Up and down season but Hearts’ Don Cowie high on optimism

Hearts midfielder Don Cowie has been encouraged by the elevation of academy graduates to the first team.  Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS
Hearts midfielder Don Cowie has been encouraged by the elevation of academy graduates to the first team. Photograph: Craig Foy/SNS
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Don Cowie is not wishing the remainder of the season away but he will be happy to return next season with a clean slate and the opportunity to prove there is merit in his belief that Hearts should be performing in the higher realms of the Premiership and challenging for cups.

“I’m aware that I have probably been saying that for the last two-and-a-half years, since I first came here,” said the midfielder. “That’s because it is such a big club and I know how passionate the fans are and when they get behind us it is a really powerful thing. But I know that there are only so many times you can say that and actions speak louder than words.”

A side that performed well on their return to the top flight, Cowie has spent the past year and a half pining for the kind of stability that has served Aberdeen and city rivals Hibernian so well. Instead, Hearts have endured as tumultuous a season as any he has experienced in his long career.

“It has been up and down and it has been unusual. It is not your stereotypical season,” he added.

“Probably the one thing that hurts us since I have been here is that there has been such a big turnover of players and when there is a change of manager it is almost inevitable that happens so, really, we just need to get some continuity within the squad. That can be powerful.”

Heading up to Dens Park this afternoon, Hearts still want to finish the season by sealing a place in the top six and gaining the kind of morale-boosting wins that offer the fans hope and the club some momentum.

“Everyone will experience changing managers through a season, and it happened the year before when Robbie [Neilson] left, although that was a different way a manager can leave,” said Cowie. “He was hand picked because we were doing well. But this time the board felt we needed a change and very rarely does that happen just a few days before your first league game. So that was different. Then we had Jon [Daly] as the caretaker for three or four games, until Craig [Levein] came in. So, that has been very unusual and something you won’t go through too often in your career, maybe only once. It has also been different playing so many games away from home. It is hard playing away. We knew what it would be but we have shown since we have been back at Tynecastle how much it means to play there.

“Then we have had the change of players come January because it is a new manager and he wants to put his own stamp on the squad. So, it has been up and down and that probably shows in where we are in the league. But there is still something to play for. Even individually, we are all playing for our futures and come next year we want to be part of this great club. Come the summer, we have the chance to build again.”

The introduction of so many academy graduates to the first-team ranks means there are grounds for optimism, according to the veteran.

“That has been a massive positive,” he said. “Come next season they will have a lot more games under their belt, be wiser, more experienced and stronger. That can only be a good thing for us. For us experienced boys it has been great seeing them and trying to help them, but it also makes us realise we have to keep working hard or we will lose our place. It is exciting for next season although I don’t really want to talk about next season yet because we still have a lot to play for.”

The aim is to build on the unbeaten run at home, hopefully turning the draws into victories. “That has been the other positive and hopefully we can go undefeated there from now until the end of the season and take that into next season,” Cowie added.

“We have had little spells here and there and some good results that produced real positivity about the place. But that consistency we want, we haven’t really managed to get it. We have had a good run of results and are undefeated, but the draws have hindered us when it comes to breaking into the top four.”