“Decapitated” was the word Hearts manager Robbie Neilson suggested would be necessary for a Celtic red card after a challenge by Alexandro Bernabei on Wednesday night. Why he thought it was necessary, or helpful, to add invective language to the ether ahead of Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarterfinal is a puzzle.
Whatever his desired outcome, he has reason to ponder before giving Celtic players a cause to rally against again. The game was clearly a no-contest before Aaron Mooy converted Jota’s cross inside two minutes at Tynecastle. Hearts were lucky to escape with just the three-goal deficit.
You can train players all week, but send them into their 42nd game of the season and getting absolute sharpness from the same voice can be a challenge. Footballers are not machines, they can only climb the mountain so many times before it feels like another hill walk.
When Neilson picked on a young player, still settling in Scotland, it gave his team-mates a cause célèbre. Ange Postecoglou had an opportunity to proverbially pin the Hearts manager’s words to the dressing-room wall. It was a rookie mistake from an experienced manager.
You and I have seen Inverness, Falkirk and Newco take us out at the semi-final stage of the Scottish Cup. Maybe we should shout for Ayr United tonight?