Roles reversal in Edinburgh
01/10/2012 § Leave a comment
Back on Saturday May 19, the two Edinburgh powerhouses of Scottish football descended upon Hampden Park, Glasgow for the Scottish Cup Final. As the referee blew his whistle that day, Heart of Midlothian went on to provide the capacity crowd with a staggering display of attacking football to put lifeless Hibernian to the sword and defeat their rivals by five goals to one. The finish of that game brought the curtain down to end another distinct, dramatic season of football in Scotland and rubber stamp Hearts’ domination of the Edinburgh derby for the past 10 months.
The 2011-12 season brought about three straight wins for Hearts against their neighbours in the league, with goal count another domination for the Jambos winning by seven goals versus the Hibees’ mere one, and even that was an own goal. Yet following that cup final result, what was to come down Gorgie way was a summer of exits from Tynecastle Stadium and a rebuilding process down the road in Leith. Leading us to this day where fortunes have turned and roles have been reversed convincingly.
Following scenes of jubilation and triumph in May at Scotland’s national stadium, Hearts’ flamboyant and often controversial Lithuanian owner Vladimir Romanov announced that he would no longer be investing as much money into the team. This lead to the club parting company with boss Paulo Sergio and key players like Ian Black, David Obua, Adrian Mrowiec, Craig Beattie and Gary Glen were amongst others that followed the Portuguese coach out of the door. Sergio had just taken Hearts to a third place finish in the league behind the Old Firm and had guaranteed the owner and fans the prospect of European football in the Europa League.
So, in came honest manager John McGlynn (seen above) who last year almost lead part time side Raith Rovers of the first division to promotion to the Scottish Premier League. Upon McGlynn’s arrival, he immediately promised the Hearts faithful more attacking football and an emphasis on youth development. Sadly for all concerned with the Jam Tarts, results haven’t been delivered, with a weekend defeat to Kilmarnock at home only adding to natives’ frustration right now down Gorgie way. Despite the emergence of youngsters Callum Paterson and Arvydas Novikovas as first team regulars, scoring goals has been Hearts’ main problem. John Sutton, brother of Celtic legend Chris, has returned from a loan spell from Australia after being farmed out by Sergio last season. Yet despite an apparent faith shown in him by McGlynn, the striker has failed to hit the heights on the goalscoring front so far this season. Fans’ misery was all but compounded at the end of August on transfer deadline day, when one of the most brightest, hottest prospects in the Scottish game winger David Templeton signed for Rangers, now plying their trade in bottom tier Division Three. Hearts currently find themselves struggling in 9th place in the league.
On the contrary on the Hibs side of things, the Leith team have steadily improved since that day of despair back in May in the Hampden sunshine. Over the summer, Irish manager Pat Fenlon (seen above) has set about re-building his team after inheriting a toothless squad from previous manager Colin Calderwood. He had took over a team lacking in confidence and leadership, and one that only just managed to finish above relegated Dunfermline Athletic to an 11th place SPL finish. Then, over the summer months, in came captain James McPake on a permanent deal after a loan last season from Coventry as did Gary Deegan, goalkeeper Ben Williams signed from Colchester United as well as Tom Taiwo from Carlisle, physical target man Shefki Kuqi from Oldham Athletic, left back Ryan McGivern on loan from English champions Manchester City and Motherwell defender Tim Clancy. Tricky midfielder Paul Cairney was also drafted in, and dynamic, fiery striker Leigh Griffiths extended his loan from Wolves.
The turnaround this season has so far brought about notable wins against St Mirren, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock, as well as a spirited 2-2 draw with Celtic at Parkhead, a result that would have been unimagined by Hibs supporters back in the spring. In August, the first Edinburgh derby of the season ended in a 1-1 draw at Easter Road– a match in which the home side should have won after Griffiths pegged back an early Andrew Driver goal for Hearts. After a recent 2-2 home result against Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a game in which Hibs had squandered a two goal lead, Fenlon commented afterwards “The players are bitterly disappointed, which is great because they feel they are capable of winning matches at this level now.” As such, an ironic comment if you compare last season, where Hibs fans would have snatched your hand off for a point from anywhere in their bid to stave off the nightmare thought of relegation. On this day, the Leith team find themselves sitting comfortably in 5th place in the SPL, just two points off leaders Celtic and only being outside the European places on goal difference. A site that all but confirms a recent swing of momentum for top team football in the Scottish capital.