Seeing as I disagreed with more than just a few folk on social media last night - and took abuse from a handful - I thought I would take some time out, in more than 140 characters, to put my current thoughts about Hearts "out there" for people to maybe get a better understanding of where I was coming from. (I'm more than happy to discuss my opinion either in the comments section below or on social media). I'll do it by "answering" some of the points raised last night. So here goes...
That was the worst result in our history! More embarrassing than Celtic losing in Gibraltar!
No, it really wasn't and, I suspect, it wasn't even close. On the surface of it, "We should never be losing to a team from Malta" ... I get that and, yes, it was a very sore result to take ... BUT ... let's look at why it wasn't more embarrassing than Celtic's loss in Gibraltar first. Lincoln Red Imps sit two hundred and eighty eight places below Celtic in the current UEFA club rankings, on paper, on grass, plastic, in a swimming pool, it should never even be close. It certainly shouldn't be as close as to only win by two goals over two legs ... but that's what happened, football does that from time to time. On the other hand, Birkirkara are only sixty nine places beneath Hearts in those UEFA rankings. I agree that we still shouldn't be losing to them but ... "The worst result in our history"? "More embarrassing than Celtic in Gibraltar"? ... I really don't think so.
Robbie Neilson surely can't survive this!
It's genuinely difficult to know where to start with that one. Forget the rest of Neilson's record for a minute - I'll get to that shortly - we're talking here about a guy who was managing a football club in only his second ever European tie (I know it was the fourth match). Bottom line? Shit happens, like it or not we currently have a manager who is still very wet behind the ears. That said, bad luck/poor finishing had more than its fair share to do with the fact we went out last night. Sammon's goal isn't chalked off in Malta ... different game entirely at Tynecastle. Last night? Piss poor penalty from Buaben ... seemingly that was Neilson's fault for allowing him to take the penalty ... really? The best in the world miss penalties at times. The top two players in the world missed penalties recently for their respective countries in Euro 2016 and the Copa America ... was that their coaches fault? We also hit the bar twice last night, either of those go in, we're pretty much home and hosed. Where Neilson's naivety did show up a bit was maybe that he didn't make sure the back door was kept closed; maybe he should have reached a point in the game where he said "It's not happening tonight, close the game down and settle for penalties rather than get hit on the break". Two things ... we did get hit on the break and, be honest, would you want to take a current Hearts side into penalties? (please see Mr Buaben's effort plus our recent penalty history before answering that). So, can Robbie Neilson survive last night's result? Not only can he, he should survive it.
Neilson is a sh*te manager! Neilson is just Levein's puppet!
I'll answer the second of those points first, as it's probably the quickest to answer. Will Craig Levein have a massive input into player recruitment? Of course he will, he's the Director of Football, what else should he be doing? Will he available to give Neilson advice if he asks for it? Of course he will, how many ex-players have you heard say they've phoned this old manager or that old coach for advice? Is Neilson the kind of guy who will sit back and allow Levein to tell him who to play and how to set the team up? Don't be ridiculous. Neilson seems to be a very, VERY, ambitious guy. He will know that if he wants to achieve as much as he possibly can as a manager, especially when he moves on from Hearts, he will need to do things his own way.
Now on to the first part. Currently, of all the managers Hearts have ever had (who have managed ten games or more), Robbie Neilson is second, yes second, in terms of win percentage. "But part of that was in the Championship!", you may say ... indeed, but guys like Bobby Moncur also managed us whilst out of the top league, and don't come close to Neilson's stats. Is his style of football the prettiest to watch? No, but there's a balancing act at work here. Do we have/can we afford the players who can guarantee that we will always score more than the opposition, so can fly forward for ninety minutes? No. If last night showed us anything, it showed us that. Do you think that the Portugal fans, or the Greece fans in 2004 gave one tiny shite that they won the Euro Championships but weren't very pretty to watch? I wouldn't think so. Also, Neilson is currently only just over two years into, not just his job as Hearts manager but, his first job as any club's manager. You know what I think is biggest fault is? (and I suspect this could go a long way to explaining why people feel the way they do about him) His media persona is, quite frankly, awful! I'm all for keeping his feet on the ground but cheering and loosening up a bit when talking to the media could/would do a lot for his relationship with the fans.
Tynecastle is like a morgue!
Well, to borrow a commonly used phrase ... it takes two to tango! It's a bit of a self perpetuating cycle that one. Fans sing, players perform. Players have an off day, fans stop singing. Fans more reluctant to sing in next match due to trepidation, players get nervous and fail to perform. And it's a really difficult cycle to break. Yes, a group did try to encourage a bit more singing at Hearts matches over the last couple of seasons but, when a group like that allows itself to get embroiled in stupid behaviour - such as taking bangers and smoke bombs to games, or stealing drums - the good will that the club, and other fans, show to them quickly evaporates. So, hey, feel free. Sing your hearts out ... just be aware that you're no longer allowed to sing about being up to your knees in Fenian blood etc, etc, etc. Start a group of like-minded fans if you so wish, come up with new songs, come up with silly chants ... Dave McPherson loved nothing more than hearing "Donkey, Donkey" being chanted ... as long as it was good natured. And that's the key. If you go to the game with pre-conceived "What shite are we being served up today?" you simply will not enjoy it ... even if we win. And if that's the attitude you go in with, that pretty quickly transfers itself onto the pitch, the players get all nervy, and that self perpetuating cycle takes off all over again.
ViewfromGorgie defends Neilson at all costs
Utter pish, quite frankly. I do think Neilson is a decent manager, in terms of getting results, his stats back that up. But, as I have pointed out above, his frailties are there for all to see. But he is still learning. That said, I do believe that the coming domestic campaign will be very much a "make or break" season for him. If the club slips back in the league, let's say to the point of not making Euro qualification, or we make very weak, early exits from the cups, big questions will need to be asked inside Tynecastle. So far, Neilson has only taken Hearts on an upwards path ... that was inarguable up until last night ... if he starts slipping backwards the club needs to, and I believe will, think about making a change.
The club is going backwards! Our signing policy is a disgrace!
The club is most definitely not going backwards. We lost a European tie that, whether you like it or not, we didn't have any divine right to win. We threw away a lead and ultimately lost to Hibs in the Scottish Cup last season, not great, obviously, but not the end of the world either. In footballing terms, over the two full seasons Neilson has been in charge, we have only ever travelled upwards. He took over on the same day that players were being released left, right and centre. Levein and he took to the transfer market and brought in some god and not so good ... more than enough to win a league containing Rangers and Hibs at a canter. Last season, some of those guys proved themselves to not quite have it for the top flight, Pallardo being a prime example, Gomis another who's time had come in the top league. He let Keatings go and brought in Reilly. He was proven largely right with Keatings, as he became a bench warmer for Hibs, Reilly, either through not getting a decent run, or some other factor, was shown not to be ready for the top flight ... will a loan spell in Fife improve him? Only time will tell. He's brought in Conor Sammon ... hands up, Sammon is never going to be a replacement for Osman Sow (I'd love to be wrong) but four, very early season, European ties are not going to show, one way or the other, that he was a poor signing. So far, our signing policy of "bring guys in who have lost there way in the game" has largely worked; Sow and Öztürk probably being the prime examples of that. That said, the football side of the club do need to make the next few signings "hits" rather than "misses".
Off the field? Well, I think it would be a tunnel-visioned individual indeed that would attempt to claim that things have moved in a backwards direction since the summer of 2014.
Ann Budge's time is up!
No, really, I did read this more than once last night. All I can say to that is this. I currently don't have £2.5 - £3 million in my bank account. If you do, and you'd like Mrs Budge to take nothing more to do with Hearts, feel free to burst open your piggy bank and pay her a visit. She seems like a nice lady, I'm sure she'd enjoy a nice, genial, meeting rather than some of the nonsense she's had to put up with since saving us from liquidation.
One further point I'd like to make is this: I am more than happy to have disagreements with people. I'm big enough and ugly enough to hold my own in an argument ... but let's keep it civil, eh? I don't like banning/blocking people on social media ... but ... if you really can't take the angry bees out of your head before contacting me that's exactly what's going to happen.