Date: 3rd February 2010 at 11:06pm
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Well, the 1-0 defeat by St.Mirren last night was hardly a surprise, was it ? The Paisley team had the majority of possession and goal chances on the atrocious Fir Park pitch which merely highlighted how far Hearts performances have sunk.

Of course, the team performance in each of the last 3 defeats has not really been any worse than the performances witnessed for most of this season – even our narrow wins have been “ground out” in matches which could have gone either way.

I found some of Jim Jefferies` comments after last night`s match slightly strange. First, he claimed the team performance was “a million times better than Saturday”. Hmm? maybe “a bit better than Saturday” might have been more accurate. Then he claimed that Billy Mehmet`s winner for St. Mirren was “a wonder goal”. Really ? He just did what any decent forward should be capable of doing – placing a rolling ball on target with the inside of his foot. Ok – the ball was probably baubling about on the mud as it arrived, but surely this is what forwards practice in training. It’s not rocket science – it’s a basic skill all of them should have. Perhaps none of our forwards could do this however !!

On a positive note, Andrew Driver made a return to the team after about 8 weeks out, and appears not to have picked up any injury. On the negative side, Ian Black picked up yet another booking, and must now be close to another suspension. This guy has done nothing of note since he joined Hearts, other than commit several sly “professional” fouls in every game for which a yellow card is his usual reward – even during brief substitute appearances. I think even Brellier managed to avoid a yellow card in a few of his games !!

Ismael Bouzid had to go off injured in the first-half last night – it remains to be seen if the 8-day break before our next match (v Celtic on Wednesday 10th February) is enough to get him fit again. With a new manager in place, it’s unfortunate that we seem to have a steady rotation of 5 or 6 players on the treatment table – with youngsters Craig Thomson, Scott Robinson and David Templeton currently unable to show JJ what they can do.

Following the Celtic game, we have 2 home matches in succession – against Falkirk and Hamilton. Let`s hope that the influence of our new management team has started to show dividends by then, resulting in some goals.

The January transfer window saw only one new player come in (in addition to Darren Barr’s pre-contract signing) – 25 year-old attacking midfielder Ryan Stevenson from Ayr United on a two and a half year contract. He started off at Kilmarnock`s youth academy when JJ was manager there, and was talented enough to be bought by Chelsea. Not surprisingly he couldn`t make the grade there, and joined Ayr United in 2007 where he helped them win promotion to the First Division last season.

Although he`s not a big name, recruiting promising players from lower leagues is something Hearts used to excel in under Alex McDonald, Jim Jefferies and Craig Levein. It`s all about identifying players who are hungry enough and skilful enough to make a step-up, and then coaching them into a particular role in the team. Let`s hope he turns out to be a lot closer to a “Cameron” than a “Berthe” for JJ !!

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to hear Jefferies speak on the reasons why Jose Goncalves is unlikely to feature for Hearts again. For years, the media ridiculed Romanov for adopting a “sign the new contract or else” stance over guys like Webster, Brellier and Tall. Vladimir must be delighted to hear JJ make the case for taking a similar stance with Goncalves, who appears to have made a u-turn after stating last month that he wanted to stay at Hearts beyond the summer. Although it’s a shame the team will be deprived of the Portuguese defender’s talent, the fact that JJ is on the same wavelength as Romanov on this issue is probably a good sign for the future well-being of us all !!

Young midfielder Stephen Husband has left the club to join Blackpool – perhaps JJ reckoned we have a glut of youngsters who play similar roles, and finances dictated that we couldn`t keep them all. Reports I`ve seen suggest that Husband was a promising guy at U-19 level, although he appears to have struggled on loan at Livingston in 2009. Good luck to the lad down south.

Left-sided Australian Rocky Visconte has joined Ayr United on loan until the end of the season, where he joins fellow countryman Ryan McGowan. Let’s hope both these lads benefit from first team football, and are able to return in the summer to stake a strong claim to be part of Hearts squad.

What are your views on the players “in and out” … and what you hope for, now that our season is “dead” ?