Against Dundee yesterday, three days after the second leg of their Europa League tie against the English club, there was no such sign of tiredness, physical or mental, despite which the Edinburgh team ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.
“I don’t think Europe had anything to do with it, to be honest with you,” Hearts manager John McGlynn said after his team’s first domestic defeat of the season. “We put ourselves into a difficult situation, because we wanted to come out the traps and get a goal, and we gave Dundee the massive lift that they needed.
“They scored a goal from a penalty, which was the only way they looked like scoring and, two minutes into the game, they got a massive lift from that. That was a bit of a dampener.
“For two games against Liverpool we concentrate immaculately well, and we don’t concentrate from 3pm today. Then we got a penalty, we didn’t score, and Dundee got a massive lift from that. So again we put ourselves in a difficult situation.”
McGlynn accepted that Dundee had played well, but insisted that his team had had enough possession to win. “We created chance after chance, but Rab Douglas has two or three good saves. I can’t fault the players for effort – even late in the game we were still pushing, and were still running very hard. But it was just one of those days where that wee bit lack of composure, creativity, finesse, guile in the final third of the pitch deserted us.
“They defended very well, but we put loads and loads into the game and certainly deserved more. You would hope that over the course of the season that [the finesse and so on] will come.”
One player who certainly has that finesse, and would surely have made a difference yesterday, is Rudi Skacel. The midfielder is still unsigned by any club, having played his last competitive match on 19 May, when he scored twice in Hearts’ 5-1 Scottish Cup final victory over Hibernian. Since his contract expired shortly after that match, rumours have persisted that Hearts are about to offer the Czech a new deal, but McGlynn added that he knew nothing of any such negotiations, and said he was mystified by the fact that the player, who scored 18 goals for Hearts last season, remained unsigned.
“Why has Rudi Skacel still not got a team?” the manager added. “I’m sure there are more teams than Hearts that would fancy him. Is he pricing himself out of the market or what?”
While he has lost David Templeton, McGlynn has been able to bring Ryan Stevenson back to Tynecastle, but is all too aware that his squad is short of firepower up front. “I would like to have brought another striker in,” he said. “With free agents, there are still possibilities.”
Asked if he had a budget to make any more recruits, he replied: “What’s a budget? Scope’s a better word.”
Dundee manager Barry Smith is, if anything, even less familiar with the concept of a budget to spend on new players, but he was understandably delighted with the performance given by his current squad. “[Goalkeeper] Rab Douglas was brilliant, but I don’t want to single anyone out because it was a great team performance,” he said.
“The whole team gave every last ounce of effort. We defended extremely well from the front all the way back.”