AFTER playing in the strangest game he says he has seen in this country a fortnight ago, Mehdi Taouil is hoping for something more orthodox when Hearts visit St Mirren this afternoon.
The Moroccan midfielder and his team-mates had hoped to be top of the league over the international break, a position they could have reached had they beaten Dundee a fortnight ago. Instead, they lost 1-0 despite having the lion’s share of possession – an outcome which perplexed Taouil, but one which he is sure Hearts can put behind them today.
“Dundee was a game that I’ve never played in before in Scotland,” he said. “We had the ball the whole time, we were in their half the whole time, but just a goal was missing. Goals are important in football, but that was the only thing that was missing for us.
“That was a big disappointment, especially as it felt like we had the ball the full game and we were trying to find the net but we didn’t. Dundee scored an early goal and then for 88 minutes we were in their half trying to score.
“It was quite bad, because we all had it in our heads that we could go top of the league for two weeks as it was then the international break, but we didn’t do it. Now that’s in the past and we have to bounce back from that.
“If we’d have won that game, nobody would have said anything, but sometimes it’s like this. We’ve worked hard the last two weeks to do that at St Mirren, as we know it’ll be a tough place to go and win. This is going to be an important game, because it felt like we left three points behind us and we have to catch them now.”
A marginal figure at times both at Hearts and previously at Kilmarnock, in terms both of his position out wide and his perceived importance to the team, Taouil has been given a more central role this season by manager John McGlynn. Positioned either just in front of the back four or further up the field, he has been able to use his playmaking skills to greater effect than when he had to stay on the wing.
“I’m enjoying the role,” he said. “I’m enjoying playing, enjoying being on the pitch, and I hope it’s going to continue.”
It certainly appears probable today, as Hearts under McGlynn seek to find a winning blend. The manager is convinced his team are not far away from stringing a series of good results together after the first five league games yielded three draws, a win and that defeat by Dundee.
However, given the turnover in the squad from last season, there is an understandable caution when it comes to predicting how the current campaign might turn out.
“I don’t know,” Taouil said when asked if a title challenge or at least a push for second place could come from Tynecastle. “We just have to work hard and see in January where we are going to be in the league.
“Now it’s a bit too early in the season and you can’t really say where we’re going to be in two or three months. Later in the season we’ll see what we can really do.”
Having said that, he went on to explain that he remained confident there was still the quality in the squad for Hearts to be competitive, particularly given Ryan McGowan’s decision to turn down a move to Rangers at the end of last month rather than accompany David Templeton to Ibrox.
“I think there is quality in the squad. We lost a lot of players and not many have come in, but still there is quality in the group,” he added.