When Hearts lost against Motherwell on 19 February it was because they had spent the whole of the week before thinking, and talking, about the Celtic cup draw and the coming double header.
Their focus was on that. They forgot that they had other games to play first, other sides to beat, other challenges to navigate. Neilson obsessed over the wrong team.
But then this is what Neilson and his coaching staff seem to do.
They have a fixation with beating Celtic.
One that does not extend to performing against the club from Ibrox. Is it a coincidence that the best Michael Beale has gotten out of his team since taking over was against their “challenger” for the second spot? No, because Neilson changed the tactical approach that had them comfortable in third place for that game, for no reason at all.
I have no doubt that we will face them in their full blood and thunder. Every time we’ve played them recently the same mantra has been trotted out. “Celtic are in good form; we want to end their momentum.” Tomorrow night it’s Ange’s 100th game in charge, so of course they are coming to “spoil the party.” This joker definitely talks a good game.
But talking is all he’s done. Hearts are in serious danger of replacing Aberdeen as the game’s great over-promisers, and like their Ibrox brethren they spend way too much of their time thinking about stopping Celtic, even if it’s just for bragging rights, even if it means nothing at all, even if it’s for just one game.
You notice that they don’t talk about wanting to beat us for the sake of the three points that are up for grabs, points they need since they shipped a few that day at Motherwell?
What did I say about motivation? If what powers their team tomorrow night is the desire to stop us, to be the team that halts us, that’s not enough. You have to want it for yourself, not just to screw with someone else’s karma.
He is unfocussed. He is undisciplined.
His priorities are wrong, and when a manager has the wrong priorities then the team will have the wrong priorities as well. If they find themselves trying to catch us tomorrow and wind up grabbing nothing but air that’ll be just one of the many reasons why.