Alex Cochrane on the major bust-up that shows Hearts players have 'got each other's back'
The Hearts defender was in the midst of the on-field mayhem, the likes of which few in the team had witnessed before, but while no-one wanted the nastiness which ultimately led manager Robbie Neilson to call a premature halt to the game, there were positives to be gleaned from the bust up.
“It was something out of nothing, I think it all got out of hand really quickly. After the game, that was us done and dusted,” said the 22-year-old left-back, who has also deputised at centre-back when needed.
While some teams do paint-balling or go-karting to try to strengthen team bonds, a mid-match rammy can also work wonders and the Spanish brawl was a very public demonstration of Hearts’ team unity.
“I know, I said that to them afterwards,” added Cochrane, who was relieved to discover that the red card picked up in the melee would not have consequences back in Scotland. “At the time I didn’t actually realise how many of them had got involved. But we’ve all got each other’s back in the changing room.
“Even without that we know we have a really good spirit in the team, it’s a good group. We’ve all got each other’s back throughout.”
A demanding start to the season, with everyone pulling together to plug voids caused by injuries, the travelling associated with their European campaign has also brought them closer. Those experiences have also heightened the desire to make a swift return to European competition. The aim is to finish in the top three - the first time the club have managed to do that back to back since 2003/04 and while no-one expects that to be easy, their ability to adapt to the unrelenting fixture schedule as they combined UEFA competition with domestic matches should stand them in good stead according to the young Englishman.
“For me personally it was more mentally [tiring]. The constant games and having to refocus yourself and go again. We knew from the start the league is the most important so when you come back from a European game that hasn’t gone your way, Fiorentina for example, it’s hard in this league. It takes a lot out of you but it was experience for myself and something I’ve learned from.”
This afternoon they head to Tannadice, looking for a win over Dundee United in the hope that will move them into third in the Premiership before Christmas.
“We’ve got some tough games coming up, United away then St Johnstone, we know they’re tough games. We have some players back, we’re looking to kick on and really secure that third position, if not higher. We know the talent we’ve got in the team, and this squad can really put down a marker in the second half of the season.
“It’s where we wanted to be. We know this league is tough and it seems to get tighter and tighter. We know we have to be right at it, we knew before the Kilmarnock game as well. This weekend is the same and we need to put on a good show and get another three points.”
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