Friday, 19 August 2011
White-Hot Spurs Take Hearts To School - Guest Post By Andrew Neill
By Andrew Neill
I was at Tynecastle to watch Heart of Midlothian take on the might of Tottenham Hotspur, it was laughably billed as the "Battle of Britain", but what it brought into stark contrast was the difference in quality between the English Premier League and the Scottish Premier League. By their relative ambitions, these sides are of equal standing. They're 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 two or three clubs that always win their respective leagues.
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 Auld Firm in Scotland. We'll have a fight on our hands just to secure 3rd place, but the winner of that position will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes and Hearts have a good enough squad to achieve that. We came into the match as underdogs, but the eternal optimist in me thought if Spurs were have a bad night, we might be able to nick 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 a national television audience witnessed the gulf in class between English and Scottish Football.
Hearts actually played quite well over the whole night. But the fitness (or lack of it) of the players cost Hearts dear in the first half. However, for the first 15 minutes of the second half, we dominated Spurs, creating chances. By this point, Tottenham were already 3-0 up and cruising, but we showed we were capable of causing them problems. There's no denying that Spurs were sublime on the night, they controlled the game, winning 5-0. To be honest, it could have been 10-0 and we would have had no complaints. They sliced our defence open at will, and gave goalkeeper Marion Kello no chance with all five goals that were expertly taken from a group of players that would get bored by the lacklustre standard of the SPL. Their collective first touch, passing, and finishing was of a level that I have never seen at Tynecastle, even from the George Burley team that topped the SPL table in the early stages of the 2005/06 season.
Even Barcelona coming to Scotland to play a pre-season friendly at Murrayfield was not comparable to the level of skill on show yesterday evening. I don't think Spurs showed a level of skill that will win the Premier League title, but they showed enough to suggest they can go far in the Europa League, as well as challenging for the Champions League places again this year. Hearts were shown how to play the game, and if they play against the rest of the SPL as they did for those fifteen second-half minutes, they'll cruise to 3rd, and may be in a position to challenge Rangers and Celtic.
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 won. In spite of the result, 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, but I hope that the players enjoy the experience of playing in London next week. When Spurs bring out their under 19 team in the second-leg next Thursday, I just hope we can match them.
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Andrew Neill also has a film blog, which can be found at http://www.toxicmovies.blogspot.com/