I have an important public message. It only really concerns those living in Edinburgh’s western environs but this area has been identified as a hotspot – not of the virus but of post-arbitration grumpiness. Hearts fans: don’t stay at home!
Don’t sit there stewing in your Gorgie parlours occasionally checking the score on the radio. When your team are playing away, go with them. Stand on terraces – what a retro thrill – and cheer them all the way back to the Premiership.
This is the right thing to do. It ties in to the staycation mantra of Nicola Sturgeon and her chief cook and hand-washer, Jason Leitch. Go to Ayr. Visit Arbroath. Why wouldn’t a Scottish football supporter do this? They’re fine wee places with smashing grounds. Definitely the wrong thing for Jambos will be to boycott away games. That would simply be cutting off their noses to spite their facemasks.
I get it. I get that Hearts fans are pure mad mental raging about their relegation, the injustice, the vote farce, the volte face by Dundee, the conspiracy of silence, the confederation of dunces, the court ruling, the final disputes-procedure decision of last week and of course the Spanish Inquisition (because nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition). But it’s over now. Robbie Neilson is getting on with it, the players are getting on with it – and the fans should too.
I also get the tactic. Supporters support, that’s their reason for being and only weapon. Withdraw that support and managers can be removed, even entire boards. Though trade unions may have been denuded of much of their power, fans can stoke the metaphorical brazier and their cries of “Out brothers, out!” can still have the desired effect. But “In brothers, in!” – rallying everyone to remain in Gorgie and forego excursions in the Championship – won’t help the team get back to the division they believe is their rightful place, even if it didn’t look like it for nearly all of last season.
Yes, it will hurt the other clubs in the second-tier. As soon as 2019-20 was called some treasurers would have been rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of visits of a big travelling support from Tynecastle. But if no fans come that could end up hurting Neilson and his men. Yes, they’ll be outstanding favourites for the title but their first away game is Arbroath. Imagine Covid restrictions are relaxed by then allowing fans back in grounds. Imagine there’s a howling gale blowing at Gayfield that day – hardly a fanciful notion. Imagine, too, the Red Lichties faithful, on seeing the away end empty, sense Jambo discomfiture and get right behind their team, enhancing the roar of the sea just over the wall. The ball is blown into Craig Gordon’s net and Hearts lose the game.
It never takes much to cause supporters to go in the huff and this is a lot. Scarves can be tossed on to the pitch after single defeats. A new nadir achieved by the master of concealment in the midfield can prompt the anguished wail: “I won’t be back until he’s gone.” This is much, much worse for Hearts but a boycott will not make the fans look principled, rather pig-headed. Imagine if Hearts do what they did the last time they were in the Championship and win a game 10-0. The protest would crumble overnight. Arbroath, Ayr and Dumfries are three of the top five awaydays in Scottish football. There will be quick hops to the Kingdom of Fife. And Alloa offer the Waspburger, the greatest of all half-time snacks. Get over it, Jambos, and get on the road.
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