23 June 2013

Gers should accept Hearts' friendly wish

by James Donaldson | Guest Contributor

On June 21st, 2012, Vladimir Romanov made a “clear and robust” statement on the official Hearts website, saying “no” to Rangers staying in the SPL following the club’s successful exit from administration via the ‘newco’ asset purchase.

In case you need a brief reminder of ‘Mad’ Vlad’s “clear and robust” words, you’ll find some of them below.

"The former owners of Rangers FC are to blame for some of the worst problems to hit Scottish football and must not be allowed back in [to the SPL] under any circumstances.

"As regards the club itself, we can only express our deepest condolences to its supporters, who have been lied to for so many years.

"It had to happen sooner or later."

One year on, it would be fair to say that those “clear and robust” words have come back to hit Hearts right in the Jambo’s. In yesterday’s Scottish Sun, it was reported that Hearts boss Gary Locke had been on to Ally McCoist to beg for a friendly between the two sides – with the full support of Hearts administrator, Trevor Birch, you would imagine.

Hearts need money – and they need it fast if they want to make it through the summer – so let’s not beat around the bush here. Hearts don’t want to play Rangers for any footballing reason.

Hearts need the world famous Rangers support to make their way across the M8, down the M9 and up the A7, in their thousands. Last season Hearts attracted over 10,000 supporters each and every SPL game, according to the figures on their website – not bad when you consider the attendances found in the rest of that league.

However, over the last three pre-seasons, the Jambos have only attracted an average of 5,484 supporters to their friendlies at Tynecastle (figures taken from Wikipedia for matches against Royal Antwerp, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers).

Five thousand fans will barely cover costs on a usual match day at Tynecastle! Hearts need to invite a team that sell out every ground they visit – Hearts need The Rangers to come to town. As you can imagine, the reaction from the Rangers online community was unanimous everywhere I have looked; “NO!”

Read ‘Mad’ Vlad’s “clear and robust” words one more time. As my old, atheistic Granny used to say; “if you have nothing good to say, it is sometimes best to say nothing at all” - wise words indeed.

As far as the Rangers online community is concerned, Hearts have made their bed, and they can bloody well lie in it. Despite what you may have initially thought after reading the title of this article, I am in complete agreement with the overwhelming majority of the Rangers online community – you couldn’t pay me to attend any game at Tynecastle in the near future.

However, Rangers should accept the offer of a friendly, and I make that statement purely based on footballing reasons.

Thirty players made competitive appearances for Rangers last season, and the Rangers squad is as big as it has been for many years. We are currently at the point where we can’t take on any more players until some are shifted. Six first team players have come in, and only one (Kane Hemmings) has been released.

By my basic mathematics, we have potentially thirty-five players to try and include in the pre-season schedule, so some of the young stars are definitely going to struggle for game time. I’m talking about guys like Fraser Aird, Luca Gasparotto, Chris Hegarty, Robbie Crawford, Andy Murdoch, Danny Stoney etc.

There is so much potential in those names above, but they can’t develop without game time. If Hearts want a friendly, they should get it, but the first XI shouldn’t be involved in a charity match at a crucial point in our pre-season schedule.

Picture this Rangers XI:

Smith; Cole, Gasparotto, Hegarty, McAusland; Stoney, Crawford, Murdoch and Aird; Burrows and Ogden.

These players are not going to see much action in any of our confirmed pre-season friendlies, but the majority of those above are players who could become first team stars for a generation, if given enough time to develop at senior level.

How many times have Rangers wasted potential over the last decade? Players who have gone on to become first team regulars for teams in the Premiership and Championship in particular. Immediately I think of Ross McCormack, Charlie Adam and Chris Burke – I could go on.

Rangers should absolutely accept Hearts’ offer of a friendly.

This would be a great opportunity for our potential future heroes to get a very challenging 90 minutes under their belts. Yes, Hearts have lost a large number of players already this summer, but they still have a good enough squad to survive in Scotland’s top tier – at least for now.

This friendly would be a really good test for our youngsters. As I said above, I completely support the opinion of the majority on the online community – Hearts made their bed 12 months ago, and I will not be giving my very hard earned spare cash to a club who did their utmost (yet, failed) to kill mine in the summer of 2012.

If Hearts want a friendly, the Jambos can sell-out Tynecastle on their own. Although, I can definitely relate to some of what ‘Mad’ Vlad said last June, and allow me to finish with some “clear and robust” words of my own:

Vladimir Romanov is to blame for some of the worst problems to hit Scottish football.

As regards the club itself, I can only express my deepest condolences to its supporters, who have been lied to for so many years.

This had to happen sooner or later.