August 2015 Dinner
We were delighted to welcome as our guests for the evening, Director of Football at Tynecastle, Craig Levein and Head Coach Robbie Neilson. A member of the audience was quick to point out that it was unusual to have the same management team two years in a row which indeed it is considering recent times at the Club.
Over 280 members and guests were present which is an excellent attendance (even for August) and after an excellent meal we were ready for a Q and A session with Craig and Robbie. As always the questions came up with a huge amount of good information intermingled with some good stories.
Craig is absolutely delighted with the new pitch at Tynecastle. The pitch was completely renewed during the close season (winning the Championship so early was a great help as having to take part in the play offs would have delayed things somewhat). Craig advised that after years of neglect the old pitch was in very poor condition but with reseeding he considers the pitch to be one of the best, if not the best in Scotland now.
The new sports complex at Riccarton is on its way to completion and will be a fabulous place for the Hearts Academy and a fantastic place to develop and coach players of all ages. It is considered that it will be the best sports complex in Scotland and will be used by the SFA and Scottish Rugby Union as well as Hearts. Both Craig and Robbie are very excited about the facilities. On a Friday the players train at Tynecastle and then lunch together with all the staff as a team building exercise. Robbie has a meeting with Ann Budge every Friday afternoon to update her on all the teams’ progress.
When asked about what Ann Budge has done for the Club, Craig said she was the most intelligent and well-rounded person he had ever worked with. She had great qualities and it was absolutely critical that she came to the Club just at the right time. Craig said that he was not looking for a job at Tynecastle but after discussions with her he was sold on the idea and convinced that with Ann, Hearts would not just survive but would thrive.
There was a number of questions on how players were recruited. Both Craig and Robbie as well as Chief Scout, John Murray are involved in the decision. Quite often the process starts from a recommendation from an agent and videos of the player are watched. Then John can be sent to actually watch the player in action and from his report a decision will be made by all three after interviewing the player. Although agents can get a bad name in football, Craig advised that a number of them are very good and helpful. As an example it was the agent for Gomis and Prince Buaben who recommended Nigerian star Juwon Oshaniwa to Hearts. Even then it took four months of talking to the player before the deal was done and an African Nations Cup winner arrived at Tynecastle. Making sure that the overseas players settle and are happy at Hearts is very important and a lot of work is done to look after their life away from the Club. Arriving in a new country to work is not easy and the Club looks after all their requirements and domestic arrangements, such as living arrangements, schools and medical requirements for themselves and their families.
Youth development is of course vital to progress and success at Hearts and the number of academy players now playing first team football proves that. New training pods are being set in the Lothians and Fife so Hearts can spot future talent from an early age.
As far as new signings before the transfer deadline is concerned, Robbie said there may be another player or two who could come in. However he insisted that they would have to be better than what he has already and if it doesn’t happen then he would not worry about it.
A good question was asked regarding injuries incurred by under 21 players playing for Scotland. Robbie replied that he kept in constant touch with the Scotland physios and could recommend for example that they only played part of a game if they were tired or carrying an injury.
On a lighter note Robbie was asked if he had a player who could replicate his long throw ins which used to cause havoc in the opposition penalty area. Robbie replied that Callum Paterson was pretty good at it but he preferred the modern way of building attacks from the back and retaining possession.
Craig and Robbie were asked about their highs and lows at Tynecastle. Craig remembered the last game of the 1986 season as a terribly sad day (although he was in his sick bed that day) but they were much keener to dwell on the happy times. For Craig, who grew up as a Raith Rovers supporter, he grew to love the Hearts and loves working there. Getting a testimonial was a huge high for him.
Robbie echoed these comments. Winning the Scottish Cup, some great European nights, he did not really know how much the Club meant to him till he left. He too was granted a testimonial and he is delighted to be back hopefully to take the Club back to financial stability and further success.
As a talented defender himself Craig is disappointed with the defensive mistakes Hearts are making this season. There appears to be a lack of communication between defenders resulting in simple mistakes which should not be made at Premier league level. However, he is of the opinion that the current defence will get better the more they play together. in addition with the current offside rule defenders should not take chances and clear their lines better.
Dave is very envious of the training facilities available in the modern game and the introduction of gym facilities, nutritional advice and sports scientists.
The importance of football as a growing sport in Australia is particularly pleasing to Dave and is currently massive at grass roots level. It is now considered bigger than rugby and considered safer.
Dave brought a cheer from the audience when he said as a player he was always confident of beating Hibs!
One change he would introduce in Scottish Football is an enlarged Premier League. This comment was met with general consensus.
Derby matches were always enjoyable to play and Rangers v Celtic is very similar to Hearts and Hibs in the build up and support euphoria.
The Chairman thanked Dave for his very honest thoughts and interesting answers to a variety of questions. A very enjoyable evening was brought to a close by a very hearty round of applause from all.
Following discussions with Robbie and Academy Manager Roger Arnott and the decision made by the members at the AGM in January, the Association is making a donation of £4000 to the Youth Academy at Riccarton. This money will be used to purchase and develop a wellbeing support service for all the players. This will be used to record their fitness and wellbeing at any given time and can be accessed by the coaching staff so that they can assess and organise training requirements on an individual basis. The Club are delighted to receive this donation.
During the summer break we were approached by the Club and asked to purchase a stage for the Gorgie Suite at a cost of £1099. The Committee decided to donate the funds on the basis that the Association has been obliged to hire a stage for our monthly meetings at an annual cost of close to £500. We will therefore get our money back within two years and the stage can be used by the Club for events in the Gorgie Suite which will save them a not inconsiderable sum in hiring costs.
Again this is down to the generosity of our members.
1914 Memorial Trust
Thanks to donations from the Hearts family including a donation and support from the Association, sufficient funds have been collected to begin construction of a statue to commemorate the players who volunteered to fight in the First World War in 1914. Construction has now started.
A meeting has been arranged in September for the Association and Supporter Groups to meet Caryn Kerr, General Manager of Big Hearts to look at ways we can help to support and develop the work done by this organisation.
Our income from this source continues to help us support the Club. Over £600 was raised from our raffle at the August Dinner meeting. Thanks to those who purchase tickets and especially those who donate raffle prizes. It is much appreciated.
September 24th Hearts Legend Dave MacPherson
October 28th Chief Executive and Chair of the Board Ann Budge and Board Member Eric Hogg
PLEASE NOTE THE CHANGE OF DATE FOR MRS BUDGE TO WEDNESDAY 28TH OCT
November 26th Grade 1 Referee Crawford Allan
January 28th Annual General Meeting and a presentation from the Hearts Youth Academy