London Hearts Supporters Club

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Csaba Laszlo <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Steve Conroy
Karipidis Hristos [D Riordan pen 79]
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Hibs clash provides Hearts' Elliot with chance to establish hero status

THERE is a weighty responsibility on Calum Elliot's young shoulders tomorrow as he seeks the goals which could transform him into a permanent Hearts hero.
A decisive strike in an Edinburgh derby can inscribe the scorer's name in club folklore. Just ask Wayne Foster. Elliot, at a crucial juncture in his five-year Tynecastle career, is still attempting to fully convince some supporters of his worth.

He returned in January feeling re-energised after a productive loan period with Livingston which yielded 11 goals in 14 matches, yet was made to bide his time by manager Csaba Laszlo.

His relationship with supporters was in dire need of repair and the player was desperate to continue the momentum built up at Almondvale.

Just as he might have given up hope, an inspired substitute outing at Ibrox in March and a brace against Kilmarnock in the following match hinted that it might be worth keeping the faith with this frustratingly enigmatic footballer.

Hearts welcome Hibs to Tynecastle tomorrow having scored just once at home against their city rivals in two years. Should Elliot manage to redress that statistic he can expect his public stock to take a considerable, not to mention timely, rise.

"I was at the Under-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007 and I remember watching Elliot and thinking he had lost his way back then," said Allan Preston, the former Hearts winger.

"Thankfully he seems to have found his form again. He is maturing and he's now leading the line for Hearts.

"You would say at this moment in time he is their main striker. He has to be applauded for that as it's a pat on the back for him for turning his career around.

"Csaba Laszlo could have taken the easy option and just left him at Livingston but he's brought him back and turned him into a very exciting player. And, of course, he won Young Player of the Month for April.

"Goals make people heroes. You think back to the likes of Wayne Foster, who is rightly still regarded as a hero amongst Hearts fans for his Scottish Cup goal against Hibs years ago. That's how it goes. If you score goals in derby matches you are hailed as a hero.

"Going to Livingston really helped Calum because he scored a lot of goals for them. He came back to Hearts and proved what a good player he is. At his best he is a real handful, very strong and quick."

A late-night fracas on George Street with Hibs defender Darren McCormack means Elliot's new-found maturity will be placed under intense scrutiny tomorrow should both players find themselves in direct confrontation.

McCormack was recently convicted of assaulting Elliot in an incident which has perversely allowed Hearts fans to rally behind a player they previously decried.

"It's possibly helped Elliot's relationship with the fans but I think his ability has got him back into the reckoning because he had lost his way a bit," continued Preston.

"Both boys are professional football players. I know Darren is deeply embarrassed by what happened and there is no animosity between him and Calum.

"It was a night where both of them had a few alcoholic drinks and, in a way, they are both embarrassed by what happened but it's finished now.

"McCormack has had his punishments for it, both from the club and the law."

Elliot is not the type to go seeking retribution and is likely to be preoccupied trying to expose a Hibs defence which will be without its commander-in-chief.

Rob Jones is one of three suspended players Mixu Paatelainen must contend with, the others being Sol Bamba and Colin Nish. Preston believes the captain's absence hands Hearts a significant advantage.

"Jones is good in both boxes because of his height and has scored goals at vital times for Hibs. Bamba, Nish and Jones are suspended, so you would imagine their two centre-backs will be Steven Thicot and Ian Murray. That could give Hearts an advantage because it won't be a recognised pairing.

"It depends who Hearts play up front. Is it going to be Mike Tullberg? Elliot? Will they play one up front? Might Christian Nade even come in because he always seems to do well in derby matches? He must be in Csaba Laszlo's thoughts.

"Young Gary Glen was magnificent in the Scottish Cup game in January and scored a great second goal for Hearts which ended the tie as a contest. But with youngsters you get inconsistency. Csaba Laszlo sees everyone every day in training so he will know who merits a place.

"Hearts will go in as favourites because Hibs are depleted with suspensions.

"They played very well at Ibrox at the weekend and were unlucky, and I think getting the ball out to Andy Driver is a big plus for them.

"In the last derby, Driver coming off so early was the turning point for me and Hibs went on to win. I think if he had stayed on Hearts might have got something out of the game."

Hearts' need for full points tomorrow is rooted in their European ambitions after Dundee United closed to within two points of the Edinburgh club with a 2-1 victory at Easter Road.

"After that result Hibs don't really have much to play for now," said Preston.

"They can't qualify for Europe but their fans will still cross the city in numbers because the bragging rights are yours throughout the summer if you win the final derby of the season.

"If Hearts have ambitions to finish third they have to win their last two home games.

"That's Hibs and Dundee United, so they have a real point to prove on Thursday. The European finish is the be all and end all for the club."

For selfish reasons, Calum Elliot will be after a more literal type of finish against Hibs. The kind that will see the net rippling and supporters cheering him once again.

Taken from the Scotsman

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