TURBULENT times call for cool heads and, at Hearts, they do not come any cooler than Andy Webster.
The Tynecastle club, bidding to win the league cup for the first time in 50 years, do not have a permanent manager at the moment, may not be sure when they will appoint one, and have significant financial problems, too. It’s the sort of situation which could easily be too much for more excitable souls but Webster deals with it all in characteristically unflappable style.
The centre-half, who will captain Hearts against St Mirren in Sunday’s Hampden final, rarely looks flustered on the pitch, and he is the same off it. “The things that you focus on as a footballer are the things you can influence, whether that’s training or matches,” he said yesterday. “It’s for other people to do their job and let the footballers do theirs on the pitch. You just take these things as they come and deal with it.
“It’s just been a normal preparation. It’s down to the individual and personal preference. For me personally I would rather just have normality and do what I want to do. Footballers are creatures of habit and like their routine on the park or off the park. I’m more than happy with how it’s been this week.”
At 30, Webster has experienced a lot of ups and downs, not only in his two spells at Hearts but also at Wigan, Rangers and Dundee United. He insisted, though, that it would be wrong to regard him as a player who simply let all the off-field upheaval wash over him and, in particular, voiced his sympathy for former Hearts manager John McGlynn, who parted company with the club two weeks ago.
“Someone asked me the other week ‘Do you become immune to it?’ but I think that’s a bit unfair. People are losing their jobs, our manager has just lost his job, so you are still saddened by these things. But you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and get on with it.
“I don’t know if it has brought us closer, but there is unity in the team. Obviously these things occasionally get discussed, but generally as a club we like to stick together.”
Webster’s experience of the big occasion could prove invaluable on Sunday, when the Hearts squad will contain a number of players with little experience of first-team football, never mind of finals at the national stadium. Having won the Scottish Cup with United in 2010 and again with his current club last season, he has already gone at least some way to making up for the disappointment of his injury-ravaged time at Rangers and, if he wins a third trophy in two days’ time, will have achieved something that few players outwith the Old Firm manage.
“I think as a footballer that’s what you want – you want to contest the trophies, and you’re looking at the cups rather than the leagues. It’s great that I’ve been able to do that at Hearts last year and this year, and hopefully come Sunday it will be the same again.
“I wasn’t overly involved in the finals at Rangers. I tended to be cheering on from the sides. It’s not until you play and feel you are contributing that you feel part of the occasion.
“What happened at Rangers is long gone, and I’m only focused on a massive game on Sunday. I’m not bothered about looking back and thinking if, what and maybe. It’s all about the here and now, and then in ten or 15 years from now I can sit down and think about it.
“If you stand still and dwell on things then you get left behind. Obviously, at the time, it was frustrating but now my full focus is on what I’m doing now.”
Webster will wear the armband because Hearts captain Marius Zaliukas has been ruled out through suspension and injury. Without giving too much away, the Scot admitted that the Lithuanian could be involved after the game should Hearts emerge victorious.
“Marius will have a role to play, he is club captain. Obviously it’s disappointing from his point of view, firstly being suspended and secondly being injured, but he will definitely still have a role to play in the dressing room.
“Let’s concentrate on the football side of things first and whatever comes after will happen. But that I lifted the cup with Lee Wilkie at Dundee United might give you an insight.”