There is a story about Alex Ferguson which I always found amazing; on the day his Aberdeen team beat Rangers to win the Scottish Cup in 1983 he publicly lashed his players for not winning the match more emphatically. This guy had just delivered an incredible victory and there he was giving his team it tight because they didn’t do it in style.
And therein lies the difference between a winner and a loser. In the aftermath of this weekend’s Scottish Cup Final, Robbie Neilson praised his side for failing to get a single shot on target in 120 minutes. He made it sound like he had been grateful just to be there, that the fans should have been grateful just to be able to watch the Ibrox club play.
In the interviews later, he suggested that Hearts will follow a five-year plan for catching the Glasgow clubs; this is the same guy who, when many thought we were weak at the start of the season, thought he could “split us” in one.
I’m just moved to ask; what will be considered a success in Year Five? Getting shots on target? Why do Hearts fans have to wait that long for success? Has Neilson not noticed that all they had to do to be successful was win the final that they were actually in?
His comments make it absolutely clear that he considered his team beat before the game even started. They are ridiculous, and insulting to the fans who paid to be at Hampden.
They don’t want to hear how an utterly inept display was the players and the coaches giving it their all. They want to hear how unacceptable it is that they arrived for the game but didn’t actually compete in it.
All I can say is that thank God we have a man with a different mentality at this club.
It would have been easy for Ange to have arrived here with that sort of thinking at the start of the season; the Ibrox club is too strong, the rebuild is too great, this will be a year of rebuilding and consolidating and next season we’ll give a go.
A two-year plan.
A lot of our supporters would have accepted it.
The media fully expected that to be the strategy.
But Ange is on record as having said the idea of not winning something was unthinkable for him, because we don’t do that here. We always try to win things; this club must always be winning things.
It is the attitude Ferguson took at Aberdeen. It is the attitude every manager who has that burning ambition must take into every game … if we’re not here to win, what the Hell was the point in turning up in the first place?
Where are those managers in Scotland now? Where are the leaders of men, the bosses who would not settle for their teams living in the shadows of other clubs, no matter how big those clubs might seem to be? Where are the never-say-die types who would have seen a cup final appearance as the chance to start putting a lot of silverware in the trophy room?
I’m not saying that Robbie Neilson ought to be blazing a trail like Alex Ferguson.
But he should have more about him than simply being happy to be at Hampden and passing that onto his players and the fans. Hearts should have made some effort to actually win.
To be talking about theoretical future glories when they were perfectly poised for an actual one does him no credit and sums up the defeatist thinking that is all too prevalent in this game.
The first step to achieving is believing … and none of these guys do, and therein lies the problem.
Neilson and his club are planning for a future that will never be. To be successful you have to take advantage of the moments that come your way … and they lamentably failed at the weekend.
Ferguson would have torn strips off the walls.