London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Page <-Team Sat 16 Aug 2008 Rangers 2 Hearts 0 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Stuart Dougal
Mikoliunas Saulius [K Lafferty 37] ;[K Boyd pen 91]
3 of 023 ----- L SPL A
Hearts travelling to Ibrox with the intention of claiming all three points, says Wallace

CSABA LASZLO'S transformation of Hearts is illustrated by the build-up to tomorrow's visit to Ibrox. For once, headlines of "turmoil" refer to the opposition, with Rangers looking ready to spontaneously combust at any moment.
A European humbling at the hands of FBK Kaunas – little more than a Tynecastle feeder club – and the £7.8million sale of Carlos Cuellar to Aston Villa have brought supporters in Govan to boiling point. Losing Glenn Loovens to Celtic is unlikely to ease the pain.

Even three points tomorrow are unlikely to placate those used to monopolising Scottish football and who believed their club earned a divine place amongst Europe's elite with last May's UEFA Cup final appearance.

Reality having bitten, Rangers must now confront a buoyant Hearts. More than that, a stable Hearts for the first time in recent years. Visiting players could step off the team coach smoking cigars given the confidence instilled in them by Laszlo, although the disciplined Hungarian would abhor such a mellow attitude entering one of Scotland's footballing cauldrons.

Last week's absorbing 3-2 defeat of Motherwell took place shortly after Andrius Velicka, the former Hearts forward, secured an unconvincing 1-0 victory for Walter Smith's side at Falkirk. With Celtic stuttering to an equally wobbly triumph over St Mirren the following day, the Old Firm are currently more vulnerable than ever and match officials can surely only save them for so long.

That both Glasgow clubs look about as steady as a Labour constituency seat is one thing, but it's down to Hearts and other SPL clubs to rise to the challenge and prove this isn't merely early- season ring-rustiness. Coupled with Laszlo's personal charisma and flamboyance is a steely determination to succeed, based on organisation and discipline. Therefore, his players should take to the Ibrox pitch tomorrow brimming with belief rather than crippled by nerves and disorder, as has happened previously.

"That has been the case for us before, even at Tynecastle," admitted Lee Wallace, the Hearts defender. "This time, we're off to a good start, the manager's come in and team spirit and everything has come together. We're going there as the more stable team."

Any commotion amongst the locals will, naturally, only conspire to help the visitors. Wallace continued: "Everyone's talking about Rangers just now since they went out of Europe and lost Cuellar. It might have affected them all mentally. Last week, they weren't at their best against Falkirk so I'd say it's a good time to play them. There is a lot of confidence at our place in and around the dressing-room and out at training. We'll go there and give it a right go, try to win the game.

"The manager has been speaking all week about this game and his emphasis is on going to win it. Without being overconfident, the aim is to get three points. When we get the ball we'll be passing it and playing encouraging football, that's what we've been working on in training. It will be a case of taking the game to Rangers, being positive and trying to attack."

Contrast Wallace's outlook today with events last time Hearts visited Ibrox. Velicka had equalised Lee McCulloch's opening goal and the Edinburgh club, under the tutelage of Stephen Frail, were three minutes from a precious draw when Eduardas Kurskis contrived to allow a straightforward catch to squirm from his grasp and into the net.

One vivid recollection was of Frail slapping the dugout in frustration at a goalkeeper who was never worthy of a Hearts jersey.

"I was on the bench that day," recalled Wallace. "We were doing okay if I remember correctly but when I saw the ball going in I knew everything had changed. The confidence, not just for Eddy but the whole squad, just dropped. It was a really hard game for Eddy personally but I think the whole team morale took a dent that day. "We were all unhappy with what happened, it was hard for everyone to take but, at training the next week, we tried to forget about it." Another six matches passed before the team began to recover, that 2-1 defeat last December arriving in the middle of a ten-game winless streak.

Laszlo possesses an infectious sense of self-assurance which has quickly filtered through to the players since his appointment last month. "Last weekend was a great victory," said Wallace. "Obviously, in the first game of the season, we wanted to show something for the fans and more importantly the manager. It was his first competitive game and it worked out a good week for us. With a good start, we can take confidence into tomorrow."

With Barry Ferguson absent for Rangers – his replacement, Christian Dailly, is hardly an equivalent threat – it is Velicka who represents the biggest danger to Hearts. The Lithuanian plundered 26 goals in two seasons at Tynecastle, many of them on the big occasion at venues like Parkhead, Easter Road and, of course, Ibrox.

"He was a big player for us, the amount of goals he scored were hugely important," said Wallace. "That was his job and I'm sure it won't be any different at Rangers. He showed on numerous occasions when he was here how good he was at finishing. It will be difficult for our back four coming up against him but, if he plays, our centre-halves are more than able to compete. He's often in the right place at the right time but, if we concentrate and are alert at the back then I'm sure it'll be no problem."

With Laszlo's attention to detail, the Hearts defenders will be fully briefed on how to combat Velicka. "The thing about the manager is he'll get the starting line-up before a game and go through every aspect of what's required thoroughly. I think his work is paying off because we've taken what he has shown us in training into matches.

"Having played most of pre-season and only missing a couple of games, it's a huge confidence boost for me to be playing left-back regularly. I'm learning more under the new manager in terms of shape and how to play my position. It's been the same for me ever since I came into the team way back under John Robertson: as soon as I get an opportunity I've just got to take it."

Wallace knows there is no better opportunity to get one over Rangers than tomorrow.

Taken from the Scotsman

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