What a difference 4 years makes for Hearts
Over on the Vital Celtic site, there is an article which seeks to show the drop in player quality by comparing today`s team with the one which made history in 2003 by reaching the UEFA Cup Final (and almost winning it).
In our case, we need only go back less than 4 years to demonstrate how Hearts have declined. Under George Burley (and subsequently Graham Rix and Valdas Ivanauskas), our team contained real quality players like Craig Gordon, Takis Fyssas, Steven Pressley, Andy Webster, Paul Hartley, Rudi Skacel, Roman Bednar. If events had not been scuppered by Romanov, all these guys would have commanded transfer fees well above £1m in 2006, and some of them would even have been beyond the buying power of the Old Firm. More importantly, their worth to Hearts in terms of performance within the team was huge.
Looking at the team today, we see a shadow of what Hearts were then. It is incredible to think that Hearts assembled such a talented squad only a few short years ago. Now, our only stars are a handful of youngsters around the age of 21 - Driver, Wallace and Craig Thomson. The crucial age group (late twenties) is empty. The mid-twenties age group has some potentially decent players - Kingston, Goncalves, Nade, Zaliukas - but each of them has "baggage" of some kind, which means their worth to the team is significantly less than we`d hope for.
As for the others that make up our current squad - Obua, Bouzid, Palazuelos, Santana, Balogh, Kello, Stewart, Black - well, they are simply not in the "2006 class", are they ? Maybe we can measure Hearts decline by simply looking at Robbie Neilson - who went from being possibly the weakest performer in 2006 to the best in 2009, without doing anything different !!
With the January transfer window looming and the artificially inflated demand from England likely to be the only activity in a declining transfer market, there is surely a strong chance that Romanov will want to cash in on his few remaining assets. Our lacklustre squad could lose Driver or Wallace in a few weeks time - leaving an even more depressing spectacle for the fans.
The euphoria we experienced only 4 years ago watching a high-scoring squad of players tear most teams apart now seems a lifetime away.