Three Reasons to back Hearts to win 2016-17 Ladbrokes Premiership
Some great players have graced the Tynecastle turf during the last half-century. John Robertson. Craig Gordon. Rudi Skacel. Roald Jensen. The list goes on. But despite so many fine talents, the wait for a first top-flight title since 1960 is ongoing.
However, while Celtic remain favourites for a sixth consecutive league crown, there are plenty of persuasive reasons why 33/1 shots Heart of Midlothian can upset the odds and bring the title back to Tynecastle.
As Leicester City proved, it’s not always the side with the biggest budget or most internationals who wins the title. So, here’s why Hearts can win the Ladbrokes Premiership next season.
They’re tough to break down
Robbie Neilson’s men had easily the best defensive record in the Scottish Premiership – outwith Celtic – last season, conceding just 40 times.
And their form at the back was at its very best following John Souttar’s February arrival from Dundee United, as he and Alim Ozturk produced four straight clean sheets, as Hearts made it four league wins on the spin.
The Jam Tarts also managed to produce shutouts at Celtic Park and Pittodrie, proving their defensive unit is not only well-organised, but also has the pace and skill to keep out the likes of Adam Rooney and Leigh Griffiths on their own park – no mean feat indeed.
Tynecastle has become a fortress
Such has been Hearts’ continued improvement in the past two seasons (more on that later), that their record of just four home league defeats in those 37 games seems unsurprising. But it’s a truly sensational record.
By contrast, Aberdeen – who finished above Hearts last season – have lost seven in that period. And the average of two points per game which the Jam Tarts recorded last season would have seen them put in a genuine title challenge, if they had replicated that form on the road.
Indeed, only the Dons and the Hoops triumphed over Hearts here last season. A bit more confidence in those crunch six-pointers and it’s possible they can be unbeatable on their home patch in the coming season.
Neilson is continuing to buy well
Hearts may not have the budget of the other title hopefuls, but their savvy boss has made some superb signings. Juanma Delgado, signed for free from Greek side Kalloni, netted 12 times in his first Ladbrokes Premiership campaign.
Meanwhile, smart buys from elsewhere in Scotland like Soutter and Gavin Reilly have also slotted into the side superbly.
While the Maroons gaffer has not been afraid to ship out the deadwood, that’s largely because the quality of player arriving at Tynecastle is continuing to improve.
Republic of Ireland international Conor Sammon and talented Belgian Faycal Rherras have already signed for the Jam Tarts this summer, which can only boost their title hopes.
Can they begin with a home victory over Celtic (7/2) and finish with a first title crown since 1960?
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.