After a storming start to the season for the club, are Hearts dark horses for the league title?
Rangers have made an unbeaten start to the campaign, and Steven Gerrard’s men want to challenge for this season’s flag. However, it would be ignorant to ignore the beginning of the season the Jambos have had under Craig Levein.
Spurred on after their early-season 1-0 victory over Celtic, Hearts are on fire. A club filled with confidence, slight talk of a title race will begin if things continue in the same vein.
The Gers would’ve anticipated Aberdeen being their main threat to challenging Celtic. However, the Dons aren’t looking anywhere near as strong as Levein’s side so far. Instead, it’s Hearts who look as though they have a real threat going forward.
So far this season, the Jambos have had to win in multiple fashions. A dominant opening-day success against Hamilton was followed up by a spectacular counter-attacking win over Celtic. Their third successive victory of the campaign came on Saturday at Kilmarnock, where Hearts had to dig in and show character.
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If there is to be any threat, Rangers have weakened it through the acquisition of Kyle Lafferty. Lafferty was the man who scored the winner in that victory against Celtic, and is a massive blow for Levein.
Yet Hearts have a plethora of attacking options at their disposal. Steven MacLean, Steven Naismith, and Uche Ikpeazu are all capable of filling the role vacated by Lafferty. Ikpeazu is already making his mark at the club since Lafferty’s departure with the winner at Rugby Park.
The last time a side started as well as Hearts have, they split the Old Firm. The year was 2006. That team was Hearts. Granted, Robbie Neilson’s side went on a five-game winning run back in their first season after returning from the Championship. However, the Jambos weren’t playing the best football and it looked inevitable they would fall away.
Under George Burley, Hearts came as close to a title-chase as any other side has in years. However, ultimately they fell away towards the tail-end of the season – although they did win the Scottish Cup at the end of the campaign.
Whether Levein can carry out something similar remains to be seen. However, the Gorgie outfit certainly look to have a solid shape and style to their play. It’s all the more impressive considering the mess Hearts were previously in under Ian Cathro.
Talk of a title-race is perhaps too soon. There’s still 35 games remaining and it’s not as if the Jambos have been swatting opposition aside with ease. However, they fully deserve to be noticed and to be taken note of.
Rangers will come face-to-face with Hearts for the first time this season on October 6th at Ibrox. Therefore, it’s still a while before we see Gerrard and Levein square off.
If Hearts can keep up their impressive form going into that game, however, it’ll be interesting to see what threat they can pose for the rest of the season.