The mood of change at Hearts infected the Motherwell manager, Terry Butcher, yesterday as he broke with traditionas easily as the Edinburgh club are jettisoning theirs. The former England captain's trip to Tynecastle for a lunchtime kick-off brought the first 0-0 draw of his 20 months in charge.
However, Butcher may not have to visit the place much longer. Hearts are preparing to shut the door on a century of footballing history very soon, with the club poised to move just half a mile away to Murrayfield, which they would rent from the Scottish Rugby Union and sell their own home to property developers for a sum that would wipe out their £17m debt.
One of the problems is that Tynecastle's pitch is now too small for Uefa requirements, an important issue for a club who are hoping to emulate their third place in the Scottish Premier League last season and earn another Uefa Cup campaign.
Yesterday's point from a drab affair will help, but the performance did little to dispel the theory that Hearts are suffering a full-blown hangover following their exit from the Uefa Cup last month. They have now managed only one win in seven games since losing to Bordeaux.
More importantly, they may also have to play out the second half of the SPL season without top scorer Mark de Vries. The towering Dutchman is wanted by Olympiakos and while Hearts have rejected a £500,000 bid, the Greek champions are expected to make a fresh one soon. A hamstring injury kept De Vries on the bench for an hour until Levein threw him on in an attempt to acquire the winner. It almost worked. The substitute ought to have plundered a goal in the 75th minute when he rose to meet a corner from Jean-Louis Valois, but sent a tame header wide from 12 yards.
The fact that Motherwell also kept their most thrilling player, Stephen Pearson, under wraps for an equal amount of time, certainly contributed to the stalemate in the first half that set the tone for the rest of the contest.
Pearson was left out by Butcher because of "distractions" - the Scotland midfielder is on the verge of being transferred to Celtic in the forthcoming transfer window - and his craft was missed amid the industry and toil of Motherwell's stubborn resistance.
That was typified by their veteran goalkeeper, Gordon Marshall, who defied the advancing years with a fine leap to push a fierce Andy Kirk shot wide, after the Hearts striker's run had engineered space for the 25-yard effort.
Hearts' general play, though, was disjointed. Only Robert Sloan, the latest youngster to emerge under Levein, showed true composure in a frenetic encounter. Patrick Kisnorbo is another prospect but the Australian's decision to play for his club at the expense of his country's Olympic side was betrayed by a woeful finish from Sloan's pinpoint corner just after the hour.
When Valois wasted his dancing run 10 minutes from time, with an equally poor finish, there was little doubt that this was not the kind of show that would convert the unattatched Edinburgh public to their cause when they move to Murrayfield - indeed, it may just convert their own fans to rugby.
Heart of Midlothian 0 Motherwell 0
- More about:
- Fc Girondins De Bordeaux
- Heart Of Midlothian
- Motherwell F.c.
- Scottish Premier League
- UEFA Europa League