August 18, 2011

Hearts V Spurs - 1st Leg Europa League Play-off

So I was at Tynecastle to watch Heart of Midlothian take on the might of Tottenham Hotspurs, it was billed laughably as the battle of Britain but what it brought in to stark contrast was the difference between the English Premier League and the Scottish Premier League, by the league standards these teams are of equal standing. They are not the best teams in their league but have aspirations to go further and for the last few years have been best of the rest after the 2 or 3 clubs that are going to win there respective leagues.

And while there is a slim history to the two clubs with the World Championship being played between the clubs in 1901/1902 and the long association of Dave MacKay with both clubs there is actually nothing to link these two clubs in anyway. As a Hearts fan I have no doubts that we are not brilliant, we are barely better than the rest of the clubs outside the Old Firm in Scotland and will have a fight to secure third place but the winner of that position will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes and Hearts have a big enough and good enough squad to get third but nit much more than that. We came in to the game tonight as underdogs but the eternal optimist in me thought well if they have a bad night and we have a great game we might be able to sneak a draw get them worried and sneak a freak result in London (I must be allowed these wild fantasies at times). However what happened was that the whole of Britain was shown the gulf in class between English football and Scottish Football.

Hearts actually played quite well over the whole night, yes there were questions of unfit defenders and wingers being picked and they could have been at fault in the first half but in the second half for 15 minutes we dominated Spurs and actually created a few chances and while they were 3 up and cruising and we got that window we showed we were capable of making the chances. However Spurs were sublime on the night, they cruised the game and while it ended 5-0 it could have been 10 and we would have had no complaints, they sliced our defence open at will and gave Marion Kello our star keeper no chance with all 5 goals. None of the goals were stunning strikes but they were expertly taken from a multitude of players that would get bored in the SPL as it would be far to easy for them. The first touch, the passing and the finishing was of a level that I have never seen at Tynecastle even from the George Burley team that won their first 8 games convincingly or from any of the other teams that have visited Tynecastle in recent years.

Even when Barcelona came in a pre-season friendly and played in front of 58,000 at Murrayfield the level of skill was not on display that evening. Now I do not think Spurs showed a level of skill that will bring a Premiership title back to White Hart Lane but they showed enough that they will go far in the Europa League and will be challenging fro the Champions League places again this year. Hearts were shown how to play the game, one touch passing great control, press when they have the ball and move when your team has the ball and you don't. I do think that if Hearts play against the rest of the SPL as they did for 15 minutes tonight they will cruise to third and may be in a position to challenge Rangers and Celtic but really they will have to up their game from teh start fo the season.

All in all it was a privilege to watch Spurs demolish the team I love and I was proud of the support at the end standing defiant knowing that the better team came and showed us what football is all about. Yet we were still singing and asking what they would do when we win 6-0 in London, realistically I know that the tie is dead and I hope that the players that make the trip to London enjoy the experience and make the most of it and when Spurs bring out the 19's team I just hope we can match that team