The visitors are in desperate need of points to lift them into the top four - Inverness currently sit fifth with two games remaining after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Dundee one point adrift of Dunfermline in fourth. Despite so much potentially resting on the game for Inverness, they will honour Hearts in the traditional manner.
“It’s the first home match for the champions,” said Gardiner. “We are absolutely planning to give them a guard of honour. It’s their trophy day, isn’t it? We will follow all the traditional protocols.
“They are worthy winners,” added Gardiner, who held the role of chief operating officer at Hearts when they last lifted the Championship title six years ago. “The table does not tell any lies. You can talk about performance or anything you like but they are worthy winners. We will absolutely follow tradition and give them a guard of honour. Trophy day is a big day for any club. It’s the last home game, they have won the league - we will follow the tradition of giving them maximum respect.”
Morton players gave Hearts a guard of honour before the 0-0 draw on Tuesday at Cappielow. In accordance with Covid restrictions, Inverness will emerge from the Wheatfield Stand opposite the main stand at Tynecastle and head across the pitch before lining up outside the tunnel as Hearts leave the home dressing room.
There is an ongoing debate about whether the Hearts players should lift the Championship trophy when it is presented to them after the same game. Manager Robbie Neilson has said he will leave it up to the players to decide as ill-feeling continues to linger following the vote to relegate Hearts and others further down the pyramid last summer.
Inverness were quick to back Hearts over that episode and voted to reject the resolution to curtail the season. It was ultimately passed after Dundee changed their vote following a delay in their ballot arriving via email at the SPFL.
A bond has been struck up between the Tynecastle club and Inverness, whose manager is Hearts legend John Robertson. He has been temporarily replaced by Neil McCann, another firm favourite in Gorgie, after being granted compassionate leave in February
The teams’ last meeting was notable for the Hearts fans raising over £70,000 for the hosts by buying souvenir tickets signed by Robertson after a succession of postponements left Inverness in considerable financial plight.
That match ended 1-1 and Gardiner expects another tough battle this weekend. This will be the fourth meeting between the sides this season, including one Betfred Cup clash.
“We have played really well this season and not beaten them,” the Inverness chief executive said. “That’s why they are champions because they find ways to win. We expect another rigorous examination.
“We’ve had chances to beat them and haven’t so it will be tough but this is our last chance. Added to that, it is obviously very important for us in terms of securing a play-off place. We need to get the frustration of the game v Dundee out of our heads and get on with Saturday.”