Ex-Hearts striker Scott says buzz is back at Tynecastle

SITTING at Tynecastle on Saturday, Scott Crabbe noted the distinctly upbeat mood amongst Hearts supporters. The positivity emanating from Gorgie right now is comparable to that fostered during George Burley's time as manager, according to the former Hearts forward.

Four 2-0 wins in succession, and six victories from the last seven matches, offer evidence of the feelgood factor generated in recent weeks. Much of that is down to Jim Jefferies, the manager whose efforts in restoring team spirit at Riccarton are now paying major dividends.

With Burley in charge during the early weeks of the 2005/06 season, Hearts were unbeatable. Their players knew it and so did the fans, and former striker Crabbe, pictured, believes the current state of affairs is producing similar levels of hysteria.

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"There seems to be a real buzz now," he explained. "Going back to the George Burley days, I'd never seen Tynecastle like that for as long as I could remember. That feeling is coming back about the place now. The punters want to get along and see the Hearts.

"I saw them against Celtic and they were outstanding and I saw them look comfortable against Hamilton at the weekend. Jim's certainly got a team spirit going which hasn't been there for a while. I went to a lot of games in the past and it was very lackadaisical, some of it was like going through the motions and the games were really quite dour.

"When Jim first came in, he spoke about how down the players were going about the place. I speak to Gary Locke and he was the same. He couldn't believe the way some of them were walking about and not enjoying their football.

"At a club like Hearts, you should always be buzzing. I remember Jim saying they were going to really work on the team spirit side of things, which they clearly have. It's come to the fore recently and it's there for all to see.

"From my time in football, one of the best dressing rooms I was ever in was at Falkirk. It was like having a 12th man on the park. If you have that togetherness it can get you over the line to win games.

"I heard a couple of punters behind me on Saturday pointing out that even subs coming on are shaking hands warmly with the guys coming off. Nobody likes being on the bench but with the handshakes or the high-fives or whatever, you can see they are all in it together."

Aligned to the positive approach of attacking opponents and creating scoring opportunities, Hearts have harboured a miserliness recently which has seen them concede goals only once in their last seven outings.

"Jim has instilled it into them that you don't lose games if you don't lose goals. That's a big thing," continued Crabbe, who recently left his post as assistant manager at East Fife.

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"The last four games have been won 2-0. They have exciting players who will go forward and create chances, like David Templeton. They bought him from Stenhousemuir for next to nothing and he's really shining. I'm pleased for him because he's a good young lad."

Praise for Jefferies is palpable but Vladimir Romanov, Hearts' majority shareholder, is also due a certain portion of credit for events on and off the field. Sanctioning a new contract for captain Marius Zaliukas and wiping 10?million from the club's debt help provide a certain stability to supplement on-field efforts.

But Romanov can also take some responsibility for recent results. They have, after all, been underpinned to an extent by five of his signings: Marian Kello, Marius Zaliukas, Ruben Palazuelos, Adrian Mrowiec and Rudi Skacel.

"Every single one of those guys contributed big time on Saturday," said Crabbe (below). "We played against Hearts in a closed-door game when I was at East Fife and the boy Mrowiec really stood out that night. Obviously he was against lesser opposition - no disrespect to East Fife - so he should be shining. But you could just tell he had great ability on the ball. His vision and passing was really crisp and it doesn't surprise me he's in the first team now.

"Zaliukas has been outstanding in the last few games. He is a real rock at the back, he's got his contract signed and that's helped him settle back in to the side. Palazuelos isn't a left-back but he's filling in well there and if the defence isn't losing goals he must be doing something right. Kello is just different class. He's made the goalkeeping position his own now. I think the fans realise that and I think he realises that. He's got confidence and he's believing in himself. His penalty save on Saturday was outstanding at a crucial time of the game.

"Rudi is a class act for me. I watched a lot of him in George Burley's team and he was class then. A lot of people were surprised when he came back and it can be that bit harder when you join a club for the second time. I don't know why, it's hard to put your finger on it.

"Rudi's taken to it like he's never been away. He's been incredible. Him and Templeton are the ones who can change games for Hearts."

Romanov's talent-spotting abilities have been questioned in the past due to players like Arkadiusz Klimek and Linas Pilibaitis arriving in Edinburgh on loan from FBK Kaunas. For all the plane loads of trialists flown over from eastern Europe in recent seasons, the cream has risen to the top and Hearts are now the beneficiaries.

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"You will get a fair percentage of them right when you're bringing in the amount of players Hearts have over the years," said Crabbe. "The guys in the team at the moment are the ones you need to hold on to. They've put Zaliukas on a new contract and these guys need to be at the club for a long time. They are producing the goods week in, week out.

"These guys are in the team right now and playing extremely well so Romanov has obviously made the right decision by bringing them in."

Ultimately, the recent winning sequence would have been unlikely without the manager. "Jim has done a fantastic job, I was delighted when he came back to Hearts," said Crabbe.

"A lot of people wondered if it was right him coming back. It's just brilliant having somebody you know, who is a Hearts man through and through, and someone the punters can relate to. You can feel that inside Tynecastle just now, that the public can relate to players and management."