Monday, 30 December 2013

Creature of Habit

My fiancĂ©e, the lovely Marion, remarked the other day that I was something of a creature of habit. I wasn’t entirely surprised by her less than complimentary comment as Saturday has always meant going to the Hearts game, something my first wife was only too keen to point out to anyone who would listen. Even when my two daughters were born, this didn’t change. Marion qualified her statement somewhat by opining that as Hearts weren’t playing last Saturday I was something like a fish out of water. However, it got me thinking about how predictable I’ve become by maintaining the ritual that is following the Hearts. For instance, here’s my schedule for a typical game at Tynecastle:

12.30      Arrive at The Station Tavern, Gorgie Road. Barmaid sees me arrive and instantly begins to pour a pint of foaming ale.

13.30      Three pints in and already there’s the first reference to how no one can lace Rab Prentice’s boots.

14.45   Leave the pub in a much more expectant mood than two hours previously.

14.50      Negotiate the steps up the Wheatfield Stand, trying to evade a middle aged woman bawling ‘Half Time Draw Tickets’ at the top of her voice. I get enough of women bawling at me…

15.00       Game kicks off with the last strains of Hector Nicol fading away.

15.05      First shout from the crowd urging the referee to go forth and multiply.

15.07      First comparison of said referee to famous biblical figure as in ‘Jesus Christ, ref!’

15.20      Callum Paterson’s attempt on goal likened to the contents of the overflowing urinal in the downstairs gents.

15.21      Member of Masonic Lodge of dubious parentage wearing luminous yellow shirt and struggling to keep up with play is identified as a Mr Collum…

15.40      Mass exodus of fans head for the toilet, pie, hot dog or any combination of the three in a usually failed attempt to beat the queues.

15.45      Half-time arrives – it’s generally agreed that football isn’t what it used to be as auld Bill and I remember our ‘heroes’ from a bygone age – in truth, these were players we used to hurl abuse at thirty and forty years ago.

15.55    Several hundred crumpled pieces of paper are collectively tossed into the air as the winning ticket for the half time draw is announced. My mate gets within ten thousand of the winning number. He’s rather sceptical as less than five thousand tickets were sold….

16.00    Second half kicks off to loud cheers – stadium announcer par excellence Scott Wilson announces that Hibs are two goals down at half-time.

16.02    The vast majority of those who sit in our section of the Wheatfield Stand return to their seats.

16.20      I remark that this game is tedious and has goalless draw written all over it. The forwards haven’t got a clue and Ryan Stevenson has done absolutely nothing of any significance. I make my view known that Mr Stevenson might well have sat next to us in the stand.

16.21      Ryan Stevenson scores a wonder goal from twenty-five yards after beating three men on the edge of the penalty box. I always knew he was liable to score a goal out of nothing. I make my view known that Stevenson is a valuable member of the team…

16.35   The part-time Hearts fans head for the exits. The fiftysomethings mutter something about having to pick up the wife from the Gyle Shopping Centre while those with kids argue their case for getting home in time to watch Ant and Dec…

16.40 Obligatory ‘how long is there to go’ question – particularly prevalent if Hearts are leading by a single goal.

16.45   The referee blows for full-time right on cue – unless the fourth official is Mr Brines who always adds three minutes of additional time (check this the next time he officiates at your team’s game) Hearts have scraped a victory and all’s well with the world. We join the cue for the exits.

17.02 We finally snake our way down the steps of the stand and head for The Station Tavern. The general consensus of opinion is that the game was rubbish, Hearts were rubbish and there must be better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

See you next week then!

Happy New Year, readers…

St. Mirren 1 Heart of Midlothian 1

SPFL, Sunday 29 December 2013 – New St. Mirren Park

It’s become something of a habit while compiling match reports on Hearts games for the Edinburgh Reporter this season to convey the feelings of doom and gloom usually associated with what seems like recurring defeat. So it makes a pleasant change to report on Hearts not succumbing to a reversal in Paisley on Sunday, albeit they had to contend with one point rather than the very much needed three following a hard-fought 1-1 draw in Paisley.

After Boxing Day’s hapless performance against Kilmarnock, Hearts boss Gary Locke brought back Scott Robinson while there was an unexpected but very much welcome return for the experienced Ryan Stevenson who had been injured for the last three weeks. Locke made a few positional changes too, most notably with Jamie Hamill playing in midfield beside Callum Paterson.

If the changes in the Hearts line up were designed to produce a change in fortune such hopes were in tatters after just three minutes when St. Mirren took the lead. Former Hearts hero Danny Grainger crossed for Thompson to stab the ball home from just three yards out and it looked like another bad day at the office for the Maroons was on the cards.

It was Thompson who almost set up the Paisley Saints second goal when he fed Naismith whose effort was superbly saved by Hearts keeper Jamie MacDonald. Hearts came close themselves after 22 minutes when, from a free-kick, Jamie Hamill set up young Jamie Walker but the winger’s effort went just wide. At the interval Hearts remained a goal down but there was no doubt their first half performance was an improvement on Thursday’s debacle at Tynecastle.

Suitably encouraged, Hearts began the second half and equalised in the xx minute. The home side looked to clear their lines from a Hearts attack but the ball fell to Jamie Hamill 25 yards from goal. The former Kilmarnock defender took it first time with his right foot and volleyed the ball into the net past former Hearts keeper Marian Kello for the equaliser. It was Hearts first goal in four games and brought rapturous applause from the visiting support.

The ever-dangerous Thompson then came close to putting the Buddies back in front before Scott Robinson tried to emulate Hamill but his effort from 30 yards looked destined for Paisley’s High Street. Jamie Walker then embarked on a mazy run but his effort on goal was wide of the target. After Ryan Stevenson came close with an ambitious overhead kick, Callum Paterson thought he had sealed a rare Hearts victory with a close range effort only to see Kello produce the kind of stupendous save that marked his all too brief career at Tynecastle.

In the end, Hearts had to settle for one point rather than three and, on the balance of play over 90 minutes, this was probably a fair result. Hearts are now on minus two points at the foot of the table, 13 behind Ross County who lost at Aberdeen.

Afterwards, Hearts boss Gary Locke praised his beleaguered players. "I thought, second-half especially, it was an outstanding performance," Locke told BBC Radio Scotland.

"We asked for a better performance than the other day and I think the players responded in the right manner."

It may be fanciful to suggest Hearts might have cut the deficit to seven points by this time next week – particularly with a trip to Easter Road for the Edinburgh Derby on Thursday – but it’s a lifebelt of hope to cling on to.

St Mirren: Kello, Naismith, McAusland, Newton, Kelly, Goodwin, McGregor, McGinn, Thompson, McGowan, Grainger.

Hearts: MacDonald; McGowan, McKay, Wilson, McHattie; Robinson, Hamill, Paterson, Tapping; Walker, Stevenson.

Referee: Kevin Clancy

Att: 4,568

Top man: Jamie Hamill – what a strike for Hearts equaliser!

Absence Makes the

I've not been updating this site as much as I would have liked in recent weeks. This is partly due to my involvement with The Edinburgh Reporter website.

However, I aim to put this right for 2014.

No, come back, come back......