SPFL Fans’ Preview: Hearts can run the the Old Firm close

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Our countdown to the new season continues with the latest of our Ladbrokes SPFL Fans Previews’ concerning one of last term’s star performers.

In the build-up to the 2016-17 campaign we’ve been asking a cross-section of passionate supporters how they think their side will get on and who’ll shine this season.

Andrew-Henry Bowie is next up as he previews the season ahead for the Gorgie boys from TynecastleHe is a die hard Hearts fan, as well as being one of the main men at the Jambos Kickback forum.

Here’s how he’s calling it…

The Club:

If you could sign one star from the past…

Rudi Skacel. Although John Robertson is our greatest club legend of the modern era, Rudi Skacel was the best player I’ve ever seen play for Hearts. He was an absolutely magnificent player, dashing, skillful, and influential; a great scorer of goals and a scorer of great goals.

Our team of 2016 could really use a player like him, be it the left-midfielder of 2005-06 or the ‘number 10’-type role he played from 2010 – 2012. He started 92 games for Hearts, and scored 48 goals.

I’m most excited about this season because…

Because the football will hopefully be a bit better than last season! We did finish a respectable third but from February onwards, most of the games were pretty boring, plus we suffered an excruciating cup defeat at the hands of Hibs.

Thus, I’m hoping for a bit more excitement, the sort of high-octane football that Hearts fans love and that Tynecastle was made for. Talking of which, I’m also excited about work beginning on our new Main Stand. Our stadium is going to look excellent after it’s built.

I’m least excited about this season because… 

Listening to the Old Firm song-book coming from the Roseburn Stand. At least these days, we’ve restricted both of them to 1,400 tickets so it’s not as bad as it used to be.

We’ll also get the usual pundits saying how great it is that Rangers are back, and how we all need them, even though Hearts don’t need them at all and that loads of teams have won trophies since they slipped down the leagues. Other than that, I’m quite excited about 2016-17!

Two songs that define your side?

Wouldn’t It be Nice by the Beach Boys because I can still dream of the day Hearts will win the league or at least another Scottish Cup or an extended run in Europe. But then you end up with God Only Knows.

Actor that would play your gaffer in a film and why?

If Jason Statham could apply a lovely blond hair piece, he’d be a dead-ringer for Robbie Neilson.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JULY 21: Robbie Neilson Manager of Hearts during the UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round: Second Leg between Hearts Football Club and Birkirkara at Tynecastle Stadium on July 21, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images)

Key Player?

I’m a big fan of Perry Kitchen, who’s been a great signing from the MLS. He’ll play that midfield anchor role again this season and I think he’ll be a really key player for us.

Weak links?

I’m not saying Jack Hamilton in goal is a weak link but he is young and relatively unproven. We also have Victor Noring as competition. But again, he’s unproven in the SPFL so we’ll just have to see how it goes. Needless to say though, I hope Jack has a great season between the sticks.

Headline Generator?

Tony Watt could be a terrific signing if he can get fit and if he screws the nut. He has a the ability and the personality to be our very own Leigh Griffiths, but slightly better looking.

Young player to watch this season?

Dario Zanatta will hopefully kick on a bit again this term. He’s already showed flashes of what he can do in games. Potentially, a really good player, but getting game time will be his biggest obstacle.

League Predictions:

Your position?

I think we’ll finish fourth this season, down one place from last year. But that’s not to say we’ll be any worse than last season. If anything, we should be better, and hopefully MUCH better in the cups.

Title winner?

Celtic

2nd Place?

Rangers

Bottom?

Hamilton Accies

Top Goalscorer pick?

Leigh Griffiths will top the league goal-scoring charts with 28. Hearts’ top scorer will be Tony Watt (15).

Surprise team of the season?

Other than Rangers coming straight up to challenge Celtic, I don’t think there will be any great surprises this season. Top six will be Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, St Johnstone, Motherwell.

Lots to look forward to though. COME ON THE HEARTS!

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing

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Paul Fulton

Paul is a sporting all-rounder with a particular penchant for tennis, football and golf. He has contributed to a number of publications, including the Edinburgh Evening News. Is most at home with a scotch pie and bovril in hand watching his beloved Hibs.