Hello guys, welcome to the beginning of season two! As always I want to thank you for your support and encouragement with this series. Very sorry this chapter has taken longer than usual, it was a simple case of a bit of let down after how close we came to getting promotion last season, so I needed to clear my head a bit, think about how to carry on and work on how to continue this save. Hopefully this episode will make up for it!
An old 90s TV set stands on a small table. As someone turns on the big black box, footage from the BBC Breakfast news show comes up. The presenter is giving the sports news; the captions on the lower third read “Crisis at Heart of Midlothian”.
“… but now we move to our main sports story today as Hearts could see as many as five first team players leave the club following their failure to gain promotion to the Scottish Premiership. We go to Joe Watson with the story…”
A young man in a drenched coat stands outside Tynecastle. Light rain hits his umbrella in a steady, almost rhythmic cadence as he speaks.
“Thanks Alex, and it’s precisely as you describe it”, says the reporter. “Hearts are now seeing the full effect of their end of season collapse, as key figures among the squad look for a future away from Tynecastle. My sources remain reluctant to name names, but rumour has it that even club captain and Fans Player of the Year winner John Souttar is amongst those interested in leaving Hearts, allegedly considering whether he should move to a bigger club to further his career. The Jambos are no doubt paying the price of failing to get promoted”.
With the dawn of a new season comes a new opportunity for Hearts to reclaim their first division spot. Whilst most of the talk has been around those who could leave, manager Ross Salcedo and Director of Football Richard Marshall haven’t been sitting idle. When the players arrive for their first practice of pre-season, a new face is amongst them.
“Would you mind stating your name for the record?”, ask our interviewers.
“My name is Finlay Robertson, I’m 18 years-old” the player says with a smile, “I play centre mid, and I play for Heart of Midlothian”.
Manager Ross Salcedo is ecstatic. “Finlay was one of those players that we were really hoping to get. He’s a fantastic talent, so young. Sometimes what happens is that you see so many young Scottish talents get poached by English clubs at the first opportunity. We’re so glad that we were able to get him, that he was interested in coming to Hearts, and we’re looking forward to having him in the team, no doubt.”
At 2.6 million euros in total, Robertson has become Hearts’ all time record signing, surpassing the 1.2 million euros paid in 2005 for Mirsad Beslija. Salcedo, though, thinks there’s little to worry about.
“The fact that we’ve been able to make this deal means the club is in a strong financial position. There’s risk, like with any transfer, but I think we couldn’t pass on an opportunity like this. Finlay is a great player, a young player, and above all else, a player that fits where we’re trying to take this club.”
Together with the former Dundee player, arrive other new signings like Rangers’ Glenn Middleton, Morton’s Reece Lyons and Raith’s Aaron Arnott; they’ve all got one thing in common, none has had their 22nd birthday yet.
“We’re of course looking to bring young players to the squad”, says Director of Football Richard Marshall when talking to our interviewers. “We want to build a team of young Scottish talent, we want to build a set of players that love the club, that learn to love the colours, that appreciate the fans and the city, and not just look at it from a ‘stepping stone’ standpoint. We’re working with the youth setup to bring our youth to the front, and this recruitment policy adds to it. We want to build a side of Edinburgh lads”.
Hearts have now received offers from several clubs for players like John Souttar, Peter Haring and Jamie Walker. They have altered the moods at Heart of Midlothian, with the club now feeling the whole burden of their unsuccessful bid for promotion. The press are like vultures circling their prey. “Not for the faint of Heart(s)” titles The Scottish Sun as rumours arise of a confrontation between Salcedo and his soon to be former captain.
“The situation with both John and Peter is being dealt with”, says the Manager to our interviewers. “Offers arrived from several european clubs. Their agents made it clear that they’d be looking to make the moves happen, and that they felt it would be better if we chose not to stand in the players’ way. So, not many cards left to be played. They’ve put the club at a hard position so we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation”.
“Why have they been sent to train with the reserves?”, ask our interviewers.
“Well, I don’t like having players who aren’t fully committed. With the beginning of the season so close, they would only become a distraction for those who are here, who want to be here, so until their situation resolves, they’ll be training on their own”.
“Is it true you’ve had a confrontation with Souttar earlier this week?”
Salcedo smirks. “That’s all for now guys”, he says.
John Souttar and Peter Haring have refused to comment or to continue to be part of this documentary.
Hearts get ready for their second Scottish League Cup fixture. After a short Pre-Season due to the extended 2020/21 season, they’re struggling to pick up form, a 2-3 defeat vs. Clyde at Broadwood attesting to it. Now, they host Queen of the South in a perfect opportunity to kick League Cup run into gear.
With the signings to replace the departing players still on the works, Salcedo turned to youngster Callum Flatman for central defence.
“It’s some big shoes to fill, definitely”, says the young centreback. “I think none of us was happy to hear the news of important players leaving, but you’ve also got to see it from a positive side. Whenever someone leaves, somebody’s got to take their place, so it’s an opportunity for younger lads to prove their worth. I’m eager to go out there an do exactly that”.
The man who’s spot he’s taken watches from one of the lounge seats, assisting to matches still a responsibility as he remains under contract. Souttar looks periodically at his phone; news of his imminent move to French side St. Etienne can’t come soon enough for him. Finding his spot in the far less expensive seats is Hearts season ticket holder Aidan Hill.
“He was fantastic last season. It’s a real shame that he came to that decision”, he said to our interviewers talking about Souttar. “It’s a real shame ‘cause he had it in him to become one of the Hearts greats if he stayed with us through thick and thin. Names like John Robertson or Dave Mackay, you know? Of course those were before my time, but they’re Hearts legends.”
“Who’s your favourite Hearts player?”
“Mine will forever be Rudi Skacel. There are so many players I love watching from the 80s and 90s but, like I said, they were before my time. I will always cherish the memories of watching Skacel play. He really adopted the Hearts spirit and became a real Jambo. Wand of a left foot he had, and you could see the man was pure class on and off the pitch. His goals against Hibs will be legendary for decades to come.”
There is big news in Hearts midfield for this match too. After a few weeks of intense training to get up to shape, Salcedo is giving Robertson his debut. “We’re really happy to have Finlay on the team sheet”, says the Manager. “He’s been working really hard. Of course, any time you change teams there’s a period of adaptation to go through, but he’s been giving his all and that’s all I can ask of any player”.
“A player who’s fully committed, then?”, ask our interviewers.
Salcedo smiles. “Precisely”.
The match starts and Hearts come out swinging, monopolizing possession and getting most of the chances. They take a 1-0 lead through a Liam Boyce penalty. In the 40th minute the Jambos faithful lived a special moment as Finlay Robertson picked up the ball from a Reece Lyons pass. With a first touch flick he puts it past his maker and clears up enough room for a furious shot past the goalkeeper. When the full time whistle is blown, Hearts wrap up a brilliant performance.
“I’m very happy about scoring in my debut”, says Robertson. “It’s always difficult when joining a new club, meeting your new teammates, building a relationship with a new set of fans. But I’m really happy to have such a great start. It’s about letting go of the ghosts and going all in. Every season brings a new chance, and I want to make it big here at Hearts, so… we have to go and take it”.