Tuesday, 2 February 2010

"How much fun can you have with a semi?"

A preview of tonight's Scottish Football League, Co-operative Insurance Cup Semi Final, at Fir Park, Motherwell, between Heart of Midlothian and St. Mirren.

And it came to pass ... the transfer window deadline that is.
Targets that Hearts were apparently linked with never arrived, the paper talk all proved to be just that, paper talk, conjuncture, conjecture, inaccurate second guessing (at best) and bullshit.
One target (a striker) ended up at Aberdeen, another (a striker again) stayed put at Jim Jefferies old club Kilkmarnock (he will be available on a free transfer in the Summer months now) and last but not least the third potential signing went to Hibs on loan until the end of the season.
Ryan Stevenson, an attacking midfielder (it says so on the internet so it must be true), arrived from Ayr United to strengthen the team though, but he is cup tied for tonight's game, so it's going to be a case of make do and mend ... again.
Welcome to Vlad's deep pockets Jim Jefferies

Jose Goncalves has stated that he doesn't want to play for Hearts any more, so Jim Jefferies isn't going to pick him again, given that he doesn't have the required enthusiasm to do a job for the club.
Nice work if you can get it, eh!?
A footballer, picking up an hefty salary announces he doesn't want to play again this season, so he is left to sit it out while his bank balance grows.
Where else can you get an extended four month paid break before your Summer holiday starts but in the mercenary merry go round of the SPL? Or to be more precise; Tynecastle Stadium, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh, EH11 2NL.
He isn't the only wage thief to have stung Hearts over the last few years, it's time this culture of idleness trafficking was stamped out.
You can fool some of the people, some of the time and all that ... it costs well over the odds to watch the standard of football 'entertainment' the SPL provides, without insulting the intelligence of those who pay at the turnstiles still further by expecting them to accept shelling out exorbitant prices to finance unacceptable capers like Goncalves' semi retirement jolly.

Most of HMFC's better shifts last season, revolved around a combination of Lee Wallace and Andy Driver down the left flank.
That pairing hasn't been available very much this season, given Driver's injury problems of late. At least both players are still on the Jambos books following the transfer window, which if truth be told was fairly uneventful nationwide.
There was a very strong rumour going round that Wallace was Celtic bound, but in the end, the Glaswegian side had to content themselves with a loan signing until May, of a Tottenham Hotspur squad player, who had returned to White Hart Lane following his failure to make the grade at Liverpool.
Hundreds of Celtic fans took to the streets to celebrate his arrival, there was round the clock TV hype surrounding the move too, which kind of demonstrates the limitations of the SPL's aspirations in my book.
No doubt, Robbie Keane is a good player, but a little less over excitement and a bit of restraint over his loan signing, would save a lot of Celtic fans from making such an OTT embarrassing spectacle of themselves in public, in front of the cameras.

In previous seasons, Hearts fans have poured scorn on the social standing of the League Cup, looking upon the Scottish Cup as the holy grail, whilst not taking the lesser competition especially seriously.
Hearts two most recent triumphs in the Scottish Cup were in 1998 and 2006 (when they famously stuffed Hibs 4-0 in the semi final). Hibs haven't won it since 1902 and that stick is used by Hearts fans to beat their local rivals with (very, very) frequently.

"Tell all the Hibs y'know, it's one hundred and eight in a row. They've won
the League Cup, but we don't give a f*ck, it's one hundred and eight in a row"
(trad. arranged Hearts fans each and every year)

However, Hibs did win the League Cup in 2007, which only increased Hearts fans levels of dismissiveness towards the status of winning such an 'also rans' event.

"Big team, big cup. Wee team, wee cup!"

As one of the more repeatable songs voiced at the Edinburgh derby goes.

So here we are, on the verge of the 'wee cup' semi final, Hearts only chance of winning any silverware at all this season.
While they languish in mid table, trying to cement themselves a place in the top six before the fixtures split comes into play, lamenting how cheaply they surrended their place in the Scottish Cup at Pittodrie ... even though they probably won't admit to it outwardly, it must surely cause a great deal of pain to all Hearts supporters, that at present Hibs are sat just two points behind second placed Celtic in the SPL and are looking forward to a fairly straight forward Scottish Cup tie at home to Montrose. Surely not!?

As bragging rights go, the League Cup has always been the consolation prize in Scotland and that is still evident right now ... and just to rub Hearts fans noses in it, everything seems to be going Hibs way at the moment, a 92nd minute winning goal, an own goal, against Hearts opponents tonight, St. Mirren, on Saturday, being the most recent example of the Hibees fortunes this season.

Heart of Midlothian haven't won the League Cup since 1962/63 ... and nobody connected with the club, either on or off the pitch was ever really unduly concerned by that statistic, until now, when it is the only thing left to play for in 2009/10, even though it's only the beginning of February.
6,000 plus Hearts fans are heading to Fir Park tonight, even if lifting this trinket during this car crash of a season, would still be on a par with salvaging the old grandfather clock out of the hallway when your house had burned down.

But, let's take nothing for granted. St. Mirren have been a thorn in Hearts side before when it has mattered at the business end of the season. And awaiting the winners of tonight's 'tricky' game against the Buddies are the winners of Wednesday night's semi final between Glasgow Rangers (runaway SPL leaders) and ... Oh no! Not them again ... St. Johnstone.
It's going to be a close run thing ... and this game in the 'wee cup' is going to either make or break Hearts season.

Err ... Bring it on! Sort of ...