Hearts will host Celtic in a crucial Scottish Premiership match today, but the game has been overshadowed by a series of off-field issues that have put the Edinburgh club under pressure and scrutiny. From ticketing disputes to AGM backlash, Hearts have been caught up in stormy waters ahead of their clash with the champions.
Naismith defends ticket decision and slams Celtic
Hearts head coach Steven Naismith has backed the club’s decision to reduce Celtic’s away allocation to just over 500 tickets, saying that they need to look after their own fans. He also accused Celtic of being hypocritical and selfish, claiming that they did not support Hearts when they were relegated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naismith said that Celtic had shown no respect or empathy for Hearts, who were denied the chance to avoid the drop in 2020. He also brought up his time at Rangers, when he felt that Celtic and other clubs had individual agendas that prevented them from getting any help during their UEFA Cup run in 2008.
He said: “We need to look after our fans. They are the ones who have stuck by us through thick and thin. Celtic have not shown us any courtesy or compassion. They were happy to see us go down and they did not care about the impact it had on us. They only care about themselves and their money.”
He added: “I remember when I was at Rangers and we reached the UEFA Cup final. We got no help from anyone. There were individual agendas and politics involved. Celtic were one of the clubs who did not want us to succeed. They have always been like that. They are not interested in the good of Scottish football.”
Kent admits Hearts are under pressure to perform
Hearts defender Ryan Kent has admitted that the team are feeling the pressure to perform after a disappointing run of results that has seen them slip to fourth in the table. He said that the players are aware of the criticism they have received from some fans and the media, and that they need to improve their form and confidence.
Kent said: “We know we have not been good enough in the last few games. We have lost points and momentum. We have also lost the trust and support of some of our fans. We can hear the boos and the jeers. We can read the headlines and the comments. We are not happy with ourselves and we want to change that.”
He added: “We have a big game against Celtic and we need to show what we are capable of. We need to play with passion and pride. We need to give our fans something to cheer about. We need to prove that we are still a strong team and a force to be reckoned with.”
Celtic aim to extend their dominance over Hearts
Celtic will be looking to extend their dominance over Hearts, as they have not lost to the Jambos in the league since 2016. They have won 15 and drawn two of their last 17 meetings, scoring 50 goals and conceding only nine. They have also won their last seven visits to Tynecastle, scoring 24 goals and conceding only three.
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers has named a strong starting XI for the game, with Kyogo Furuhashi leading the attack. He has also included new signings Yuki Hatate, Ryo Maeda, and Rodrigo Palma, who have impressed in their previous appearances. He said that he expects a tough game against Hearts, but that he is confident in his team’s quality and mentality.
Rodgers said: “Hearts are a good team and they have a good manager. They have had some problems recently, but they will be motivated to bounce back. They will also have the backing of their home crowd, who will create a hostile atmosphere. We have to be ready for that and we have to play our game.”
He added: “We have a lot of respect for Hearts, but we also have a lot of belief in ourselves. We have been playing very well and we have a lot of options and depth in our squad. We have a lot of goals and creativity in our team. We also have a lot of hunger and desire to win. We want to keep our momentum and our lead at the top of the table.”