Recalling Hearts’ flying start when they last returned to the Scottish Premiership

Expectation ramping up as the first season back in the Scottish Premiership draws closer will be a familiar feeling for Hearts supporters - because they experienced it all just six years ago.

Saturday, 19th June 2021, 12:00 pm
Hearts players surround Juanma Delgado after scoring against St Johnstone on the opening day of the 2015/16 Scottish Premiership season.
Hearts players surround Juanma Delgado after scoring against St Johnstone on the opening day of the 2015/16 Scottish Premiership season.

A side led by Robbie Neilson started life back among the elite after winning the Scottish Championship at a canter. The maroon half of Edinburgh will also be hoping things get underway in the exact same manner they did back then, though with matches against Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibs in their opening few games, asking for a 100 per cent record from the first five matches might be a little too much.

Buoyed by such an unexpectedly dominant season in a second tier including both Hibs and Rangers, there was a real air of expectation going into 2015/16 and the players, at least initially, did not disappoint.

With the exception of captain Danny Wilson the heroes of the title-winning season had been retained, while there were new and exciting faces from abroad to improve the squad: including defenders Blazej Augustyn and Igor Rossi, and Spanish striker Juanma.

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Things got off to a rip-roaring start with a 4-3 victory over St Johnstone on the opening day. Juanma opened the scoring on his debut, while goals from Jamie Walker and Callum Paterson had Hearts in a seemingly comfortable 3-1 lead with just 15 minutes remaining. But Saints struck twice in five minutes, meaning Neilson’s men had to be thankful for the scoring touch of Sam Nicholson to earn them the three points.

From there they showed their mental toughness again, fighting back from an early deficit to beat Dundee 2-1 at Dens Park thanks to a Juanma double, before easing past Motherwell in a midweek game at Tynecastle where fans got to see their first sight of Juwon Oshaniwa. The Nigerian arrived with great pedigree having played against Lionel Messi at the World Cup but, as everyone should know by now, any lengthy transfer saga is going to result in the player being a massive disappointment, and that was certainly the case with Oshaniwa.

Two goals in the opening 15 minutes from Alim Ozturk and Osman Sow proved to be enough for victory against Ross County in the Highlands before Partick Thistle became the latest side to lose in Gorgie, going down 3-0.

Five matches played, fifteen points and 13 goals scored. On August 29 they went to Hamilton looking to stretch this run and led with under 15 minutes to go. It really started to feel like this was a special group who could put in a serious challenge at the top of the table. However, Callum Paterson was harshly sent off, Accies scored twice late on and the house of cards came tumbling down from there.

Having won five on the bounce, Hearts then failed to win any of their next five in the league, including a loss at Inverness where Oshaniwa was sent off for punching an opponent.

The ship would eventually be righted and would easily glide into third place in the table, but the spark, the magic, the swagger of those opening five fixtures failed to materialise again. The current squad will do very well for themselves next term if they can recreate some of that spark.

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