Hearts supporters rose magnificently to the challenge of rescuing and financing their club in recent years. Tomorrow, their vocal backing is badly needed inside Tynecastle Park as the team strive for their first league win of the season.
Winger Jake Mulraney today appealed for fans to get fully behind their side against Motherwell and help them improve their joint-bottom position in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Statistics showing just four league wins this calendar year have created tension which culminated in some supporters turning on manager Craig Levein during Hearts’ last fixture against Hamilton.
The international break gave those at Riccarton time to reflect and regroup. They have worked on cuting out slack defending, forwards like Mulraney have practised shooting and finishing, now they need their public to produce that famous Tynecastle roar from kick-off tomorrow.
“We need to get the fans behind us early doors. That helps a lot,” explained Mulraney. “You see the difference, I’m sure you can see it yourself in the stand, when they are behind us compared to when they are not. It gives the boys that extra little kick. It comes from winning but on the pitch you can hear it. If you have a good bit of play and you create a chance, you hear them get behind you.
“There was a huge roar after I had a goal disallowed against Hamilton. It was like: ‘We can do the exact same thing again.’ That makes a massive difference. In the first half against Hamilton, I heard that roar a few times. In the second half, we came out sloppy and then the tables turned a little bit and we got a bit ropey. The fans play a big part when they get behind us.”
One of the most frustrating aspects of 2019 for the Hearts players and fans is the fact Tynecastle has not been the fortress it can be. Only two of those four league wins have come in their Gorgie domain.
“When there are 15,000 people screaming inside Tynecastle, it’s hard to block that out,” added Mulraney. “You don’t hear individual shouts but you can hear a roar or a moan when it’s coming from a good few thousand people.
“It’s the same at any club. When it’s going well, it’s great. When it’s not, then it’s not. On paper, we definitely have the players to turn this round. It’s just a case of us coming together, gelling and getting the wins again.”
The Irishman is determined to do his part by either scoring or creating goals. He spent yesterday morning doing extra shooting practice with fellow winger Callumn Morrison before training.
“I’m getting more chances and I’ve been doing a little bit of extra shooting before training. Me and Cal were working on shooting together. I want to make sure I’m more comfortable in that position when the chances arrive. I want to give myself a bit of assurance so I know: ‘I’ve done this 15 or 20 times the day before, so I can do it.’
“Personally, I’ve been feeling alright. It’s tough as a team but I just need to do what I can. I need to try and create things on the pitch to help us turn the tables. That’s what I’m focusing on, helping the team. I feel I’ve done alright so far this season. I’ve been quiet in a few games and I feel I can still add more. I was disappointed the goal was disallowed against Hamilton.”
If there is a slight advantage ahead of tomorrow’s match, it lies with Hearts following their 2-1 Betfred Cup win over Motherwell four weeks ago at Fir Park.
“We will draw on that, 100 per cent,” said Mulraney. “We started a little bit slowly against them last time but as we got into it and got the goal, we built momentum. It felt comfortable up until they got their goal. I can’t see any reason why we can’t do the exact same thing again.”
Hearts will need to do without Steven Naismith tomorrow, who won’t be risked due to a hamstring complaint. Longer-term injuries mean Peter Haring, Ben Garuccio and Jamie Walker will also miss out, while John Souttar and Joel Pereira are still recovering from ankle and thigh problems respectively. All of which places added onus on Mulraney and those who are on the field.
There is no suggestion the winger does not take his football, or current tensions at Hearts, seriously. Nonetheless, he does have other issues going on in his life with girlfriend Aoife due to give birth to their first baby later this month. If colleagues think it’s stressful on the pitch with a maroon shirt on right now, he might beg to differ.
“When you have a nine-months-pregnant girlfriend moaning in your ear, it’s a bit different,” laughed Mulraney.
“We’re two weeks away. You just have to separate the two as much as you can. When I’m away from my family, I just concentrate on football. When I’m away from football, I concentrate on my family.”