Why Celtic can't be fooled by Hearts' shower of kindness
There’s something a little bit unusual about Hearts’ approach to media duties this week.
It seems as though, as they prepare for this Sunday’s Scottish Cup final, they haven’t been able to stop praising Celtic. Yep, our biggest defenders over the last seven days have been our cup final rivals.
Celtic have been on a major slump over the last whilst. With only four wins in 14 games, confidence still isn’t high at Parkhead. Even if we’ve managed back-to-back wins over the last week, much work is still to be done.
But Hearts have consistently looked to tell us everything is okay and that we’re some team. It’s not like them.
First up it was Liam Boyce who was saying we have “quality players” and that if we have a good performance then we’ll be “brilliant” (Edinburgh Live). Then we had Steven Naismith saying that only small margins have been the difference this season (BBC). That’s despite the fact we’ve generally put in woeful performances.
Manager Robbie Neilson led the way with another rip-roaring defence of Celtic and Neil Lennon’s fighting spirit (Daily Record).
Celtic plaudits have kept on coming
And finally, it’s been midfielder Peter Haring’s turn. He says Celtic always turn up on the big occasion and that we’re anything but fragile (The Scotsman).
This sort of tone isn’t something you expect from Hearts. Normally they’d be one of the first to stick the boot in and big up how they think they can get at Celtic. Yes, there is some level of etiquette that has to be shown in the media, but it’s all too defensive of Celtic for my liking.
The Hoops can’t be lulled into a false sense of security here. Hearts will be praising us in the media whilst outlining the true nature of our deficiencies in the background.
They know the last thing they want to do is rile Celtic up. That’s so often proven to be a disastrous move for our previous opponents. Look how often the Hoops put Aberdeen to the sword when they start piping up.
No, Neilson will know what he’s doing here. It’s down to Lennon and co as to whether we fall for it. This kind of rhetoric that we’re seeing from the Jambos won’t be repeated in their dressing room.
It’s something to be wary of. Celtic have so often dealt with bullish pre-match comments from cocky rivals to perfection. However, to be given so much plaudits by our rivals sets up a different mental challenge altogether. Complacency simply can’t become an issue here.