Inside a Hearts dressing room after Rangers or Celtic maulings as Gary Locke’s 7-0 sympathy sticks out – Ryan Stevenson

It’s not much fun being on the end of a sore one at the hands of the Old Firm.

But I’d be willing to bet Robbie Neilson didn’t rip the paint off the walls in the Ibrox dressing room on Sunday.

There would be no point.

He will have been gutted to ship five to Rangers, but he’ll know Hearts’ season won’t hang on how they get on against Celtic and Rangers.

Sometimes you need to write it off as a bad day at the office and draw a line under it.

Don’t get me wrong, the players will be hurting.

But we’ve all been there. I enjoyed some decent results against Rangers and Celtic – but I had some stinkers as well.

I remember we beat Rangers at Tynecastle and then faced Celtic the following week. We were feeling pretty confident, but we got battered by four.

Paddy McCourt tore us to bits but it was nothing compared to the strips Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown took off us afterwards. But at other times we had managers who didn’t say much on the back of losing games by three or four – or worse.

I remember losing 7-0 to Celtic at Tynecastle and to twist the knife I scored an own goal past Jamie MacDonald, who actually told me it was the best finish out of the seven!

Gary Locke knew there was no benefit in giving us more punishment in the dressing room.

That was a tough time and a team full of kids. He needed us to forget it as quickly as possible and that’s usually the case.

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When Jim let rip that was a dressing room full of men and we were established in third for a good while.

But most of my gaffers knew deep down that it was a bit of a free punch against the Old Firm and it was important not to dwell on it when things didn’t go to plan.

JJ would tear strips off players after a defeat

In fairness, if you look at the results back in my day, more often than not we’d come back with a win the following week. That’s key. I was as bad as anyone after losing, no matter who it was against.

I’d be fuming for days and if it was a dull one from the Old Firm I’d feel even worse as you go into these games believing you can get a result.

But we have to be realistic. While you hope for the best, you can’t go overboard if it ends up the worst.

These are clubs with huge budgets and It’s not always a fair fight.

Look at Sunday. Rangers brought on Aaron Ramsey late on – a guy meant to be on 140 grand a week.

There will be frustration from Hearts though.

They would have fancied it on Sunday. I’m sure the plan would have been to keep it tight for half-an-hour and towards half-time, see if there was any hangover for Rangers from the Celtic game.

They would have expected a reaction from them – but no one saw that coming.

Rangers were outstanding. Hearts didn’t help themselves with the late collapse, but it was a strange kind of game.

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If they’d taken one of their chances early in the second half, it would’ve been very
interesting to see how Rangers coped.

Alfredo Morelos of Rangers scores

Instead, they went up the pitch and made it two and there was no way back.

It’s important fans don’t lose sight of the big picture though. Hearts have been superb this season. They are miles ahead in the race for third and have only lost twice to sides outside the Old Firm all year.

Don’t forget, they beat Celtic and drew at Ibrox earlier in the season. They also had to go back there at the weekend without their first-choice defensive partnership of John Souttar and Craig Halkett.

There has undeniably been progress at Tynecastle – and it gets casually forgotten that they have only just come up from the Championship.

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The great thing for Neilson and his squad is the games are coming thick and fast and they’ve got Dundee at home tomorrow followed by Livingston in the Scottish Cup.

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A couple of wins in front of their fans and no one will be talking about Ibrox.

In fact, if Hearts can claim third spot and go far in the Cup then fans will struggle to remember the defeat to Rangers – never mind
get mad about it.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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