The advice Colin Doyle received from the goalkeeper he has ousted wasn’t what he expected prior to experiencing his first Edinburgh derby.
“Purchase a mouthguard” recommended Zdenek “Bobby” Zlamal on social media ahead of the game. Zlamal was making reference to the previous meeting between Hearts and Hibernian, when he was the victim of an alleged assault by a Hibs supporter after trying to retrieve the ball from the away stand at Tynecastle.
Zlamal, pictured, was on the bench on Saturday night after losing his place and watched as Hearts ran out 1-0 winners with Doyle playing a vital part in only his third appearance for the side. The Irishman tipped Steven Whittaker’s effort on to a post with 11 minutes left to preserve Hearts’ lead and said he enjoyed the “banter” with the home fans.
“I didn’t know whether it was a phoney account at first,” he said of his first alert to Zlamal’s message, which was posted on Instagram. “But, yeah, it was Bobby saying: ‘My friend and team-mate Colin Doyle, wear a gumshield, they love goalkeepers (at Easter Road)!’
“Look, it was all good banter and I enjoyed it,” added Doyle. “You want to play in big games. We had fantastic support at Easter Road and now they go off happy into the break. We’ll see what the second half of the fixture list brings for us.”
Doyle, 33, hopes he can keep his place in the side when the season resumes after the winter break. He was signed in the summer from Bradford City but only made his first-team debut nine days ago in the 2-0 defeat by Aberdeen. He has since kept clean sheets in successive victories over Hamilton Accies and Hibs. Having spent the rest of his career down south, Saturday was his first experience of playing in a high-profile derby.
“I was on the bench for [Aston] Villa v Birmingham, which is quite an intense one,” he recalled. “But this was my first major derby and I absolutely loved it. The next aim is to play one at Tynecastle, which will be even better. I’ll look forward to that.
“But that’s a long way off at the moment. We’ve got a week off, then we’re going away for a few days’ training, then the season kicks off again. Hopefully the lads will get refreshed and raring to go for the second half.”
Doyle explained that he and Zlamal are still firm friends despite the recent change in their circumstances.
“Wherever you are, you’ve got to perform well,” he said. “It’s probably a bit different here in that there are two experienced keepers competing for a place. Before, it’s one younger one coming through and one established keeper.
“But me and Bobby get on well. We’re good friends.
“The goalie coach [Paul Gallacher] keeps us on our toes – and you’ve got to perform. If you don’t, you’ll be out of the team. I’ve played three games now and been happy enough with the performances.”