Hearts: Stendel predicts relegation fight will go down to final day

Hearts manager Daniel Stendel has predicted that his side’s fight for Scottish Premiership survival will go down the final day of the season.

The Jambos’ emphatic 3-1 derby win over Hibernian on Tuesday night lifted them off the foot of the table for a mere 24 hours, before Hamilton’s shock victory over Rangers the following night dragged them back to the foot of the table.

Stendel believes that his team will need to drag other sides into the basement battle and thinks that the fight for survival will go right down to the wire despite an upturn in form.

“We have five games left [before the split]. The situation is not comfortable for us, but it hasn’t changed,” he said. “We knew it would be good if we won this game, but it still hasn’t changed for us.

“It’s important we collect more points; not that we look to Hamilton every time, but we collect our points. We let a lot of points slip, and the time is over for us to do this again. When we win our points, we don’t depend on the others.

“We need more results. Sometimes we will win games and other times the other team will win games. I think it will be decided on the last game.

“The first time all season we won two big games in a row. It’s a good sign that we can do it.”

Stendel has recently abandoned his favoured gegenpressing approach for a more disciplined style of play, and impressive victories over the Hibees and Rangers have renewed optimism in what has been a disappointing season so far.

“I think this is the first time this season we won two big games in a row. It shows we can do it,” he said.

“The kind of play in both games is the main point for me to take from the games. We showed a mentality on Tuesday, and our discipline was important.

“The situation is good for me and the players. We have more experiences when we work together, and when we do work together and have the right discipline and behaviours on the pitch, we will get the chances to win the game.”

Hearts face a Motherwell side who claimed an impressive 4-1 victory over Ross County on Wednesday. The Jambos will still be without Toby Sibbick as he remains out through illness, though the defender may be back in training next week.

Cup replay between Hearts and Rangers could postpone Tuesday’s Edinburgh derby

Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby at Easter Road could be postponed should Hearts’ Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers tomorrow go to a replay.

The Scottish FA has announced that a draw at Tynecastle will result in the teams facing again on Wednesday, March 4 at Ibrox.

With Rangers playing their Europa League round of 16 tie against Bayer Leverkusen over the following two weeks and the Scottish Cup semi-finals on the weekend of April 11, next week remains the only free slot to contest a replay.

Hearts are also facing the prospect of a fixture pile-up after their crucial game away to St Mirren was postponed last week due to heavy rain.

The relegation strugglers host Rangers in Gorgie tomorrow after upsetting Steven Gerrard’s side with a 2-1 victory in January, which remains manager Daniel Stendel’s only league win with the Jambos.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Stendel said he hopes his team can take inspiration from that January performance.

“Rangers will be more focused for this game,” Stendel said. “The cup is always a good chance for everybody to win a title, especially after the first game.

“For us it is important that we know we can win. If we play at Tynecastle then we have the support that we need against Rangers. In our situation, every game is important.

“The difference is that this is a cup game and doesn’t change anything in the league, but it can give us a positive lift for the next couple of games, especially on Tuesday night. We need better results.”

Stendel claimed that he saw a big lift after beating Rangers, however he regretted his side’s failure to capitalise on that as they only won one of their next five games – a 1-0 victory over League One Falkirk in the previous round of the cup.

This quarter-final tie gives Hearts a chance to switch their focus from Premiership duty, where they find themselves two points adrift at the foot of the table.

The St Mirren postponement has resulted in the Jambos having an extra week to prepare for tomorrow’s game, but it may have been an unwelcome break as Stendel admitted time is running out for them to turn the tide.

“All that we do in training is good. The motivation is good. The only thing that doesn’t change is the results,” he said.

“We can look to other games and other teams, but the only team that we can change is us.”

“I said to the players, ‘we cannot score three goals every week’. The other team doesn’t get a lot of chances, but every chance is a goal. Every week it costs us points. We want one goal to be enough to win a game.”

The German will be boosted by the return of striker Liam Boyce, who struck the winning goal on his debut when the teams met in January, however he is still awaiting the return of defender Toby Sibbick after illness.

Hibernian manager Ross praises owner’s ambitious plans ahead of ‘exciting’ time for the club

Manager Jack Ross says it is an “exciting” time for Hibernian after owner Ron Gordon unveiled an ambitious five-year strategic plan for the club this week.

Speaking at the club’s annual general meeting on Wednesday, Gordon said he wished to double spending on players by 2023 and for Hibs to firmly establish themselves as a top-four side in Scotland.

“I’d heard Ron’s presentation prior to last night and it was part of the attraction for me coming to the club in the first place,” said Ross, who took over from former boss Paul Heckingbottom in November.

“When I met him initially, I had a feel for what he wanted to try and achieve for the club. I don’t view my position as being able to spend lots of money; it’s about trying to be part of a club that progress and becomes better.

“But, naturally, if we find ourselves in a position further down the line where we’re able to recruit even higher quality players in one or two positions then there’s an obvious benefit to do that, but you have to use the resources in the right way as well.

“His ambition and his plans for the club are exciting for everybody involved – those who follow the club and those who come to work with it.”

Gordon also outlined his vision for Hibs to consistently challenge in Scotland’s two domestic cup competitions, as well as securing regular qualification for European competitions.

The capital club face Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals tonight at Easter Road, while their push for a Europa League spot will continue with Tuesday night’s Edinburgh Derby at home to Hearts.

Ross insisted that his team’s focus is solely on tonight’s match against Championship side Inverness, and said that Hibs will be targeting further glory in the Scottish Cup following the club’s famous triumph in 2016.

“The fixture on Tuesday has no relevance to us at the moment,” Ross said.

“Our preparation this week has been all about this game on Friday. We spoke immediately after the game on Saturday [against Livingston] about the significance of this game and the prize at stake for us if we win it, and the potential prize if we keep winning games in the tournament.

“We set out from the first match we played in the tournament against Dundee United to try and win the competition.

“It’s a realistic aim for us and so far we have navigated ourselves well through the tournament, and hopefully we can continue that on Friday.”

BSC Glasgow: Inside the amateur team plotting to shock Hibs in the Scottish Cup

 

BSC Glasgow manager Stephen Swift says it would be the “biggest result in Scottish Cup history” if his Lowland League side were to defeat Hibernian on Sunday.

Hibs are huge favourites to win the fifth-round tie, and the pressure will be on the Edinburgh side to avoid embarrassment and reach the quarter-finals.

Swift has envisioned three outcomes from the game, acknowledging that a heavy defeat to Premiership opposition is more than possible, but says a win for his team would rank as the greatest in 148 years of Scottish Cup upsets.

“If Hibs go and wipe the floor with us we can look back and say that it was maybe a bridge too far,” Swift told EN4 News. “The other scenario is if we lose narrowly but the boys give a good account of ourselves, we can really be proud of them.

“But if the miracle did happen and we won, it would be the biggest result in Scottish Cup history.

“We’ve got the three scenarios there, but with any one of them we’ll be delighted with how we’ve equipped ourselves in this Scottish Cup run. There’s no pressure, [on us] and we will try to enjoy the game.”

BSC Glasgow, who were established in 2014, reached the fifth round of the competition for the first time in the club’s short history by defeating East Kilbride in the previous round.

(Credit: Jamie Braidwood)

But it was their third-round win over League One opponents East Fife that made headlines, as Swift’s men fought back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 in stoppage time.

“That shows the belief within this group that they can actually be under that much adversity and come out with a win,” Swift said.

“However, we’ve got to have huge respect for Hibs; they’re four tiers above us in the leagues. But our players are under no pressure, and we’ll give it our best shot.”

There is no doubt that a win for the Glasgow outfit would eclipse other famous Scottish Cup shocks, such as Albion Rovers’ win over Motherwell in 2013, or Celtic’s defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in 2000.

Swift admits that he has faced sleepless nights thinking about how his side are going to achieve the impossible.

It is often tempting for a manager facing such unfavourable odds to surrender possession and play with 11 men behind the ball, but the boss is determined that his side play to their strengths.

“I’ve been up a couple of nights thinking about what I’m trying to do,” said Smith, who had a 16-year professional career playing for sides such as Cowdenbeath and Stranraer.

“I could easily set up and be extremely hard to beat, we will need to compact, organised and transition into our positions quickly, but one thing I don’t want to lose is our identity.

“I want us to give it a go, so it’s not a case of Hibs having wave after wave of attack. We’ve got to try and give a bit as well, I think that’s important and that’s the romance of the cup.

“If I went away and set up to not get beat heavily and we came away with a 2-0 defeat but never had a shot on goal, I’d probably be disappointed with myself, and I’d be doing a disservice to the players.”

One thing that BSC Glasgow will need if they are to take the game to Hibs is goals. The strike partnership of Thomas Collins and Thomas Orr has led to 31 goals so far this season and looks to be their biggest threat.

Collins, whose 17 goals this season make him the club’s top scorer, told EN4 News that he has been studying Sunday’s opponents and is confident of adding to his tally.

 

“Hibs are a strong side, but I watched them over the weekend and they’ve got weaknesses,” Collins said.

“Obviously they were playing another Premiership side but I believe we can create chances, and if I get a chance inside the box I feel positive that I can score a goal.”

On the tie, Collins added: “There’s a real buzz and excitement about the place. It’s a massive game for the club.

“Not only are we excited about the game, but there’s a belief that we can go and do something special.

“You’ve seen throughout the season that there’s a spirit within this team. We’ve come from behind or we can go ahead early and go and capitalise on those leads and see out games.

“So no matter how the game pans out on Sunday, we’ve got a great chance of getting a positive result.”

Kick-off is at 12pm on Sunday at Alloa Athletic’s Indodrill Stadium.

Hibs boss calls for improved fan behaviour following bottle incident

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom said Hibernian fans must conduct themselves in the right manner (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has urged fans of the club to become “the best off the pitch” following an incident in last weekend’s Scottish Cup defeat to Celtic.

Celtic winger, Scott Sinclair was almost struck by a bottle and coin thrown from the stands in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat as the hosts bowed out of the Scottish Cup at the quarter-final stage.

The incident is one in a long series this season where missiles have been thrown towards match officials, managers and players themselves.

Heckingbottom delivered a message to the supporters of the Edinburgh club, urging them to behave themselves so that the club can become the “best supported” team on and off the pitch.

He said: “People can get carried away I understand that, people may have been out and had a few drinks before, but there’s still a way that you have to behave at a football match.

“And just like how I speak to our players about representing the club our fans represent the club as well, and [while] we want to be the best football team on the pitch, we [also] want to be the best supported team off the pitch as well.”

Heckingbottom continued, stating that misbehaving fans must be identified and disgraced, suggesting that sanctions must be handed out in order nip the issue in the bud.

He added: “It has been topical up here [but] you don’t want to see that anywhere you know.

“And we want to get a grip of it so whilst we can appeal to people to behave themselves and be responsible, we also need to get better ways to identify people and enforce penalties, enforce bans, things like that because you want the best possible products on the pitch and off the pitch.

“As a collective people have to take responsibility for it whether that’s fans in round about, friends if you’ve got a friend misbehaving, clubs to identify their own supporters if they’re possibly doing it and sanctions imposed by whoever can impose the sanctions.”

“You want as many people as you can attending, you want to grow the sport in your country and make it appealing not only to paying fans but TV fans as well and part of that is behaviour and how people perceive individual teams and the league as a whole.

“The safety of the players is paramount. As a footballer you should be going out there and giving it everything, that should be your sole focus to do your job and perform as well as you possibly can. Not worried that every time you take a throw-in or a set-piece and you’re near the fans that something is going to happen.”

Following the incident, Chief Executive Leeann Dempster issued a statement saying the club will be installing additional CCTV cameras to avoid issues like this in the future.

She said: “This incident, and the damage to our reputation, has led us to now invest further in upgrading our already modern CCTV set-up at no small cost.

“Clearly this is also money we would rather be spending on football.

“In future, there will be no hiding place for those few individuals who seek to tarnish the reputation of the vast majority who do Hibernian proud on a weekly basis at grounds all over the country.

“Any supporter caught engaging in behaviour that places players, staff and other fans at risk will be dealt with in the strongest possible terms available to us, whether that involves exclusion from Easter Road Stadium, a Football Banning Order or criminal prosecution when appropriate.

The Easter Road club return to Scottish Premiership action on Friday night as they host Rangers. Kick off is at 7:45pm.

My Morning Routine*

(Credit: Jade Du Preez)

Raith can be a “banana skin” for Hibs, says boss

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Raith Rovers are hoping to trip Hibs up tomorrow (Credit: Raith Rovers / Facebook)

Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn has insisted his side will go into tomorrow’s Scottish Cup fifth round tie against Hibernian with the belief they can win.

The Kirkcaldy outfit, who have never won the competition, are aiming to progress to the quarter-final stage with victory at Easter Road.

Speaking exclusively to EN4 News, McGlynn emphasised that his side can upset the odds when they visit Hibs.

“We’re big underdogs, I don’t think anyone outside of Kirkcaldy will give us much of a chance,” he said.

“But we have to believe that we can go there and cause an upset.

“We can play. Yes, it’s a step up and we’ll have to raise our game, but we can play. Hopefully we can go there and frustrate Hibs or make them a bit nervous.

“We want to stay in the game for as long as possible and hopefully nick a winner.”

Despite playing opposition that are two divisions higher, McGlynn is relaxed about the match because “all the pressure is on Hibs.”

“I would suggest that all the pressure is on Hibs because they are the bigger club and they’re at home to lower league opposition,” he said.

“They will fancy their chances against us and it would be a shock if they weren’t to go through. But as I said, we have to believe that we can go there and get a result. And with the romance of the cup, anything can happen.”

Hibs go into the match still without a permanent head coach following Neil Lennon’s departure by mutual consent last week, but McGlynn believes that the uncertainty surrounding the Edinburgh club won’t necessarily play into his side’s hands tomorrow.

 

“Can we use their uncertainty to our advantage? Possibly. But I think that their interim set-up has come in and done well so far.

“They’ve had two difficult games against Aberdeen and Celtic that not many teams would win over the course of the season. The managerial change hasn’t had that much of an impact on them so far, so do I think it’ll make any difference on Saturday? Probably not.”

To listen to an extended interview with John McGlynn, click here.

Can Scottish football compete with European elites?

It’s that time of the year again when football fans eagerly await news of the latest transfers their club is making in the transfer window. As clubs in Europe are making transactions of over £100 million per window these days, it’s normal practice to see those types of figures bandied about.

For the bigger clubs in Europe those signings are made to help them achieve success in European competitions like the Champions League or the Europa League.

This season, only Celtic made it through the qualifying rounds as the only Scottish team in European competition. Despite dropping out of the Champions League before Christmas, Brendan Rodgers’ side will take part in the Europa League next month – where they will face Russian outfit Zenit St. Petersburg.

In their Champions League group, Celtic faced two of the richest clubs worldwide: Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. They lost all matches against those sides. The total value of Celtic’s team was tiny compared to the German and French teams – a far cry from the days when Scottish clubs competed in high level matches with Europe’s best. In the current climate, that is not likely to happen again.

Olivier Ntcham was Celtic’s big money buy last summer. Credit: Getty Sport

Neil Patey, a football finance expert, believes that the millions of pounds in broadcast revenue sets the larger leagues apart from that of Scotland’s top flight. He said:

In reality, small leagues, Scotland and Celtic as an example, will never be competitive financially with a team in the upper echelons of the English, Spanish, German, Italian leagues. Aside wealthy owners, those leagues command more money from media rights.

You’re going to get somewhere between £140 million to £200 million every year through media rights. The winners of the Scottish Premiership get about £2.5 million so you are never going to be on an equal footing and there will always be that disparity between big and small leagues.

Celtic are still miles ahead of the rest of the country financially. They spent £4.5 million on midfielder Olivier Ntcham last summer and are likely to receive a multi-million pound offer for their striker Moussa Dembele this month. Edinburgh clubs Hibernian and Hearts struggle to reach seven figures to pay for any players.

Former SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, thinks that Scotland’s finances will only get better if money is invested into the clubs differently. He said:

[Clubs] might have a buyer who can flaunt the rules a wee bit like some people do, basically coming in as a sponsor like you see in England with Etihad, for example. They can get around it because the owners get to put money in in different ways so that’s the only way Scottish teams can compete.

Gordon Smith (left) believes the Scottish clubs need wealthy owners to compete. Credit: Getty Images

UEFA’s financial fair play rule also keeps tabs on how clubs operate financially. The rule requires teams to financially breakeven with their revenue and expenditure. For the leagues and clubs who benefit from hefty television income that means more money is able to be spent within the rules.

Financial fair play expert, Ed Thompson, says that it is those rules which make it hard for smaller leagues to compete now. He stated:

In Scotland, and smaller countries, the amount of money that TV companies can afford to pay is less. If you look at big clubs in small countries, they have absolutely fallen off a cliff as far as UEFA competition is concerned.

Historically, top clubs in Holland, Belgium, Romania and Scotland – like Ajax, Steaua Bucharest, Anderlecht, Celtic and Rangers – who would have done well in Europe and won competitions, because they are in small countries where TV revenues are lower, financial fair play rules mean they are unable to compete.

Scottish clubs can keep trying. However, football and money are a married couple in the modern day and until Scottish football is rolling in it, pushing custard up a hill with a fork looks much easier.

Radio Bulletin @ 4pm

Saskia Williams presents today’s news with this weeks bulletin.

Edinburgh Council appeal for people power to help their Tourist Tax Cuts Scheme. Source: Edinburgh Evening News

Are football tickets too pricey for Scottish fans?

The BBC published its Price of Football study this week. It’s a detailed analysis of how much fans will spend supporting their club over the course of a season – from tickets to pies.

The study covers 13 leagues across Britain, and some in Europe. The Edinburgh-based football clubs, Hearts, Hibernian and Edinburgh City, have all been analysed as part of Scotland’s inclusion.

The Gorgie Road stand at Hearts’ Tynecastle. Photo Credit: (Christian Cooksey/Getty Images)

And the figures revealed in the study range from the cost of a season ticket to how much a cup of tea is at home matches.

Hearts have just moved back in to Tynecastle following a brief stay at Murrayfield, but their figures do not appear to have been affected. The study shows that the cheapest season ticket to watch the Gorgie club is currently £300. The most expensive single ticket is £33.

Across Edinburgh, Hibernian’s cheapest season ticket of £335 is more expensive than their rivals. The two clubs are relatively similar in terms of prices for pies, teas and replica shirts.

Lower league Edinburgh City hold a firm figure for all season tickets. Everyone committed to watching the club this season have paid £160. As expected, their cost of single match tickets to adult replica shirts are all much cheaper than the bigger clubs.

By using the fan cost calculator supplied by the BBC – finding out how much it is to follow each of the Edinburgh clubs with season tickets is quite easy.

If you are a Hearts fan, the study reveals that it will cost approximately £824 in total this season. This figure is based on the cheapest season ticket and buying one pie, tea and programme per home match.

Football fans can pay upwards of £100 across a season for pies. Photo Credit (Alex Morton/Getty Images)

Pies and teas across the season could come to approximately £86. Paying for programmes could come to £66.50 and an adult replica shirt is around £48.

Hibernian fans will be spending slightly more over the course of the season. The calculator suggests that an average season ticket holder could be spending around £850 to watch the Easter Road side.

Compared to Hearts, Hibernian’s pies and teas prices could come to a total of nearly £90. Replica adult shirts for the 2016 Scottish Cup winners are £3 less expensive than at Hearts.

Both clubs’ final totals have the TV sport subscription price included – which is the same across the board for SPFL clubs. £324 could be spent by fans of the Edinburgh rivals so that they won’t miss some of their club’s action if they can’t make it to a match this season.

This subscription price means that even Edinburgh City’s fans could be spending, surprisingly, upwards of £600 this season.

It’s much cheaper for pies and teas at the Meadowbank club – just £41 across the season. It is nearly £50 less for a fan to enjoy a beverage at every home match for the League Two side than that of an avid Hibernian fan at Easter Road.

In Edinburgh alone, football fans collectively for all three clubs are spending nearly £2300 supporting their side.

Easter Road, home of Edinburgh side Hibernian. Photo Credit: Steve Walsh/Getty Images

Comparing the Hibernian and Hearts figures to that of Glasgow’s Old Firm however, is much more revealing.

Fans of the current Scottish champions, Celtic, are estimated in the study to be spending £909 over the season. This could be much more for supporters with the most expensive season ticket at Celtic Park reaching £609.

Their rivals, Rangers, are close behind, with their fans spending approximately £875 this season. Pies and teas at Ibrox could reach up to £96 for season ticket holders.

Combined, the two top-flight Edinburgh clubs’ fans might spend £1700 this campaign. Across the country in Glasgow, Old Firm supporters could be paying £1800.

On the evidence of these figures, it’s true what they say. Football really is nothing without the fans.


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EN4 Football Chat #1

 

EN4 NEWS: FOOTBALL CHAT #1

Join Ryan Maher and Ewan Hawthorne on the EN4 News football podcast as they discuss the game’s biggest happenings in Scotland and England.

The Premier League title race and Ronald Koeman’s sacking are major talking points, as our hosts are joined by Jamie Taylor and Cameron Storer.

Ryan and Ewan also consider the Scottish League Cup Semi-Finals and what the results mean for the clubs and coaches, with Rangers being humbled by Motherwell and Celtic putting 4 past Hibernian.

 

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