Friday, May 20, 2016

2015-16 report card - Hearts

Going up in the world
Heart of Midlothian FC logo.svg

LEAGUE: 3rd, 65pts (2014-15 - promoted from Championship)
SCOTTISH CUP: Fifth round
LEAGUE CUP: Quarter-finals
MOST USED FIRST XI: Neil Alexander, Callum Paterson, Igor Rossi, Alim Ozturk, Juwon Oshaniwa, Sam Nicholson, Prince Buaben, Arnaud Djoum, Jamie Walker, Osman Sow, Juanma

OVERVIEW: Two seasons ago, Hearts were relegated and on the brink of extinction.  Now, with Ann Budge pulling the strings, they are possibly the most envied club in the land, stable and progressive off the pitch and getting the results on it.  The Jambos were comfortably the third best team in the land, and by the end of the season they were closer to Aberdeen than the table suggests.  Only a poor run-in, where players looked tired or ready to hit the beach, cost them second spot.  But with no financial concerns and plenty of exciting young players establishing themselves, things look very bright down Gorgie way.

HIGH POINTS: Five straight wins to start the season and announce their return to the top flight.  The most impressive single result was the 6-0 demolition of Motherwell in January.

LOW POINTS: Going out of the Scottish Cup in a replay at Easter Road was pretty disappointing.  If Hearts had won that game, you'd have fancied them to win the cup.

STAR MAN: It's a shame Jamie Walker missed nearly half the campaign with various injuries; the schemer continues to improve all aspects of his game and Hearts were always most dangerous when he was playing just behind the striker.

ONE FOR THE FUTURE: A nightmare against Celtic aside, John Souttar fitted seamlessly into the defence after escaping the nightmare at Dundee United in January.  Surrounded by half-decent players, he once again looks like Scotland's centre-back of the future.

WASTE OF SPACE: Juwon Oshaniwa played at the 2014 World Cup, so you'd think he would be decent.  You'd be wrong.  Neilson has persisted with the Nigerian left-back, despite several poor performances and a hot head that saw him get sent off twice.  A replacement should be targeted,

THE BOSS: Yes, there really were some idiots who paid for a plane to fly over Tynecastle with a 'Neilson out' message.  The young coach followed up a Championship title with a top three finish, so I reckon he should feel pretty secure for now.  Sure, he made some tactical errors and his squad rotation sometimes seemed a bit barmy.  But more often that not he made the right calls, and given that he's only 36 next month, there's still plenty of room for improvement.  In terms of league finishes, it's hard to see how anyone else could have done better.

PROSPECTS FOR NEXT SEASON: Finishing above Aberdeen is a realistic target.  Can Hearts compete with Rangers...or even with Celtic?  The latter is too much to ask, but if Craig Levein's contacts can rustle up another goalscorer, and the club can hold on to their talented youngsters, then finishing second in the league is possible.  Much will depend on how much money needs to be spent on the new stand instead of the squad.

FIRST TEAMERS DEFINITELY LEAVING: Neil Alexander, Blazej Augustyn, Abiola Dauda (end of loan), Soufian El Hasnaoui, Liam Henderson, Sean McKirdy, Miguel Pallardo,

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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