Aside from the first ten minutes, you’d have to be a good bit happier with how Hearts performed on Saturday compared to the previous few games. I always had a gut feeling Gary Locke would change to 4-4-2, as the previous system evidently wasn’t working.
Having said that, our central midfielders, Callum Tapping and Mehdi Taouil, found it very difficult in the first half against two players in Nicky Law and Keith Lasley, who have got years of experience and no shortage of quality between them. The changes Lockie made during the game, however, certainly made a positive difference in terms of helping the team gain a greater foothold in the second half.
Bringing Ryan Stevenson into a more prominent position in midfield, when Tapping went off, was certainly a shrewd move as Ryan had a fine game. Ryan has struggled for a variety of reasons since he came back to the club in August, but I thought he showed the type of work ethic, leadership and desire that Hearts have been crying out for.
I was also impressed with how well young Kevin McHattie did up against two flying machines in Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey, while John Sutton gave us a good physical presence in attack.
You don’t want to go overboard when you’ve just suffered a fifth straight defeat, but there were certainly a lot more positives to take than in recent times.
The positives will only count for something if we can take them into our upcoming games against St Johnstone and Hibs, however, because those two are must-win games if we are to have even the remotest hope of making the top six. It was always going to be a tough ask to make the top six this season and if we are to have any chance, I think it goes without saying that we will probably need to win all of our remaining games before the split. If we are to do that, we will need the likes of Webster, Sutton and Stevenson to lead from the front and drive the team on.
It’s been a really difficult season from the start but things have really unravelled over the past few weeks for Hearts. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that we’ve really imploded in recent weeks since losing Marius Zaliukas. It’s no secret that I was never Marius’ biggest fan but, along with Andy Webster, he was an integral part of the team’s spine. There’s no doubt his absence has had a huge impact because all of a sudden we’re shipping goals left, right and centre.
In terms of the manager’s job, we’re hearing paper talk about the likes of Phil Brown being in contention, but I hardly think he’s going to want to come here on the same money John McGlynn was on. I heard David Southern talking about the need to bring back a winning mentality – if that is the case, then we should bite the bullet and go and ask Paulo Sergio back because that is a man who fostered a winning mentality while operating under tough restraints. The club are rueing the fact we no longer have a winning mentality, but it was their choice to allow that winning mentality to disappear by letting Paulo leave and by sanctioning the break-up of last season’s team.
I know our financial troubles obviously dictated that, but don’t then blame John McGlynn for the fact the winning mentality no longer exists. He wasn’t the one who overspent rashly. Likewise, to suggest that John was underperforming because Hearts had the second-biggest budget is missing the point.
Paulo Sergio and John McGlynn barely signed any players between them and neither of them were responsible for putting players on wages far higher than they merited.