REGARDLESS of who hammers the final nail in the coffin, the death knell sounded a long time ago as far as Hearts’ hopes of Premiership survival were concerned.
The early season optimism waned as it took until the end of January for the 15-point deduction to be overhauled and, while Hibs fans will pack into Tynecastle this afternoon, keen to celebrate the fate of their city rivals, Danny Wilson says it will be Hearts’ form throughout the entire season that will see them drop into the Championship, rather than one game now.
“Just over the Christmas period cost us,” insists the Hearts captain. “We never picked up many points going into January. The other teams strengthened their squads and, with the lift that comes from getting new players, they went on wee runs and just got away from us. At one point, I think it was over just ten days, we were 12 points behind and then suddenly we were 20-odd behind. You can look at periods of the season like that but, on the whole, we have not been good enough, so it is a big disappointment for us.”
The reality of next term in the second tier means there are matters worth pondering. Seven players are out of contract, while clauses in existing deals mean the club has the option of jettisoning others or tying them up for another season. Wilson, though, has two more years on a contract he signed last summer when he agreed to turn his loan deal into something more permanent, despite the fact the Gorgie club were in dire straits.
As a teenager, he experienced the highs of playing in the Champions League while at Ibrox and he says he could never have envisaged two heavyweights like Rangers and Hearts going toe-to-toe in the Championship.
“It’s something that you never would have thought would happen, but with things as they are, the situations that both clubs have found themselves in, it doesn’t seem as crazy any more. Hopefully, Rangers are on their way back up and we can take a step back to move forward.”
Having gained international caps, the 22-year-old would like to get back to the stage where he is attracting the attention of the Scotland boss, but he refuses to discuss his thoughts on the new campaign until he speaks with manager Gary Locke and the uncertainty surrounding the proposed takeover is dispelled. “Many people had written us off before the start of this season, so we probably are where people thought we would be. Next season, hopefully, the club is stronger and there’s going to be good news coming out over the next couple of months and the club gets back on its feet because that’s the most important thing – that Hearts are here and people have still got a club to come and support.
“It’s been difficult. It’s none of the players’ fault, it’s things that have gone before that have cost us and led to us being in this situation.
“We were well aware of that at the start of the season. Maybe, if we had been able to bring some players in, it would have helped us and maybe it wouldn’t have, you don’t know that.
“We knew at the start of the season where we are at and we had a good start but we tailed off. It’s just one of those things we need to live with and, until the end of the season, keep playing and trying to put points on the board. People will say if we hadn’t had the deduction maybe things would have been different but the way it stands right now it doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case, but we need to put as many points on the board and try save some face.
“There were games where we maybe should have picked up points. The ones that stick in my head are being ahead up at Ross County and getting pegged back and losing the game. If you hold on there, you maybe go on a wee run for a few games but, if you keep looking back on the season, then you are never going to go forward. We know where we are at the moment. We have a big game on Sunday that we are looking forward to and, hopefully, we can get a good result.”
And Wilson is hoping he is that lucky charm Hearts need to help silence the partying Hibs fans.
“I have only played in three [capital] derbies now and I have yet to lose, hopefully that continues on Sunday! Everybody knows what’s at stake in the game but, hopefully, we will go out on Sunday, put on a good performance and get a result for the fans.”