear about the opening round of fixtures for the Championship winners.
There are five home matches in the first eight games, while Hearts need to only travel to two of last season’s top six, with Aberdeen, Livingston and Hibs all joining Celtic in visiting Gorgie before the end of September.
Again, with potentially no away fans, that could hand the Jam Tarts an advantage.
It is hoped that come January 2, 2022, when Hearts travel to Easter Road, grounds will be back to full capacity, making it a festive cracker.
Away record improvement
Regarding away matches, supporters expect the form to be much better than in many of the club's recent seasons in the top-flight. Last campaign, the team dropped points at Dunfermline, Queen of the South, Inverness CT and Arbroath.
In the second fixture of the campaign they will get a good chance to lay down a marker – and some revenge – when they travel to St Mirren. The team haven't won a league game in Paisley since 2010 when David Templeton and Kevin Kyle scored – a run of eight games.
Then a Wednesday evening trip to Perth to face double winners St Johnstone in October screams ‘poor performance in a 1-0 defeat’.
If you thought the club's record in Paisley was bad. It doesn’t match the 13 game winless run in the league at McDiarmid Park.
These are the matches on the fixture list, while not the most glamorous, are the ones which should be earmarked for improvement.
Come the final pre-split encounter – a derby at home to Hibs – they will likely have proved key in helping the team ensure a top six place as a bare minimum.