After the manager and coaching staff, the most important person in a club is the captain and, in Danny Wilson, Hearts have acquired a young man who is growing into the role of team leader with some readiness.
Following his manager’s remarks welcoming the news millionairess Ann Budge is to fund the transition from Romanovian ramshackle to a fan-owned future, Wilson spoke about the boost it had given the players.
“It’s nice to get some good news,” said Wilson, “we are not really used to it. We don’t really get told too much, often we only get told what’s been reported, so we can only go by that.
“Things have been positive, but we don’t really know much more than that, we just try and get on with things though obviously gives everybody a lift if there is good news coming through.”
Wilson and his colleagues have yet to meet the chairwoman-elect, but he is comfortable with that situation. “I think that perhaps she wants to keep her distance until it is all finalised,” said Wilson. “And you can understand that, but if she is the one who is going to take over then we welcome her and look forward to the club getting back on its feet.”
Wilson was at pains to emphasise his support for manager Gary Locke, who has been the subject of rumour recently. “We don’t really acknowledge it,” said Wilson. “It’s speculation, but is not coming from any of us. We’re right behind the gaffer, and have been since the start of the season. We’re behind him now and we don’t look at anything or react to anything like that. The gaffer’s doing a great job, and you don’t get much tougher than what he has been through. He’s a young manager and deserves the time.”
Wilson signed for Hearts after an initial loan deal from Liverpool. They were already in administration at the time his contract became permanent, and he took a pay cut, demonstrating his commitment to the club and he is remarkably philosophical about the trauma which the club both faces and has had.
“I don’t really think too much about the off-field things,” said Wilson, “I just focus on the on-field things. We are in a really difficult place at the bottom of the league, and it’s not somewhere that we want to be. We are trying to rectify that but we know it’s going to be tough.
“I can’t affect the off-field stuff, I can only affect the next game and try and keep my performance levels high. What happens off the pitch will happen, and hopefully for everyone involved at Hearts it will be about the club getting back on its feet.”
After Inverness Caley Thistle ‘hammered’ Hearts 0-0 on Saturday, that process will almost certainly involve being relegated to the SPFL Championship next season, as Wilson conceded.
“It would be a miracle if we did stay up,” he said, “as we are running out of games to pick up points. We will keep playing until it is mathematically impossible and try and put as many points on the board as we can. A few wins might put some pressure on the teams above us if they do not pick up points – you never know.”
The point gained against Inverness in no way compensates for the crushing disappointment felt by all at Hearts following their dramatic defeat at the hands of Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish League Cup semi-final. Wilson said: “The fans have always come to our aid whenever there has been a problem, and we thank them for that. So all that we can do between now and the end of the season is to give them something to look forward to for the future and that means having a good team out on the pitch.”
At times on Saturday, Hearts were comprehensively outplayed by slick football. What a pity for Inverness that their talismanic striker, Billy McKay, did not have his shooting boots on.
More pertinently, Hearts were well organised in defence, where Wilson did an outstanding job in marshalling a back four that put their bodies on the line, as did goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald with a number of top-class saves.
Yes, Inverness hit the woodwork four times in the first half, but, as Locke said, his men were due some luck. Wilson echoed that view: “We hung in there, especially in the first half when they really put us under the cosh. We rode our luck at times, they were hitting the woodwork a few times, but we put a lot into the game and we should be happy with a point gained.”
Greg Tansey came closest for Inverness, bruising the upright with one fierce shot, and also bringing a tremendous save from MacDonald with a header before firing wide in the second half.
“We created enough chances to win two or three games,” said Tansey. “We hit the woodwork four times, had 17 shots on target with two cleared off the line – sometimes the stats don’t tell a story but today they did.”
By any objective view, Tansey is correct. Caley Thistle were the better team, but Hearts still fought to the end.