Saturday 17th July 2021
(SPL) Heart of Midlothian v Sunderland (L1)
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via www.safc.com.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
It’s back. We’re back. This is a good thing isn’t it?
Our first real competitive pre-season friendly of the summer comes as the disquiet of our transfer deals, or the quantity of them to date, is voiced ever louder.
Two major signings over the last week however, have calmed things to an extent, but with three weeks and five friendlies to go until the opening day of the season, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Corry Evans and Alex Pritchard have signed up as not only a welcome boost to the squad numbers, but as two players with a pedigree from higher up the food chain. They come at a risk of course, but any player who is dropping down is unlikely to do so on the back of being consistently brilliant in the higher tiers.
They will have points to prove and we will all be eager to see how they fit in to whatever Lee Johnson has planned going into the new season. Last season Johnson focused on the main tools he had available, which meant it was McGeady and Wyke having their own game of headers and crosses in League One twice a week.
Hopefully in our first streamed outing we might get an insight into how the manager or sporting director, would like us to move forward with our shape and style of play, and it’s an interesting proposition to start of with at Tynecastle as we take on Heart of Midlothian.
Robbie Neilson’s side are ahead of us in terms of preparing for the season ahead, in the fact that they have technically started their competitive season in the Premier Sports Cup (Scottish League Cup).
They defeated Peterhead away from home last weekend 2-0, which they followed up with a 3-0 victory over Cove Rangers on Tuesday. It’s also two weeks from when they take on the Lads to their opening Scottish Premier League fixture against Celtic at Tynecastle, and with one eye on that, I’d expect them to be ramping up their preparation which could give this friendly an extra edge early on in our schedule.
Last Time We Met... at Tynecastle
Saturday 8th August 2009
Heart of Midlothian 1-1 Sunderland
(Obua 30’ - Bent 40’)
Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Nosworthy (Tainio), Ferdinand, Collins (McCartney), Malbranque (Henderson), Leadbitter, (Jones), Richardson (Edwards), Reid (Cana), Campbell, Bent (Healy) Substitutes not used: Carson
Heart of Midlothian: Kello, Jonsson, Wallace (Kucharski), Stewart, Bouzid (Zaliukas), Gonclaves, Santana, Palazuelos (Black), Witeeveen (Glen), Nade, Obua Substitutes not used: Balogh, Thomson, Stewart
Played for Both
Highly rated as a youngster at Rangers, although a strained relationship with manager Graeme Souness meant he moved to Hearts in 1990 for a then club record £750,000. A successful three years at Tynecastle saw his former Ibrox teammate Terry Butcher swooping to take the midfielder to Roker in the summer spending spree of 1993.
Things didn’t start well when a car crash, whilst travelling back from a pre-season friendly at Middlesbrough meant he was still struggling for fitness as we went down 5-0 at the Baseball Ground on the opening day of the season. He mirrored the club at the time and couldn’t get going at Sunderland before leaving for Falkirk in 1995.
Played almost 100 games for Hearts where he started in the early 1990s, including a hattrick at Ibrox in a famous 3-0 victory, before moving to France and Rennes as a free agent in 1996.
This didn’t last the full season as he joined the Lads in our fight against relegation from the Premier League where he would score the last competitive goal at Roker Park in a 3-0 win over Everton. Johnston then took off in the second tier and had two fantastic seasons linking up with Micky Gray down the left hand side.
We should have seen this in the Premier League, but he refused Sunderland’s contract offer and signed for Glasgow Rangers in 2000.
Made his debut for Hearts as a 19-year-old and was highly rated in the early 2000’s and forced his way to becoming the No.1 at Tynecastle.
By 2007 he was still only 24-years-old and as well as being given the captaincy, he was linked with Arsenal, Manchester United, Rangers and Aston Villa before signing for Sunderland for £9 million - a British record for a goalkeeper at the time.
In glimpses he showed how talented a goalkeeper he was - a save at the Stadium of Light against Bolton won’t be forgotten by those in attendance - but injuries took their toll as he struggled to get a run of games.
He left in 2014 as a free agent and joined Celtic where he spent six years before returning to Hearts in 2020 and is likely to line-up against the Lads today.