Why Hearts fans could be set to see more of Peter Haring as Austrian opens up on fitness, red card and Scottish accent
For Hearts fans, there have been few positives in recent weeks. The season’s end can’t come quick enough with the team staggering to the finish line as they look secure the Championship title with supporter unrest framing the backdrop.
The 0-0 draw with Dunfermline Athletic on Saturday at least put an end to the losing run with just the third clean sheet in nine games.
If you were to look beyond the disgruntlement, there were positives to be found at East End Park. Craig Gordon displayed why he is Steve Clarke’s best option for the national team and Hearts’ most valuable star. Shay Logan had a solid debut. Then there was the effective performance of Peter Haring in the middle of the park.
If fans have found the season trying, spare a thought for the Austrian.
Having missed the entirety of the 2019/20 campaign, this campaign was always likely to test the 27-year-old.
For supporters, they were desperate to see the 2018/19 Haring in full swing. A player whose absence was missed significantly as the team finished bottom of the Premiership.
That hasn’t quite transpired, but on Saturday there were signs of the Haring of old, even if he admitted it was “tough".
He won the ball back, intercepted and passed confidently.
Across the 90 minutes, only Craig Halkett won more duels and recovered the ball more, while no one passed the ball more accurately, especially going forward.
“Obviously I am happy to start a game again in three months or so,” Haring told the Evening News.
"It was good to be on the park but overall the game was pretty scrappy. I think you could tell that both teams lacked a bit of confidence at the moment because of previous results.
"It wasn’t really a free-flowing game but for me it was good to be on the pitch again and get 90 minutes in the legs.”
Getting on the pitch has been an issue for Haring. He’s played 17 times this season but Saturday was only the fifth time from the start in the league. It was the first since an admittedly below par 45 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Dundee at the start of the season.
“That’s not my standard, the standard I demand from myself,” he said at the time.
It wasn't. While standards may have fallen across the board, there is an expectation of Haring. The feeling that the team are better when he plays. Across his time at Tynecastle, Hearts have won 56.6 per cent of the games he’s played, compared to 36.19 of those he hasn’t.
But he has had to contend with a substitute role.
"I definitely feel fully fit,” he confirmed.
"It took me a while to be ready to go again but I’ve felt pretty good over the last few months really. I’ve just had to be patient to get my chance again.
"When the team is winning and you are sitting in the stand it’s good because the team is winning and we want to get promoted. But from a personal point of view you know it is going to be harder to get back into the team. It’s just how things are in football.
"Game-time is just the most important thing especially when you get back from a long-term injury. If you don’t get it you will never be back where you’ve been.
"I was happy to play all the bounce games in the last few weeks, even more happy to play again [against Dunfermline].”
He added: “Very frustrating [not playing].
"There’s only one thing you want to do as a professional football player and that’s being on the park at the weekend and playing the games.
"When the team is winning there is not really much you can do. You just need to get your head right.
"I wanted that [to play] since I’m back but it didn’t work out that way personally.
"I hope I get a chance next week again but the most important thing is to get the league wrapped up as soon as we can.”
Haring was also hampered by a recent red card against Dundee, not his favourite opponent this season.
It was hard not to feel sympathy for the midfielder. An eagerness to win the ball moments after being brought on saw him foul Declan McDaid before thumping the tunnel after he exited.
He said: "The stupid red card against Dundee …
“When things don’t go your way that’s what happens. Stupidity from myself and obviously unlucky as well.
"In those situations when you come on late then that happens, it is the worst thing you can do to your team. It was a real frustrating moment.
"After a few days it was done.”
In the build-up to Saturday’s match Robbie Neilson spoke of the need for more vocal players on the pitch. That’s what he got with Haring who was constantly speaking throughout, communicating with Andy Irving and organising.
It was also easy to pick up the Scottish twang which has sneaked into his accent with the player admitting “awrite” is his favourite slang word to say.
“I don’t go into the game and think ‘I need to talk’,” he said. “It’s just my nature.
"Obviously when you talk a lot and you be positive and help your team-mates that’s just good. If you can lead that way it’s a positive thing. That’s just how I am on the pitch.
"It’s not always right what you say but as long as you’re positive, keep pushing your team-mates and you’re just trying to help. Everyone needs to talk as much as they can."
He added: “I come into training and try to pick up as many slang words as I can. When you walk in somewhere and everyone is like ‘awrite’.”