Sunday, 26 February 2012

Heart of Midlothian 0 Dundee United 2

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 25 February 2012 - Tynecastle

Another Saturday. Another pitiful performance from Hearts. Without the influential Andy Webster and David Templeton, Hearts struggled on a cold Saturday afternoon against a Dundee United side on top form at the moment.

True, the home side were further hampered when Ian Black had to leave the field injured five minutes from half time and Marius Zaliukas didn't appear for the second half after also picking up an injury. But, for all their possession, Hearts fell apart when it came to the final third of the field.

Jon Daly gave United the lead just before the break when he headed home Anderson's free-kick - Danny Grainger seemed beaten rather easily - and when Hearts Stephen Elliott had his effort blocked off the line by former Hearts hero Robbie Neilson, one just felt this wasn't Hearts day. A feeling confirmed five minutes from the end when Gunning headed home to seal the points for the Terrors - and result in a mass exodus from the home support (yours truly included)

Striker Craig Beattie was introduced to the crowd at half time - Hearts badly need a presence up front. I wonder how John Sutton is doing down under...?

Top man: Mehdi Taouil

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Time and a Place

Regular readers of this blog - both of you - may have formed the impression I am something of a traditionalist. I celebrate - if that’s the word - my half-century on Sunday and I’m of the age of looking back to the days of Drew Busby, Donald Ford and the culture of the terracing with more than a degree of fondness. Football is a lot different now to when I was growing up as a child of the 1970s with commercialism and television taking the game from its working class roots and placing it in the hands of the rich. The big games are now played on a Saturday lunch time or evening or Sunday. I always found a small crumb of comfort when I looked at the Scottish Cup - at least the cup final would always be on a Saturday with that traditional kick off time of 3.00pm. However, even that small morsel was taken away last month when the Scottish Football Association announced that, from 2013, the Scottish Cup Final would be played on a Sunday.

My understanding is this is to comply with rules that prohibit any television conflict with the UEFA Champions League final - which, next year, will be held at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 25 May. I understand it - but I certainly don’t agree with it. Two of the greatest days of my half century were 16 May 1998 and 13 May 2006. No Hearts fan needs reminding their team lifted the Scottish Cup on those dates, defeating Rangers at Celtic Park in 1998 and Gretna at Hampden in 2006 - both glorious Saturdays. We headed back to Auld Reekie on the Saturday evenings on both occasions to find Scotland’s capital city thronging with celebrating Hearts supporters. In particular, 1998 is the year that tugs at the heartstrings. The Maroons had gone 36 long years without winning a trophy and, having come agonisingly close on a couple of occasions, we Hearts fans of long standing didn’t really know what to expect when the day of glory finally arrived. My friends and I didn’t get back to Edinburgh until close to eight o’clock on that Saturday evening nearly 14 years ago (14 years already - who would have thought it?) This was partly due to the fact we went through on a supporters’ bus, the driver of which was a Rangers fan - and he didn’t wait overly long after the final whistle to wait for celebrating Hearts fans. He headed back to Edinburgh with a half-empty bus - leaving those of us behind to take the train back. When we alighted at Haymarket Station, we couldn’t believe our eyes - there were thousands of Hearts fans on the streets waiting for their returning heroes. We did which comes naturally - we headed to the pub. The rest of the evening is a blur…

In 2006, Hearts were expected to win the final against Second Division Gretna - and we all know what happens when Hearts are expected to win something. The Gorgie Boys required a penalty shoot out to lift the famous old trophy for the second time in eight years but this didn’t dampen our fervour and yearning for another party in the footballing half of Edinburgh. These weekends will live forever in the memory of those who were there. The football suits at UEFA now want to impinge on that celebration by having the Scottish Cup Final moved to a Sunday.

Now, there’s little doubt that if Hearts get to the final in 2013, the majority of us will take the Monday off work - just in case the old trophy is brought back to Gorgie Road again. However, that’s not the point in my view. Saturday is football day. We have become accustomed to big games being switched to Sundays, Mondays and even Friday nights. Saturday lunch times are okay but the politicians are no doubt mortified by the prospect of football fans heading to the pub after a game at around 2.30 on a Saturday afternoon and staying there until closing time…But - Saturday is cup final day. Three o’clock on a Saturday. And I mean the cup final, not the other, lesser competition that has been won a couple of times by Edinburgh’s wee team.

Dundee United and Hearts were the last clubs outside the Old Firm to win the Scottish Cup and fans of both teams will treasure their memories forever. There’s a time and a place for the Scottish Cup Final. Call me an old stick-in-the-mud but should Hearts win the cup again, a little of the sparkle may be lost on a Sunday afternoon…

Twitter @Mike1874

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Heart of Midlothian 0 Celtic 4

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Wednesday 8 February 2012 - Tynecastle

Another visit to Tynecastle from Celtic. Another night of controversy. The photo above shows Stephen Elliot giving Hearts the lead after just two minutes. Well, they would have done had referee Willie Collum and his hapless assistants had any clue about what they were meant to be doing. They didn't think the ball had crossed the line. Seconds later, Scott Brown opens the scoring at the other end. Hearts fall apart and Celtic coast to an easy win.

Hearts were second best in every department and Celtic thoroughly deserved their win. But, yet again, the atmosphere at a Hearts-Celtic game was poisonous. Hatred seems to have taken over and the sectarian bile spewing out from the away end and, it has to be said, from some of the home support is quite frankly disgraceful. When will it end? Who knows...

Top man: Sadly, not one Hearts player passed muster tonight...