BY DARREN JOHNSTONE
Former Hearts winger John Colqhoun admits the club’s fans could be the biggest threat to the team’s bid to pile further pressure on Celtic manager Ronny Deila on Sunday.
The Hoops will look to bounce back from the weekend’s surprise defeat at home to Motherwell when they take on Robbie Neilson’s side at Tynecastle.
Matches between the two teams have become feisty affairs on the pitch, and Colqhoun, who joined Hearts from Celtic in 1985, fully expects his old stomping ground to live up to it’s reputation as the most atmospheric in Scottish football.
But while Hearts will be able to call on the support of nearly 16,000 of their own fans at a packed out stadium come Sunday, the 52-year-old reckons that the noise emanating from the home sections could play into Celtic’s hands.
Colquhoun, who was back at Tynecastle yesterday alongside British 400 metre hurdler Eilidh Child after the pair were unveiled as the Hearts Youth Development Committee’s first ever ambassadors, said: “It’s difficult. If you go at Celtic, I think you get beat.
“It’s really difficult – and I experienced this – if you’re at Hearts to sit in at Tynecastle, because that’s just not what the fans want.
“I don’t know if Robbie is saying let’s sit in deep, wait for them to come and we’ll try and hit them with (Jamie) Walker and (Sam) Nicholson.
“But nearly all of the crowd are willing you to go forward. I’ve experienced it myself in European games. Alex (MacDonald) would be saying ‘just sit in for the first 20 minutes’ and then the crowd get behind you and all of a sudden we’re off.
“Human nature says it’s difficult to counter those feelings and that’s the difference between really top players, that they can cut out everything that goes on.
“I’m not sure it’s easy playing out there for Hearts when the fans are willing you forward.”
Celtic’s surprise weekend defeat at home to Motherwell and Aberdeen’s victory at Kilmarnock means the Dons are now only one point adrift of the summit, albeit the Hoops have a game in hand.
But Colquhoun has flatly dismissed suggestions that a much-needed title race has been re-ignited.
He added: “I think it’s tighter than most people thought but Celtic will win the league. I’ve got no doubts about that.
“They’ve got the best players and the quality will show in the end.
“Derek McInnes has done an unbelievable job at Aberdeen.
“But I just think the quality and financial gap is too big.
“You only get what you pay for. It’s difficult. You can get results for so long but eventually Aberdeen will lose a couple of games but Celtic will not lose as many.”
Colqhuoun’s fellow ambassador Child has become renowned for clearing hurdles around the track and she admitted that the literally ‘jumped at the chance’ to help out her beloved Hearts.
She said: “As Hearts fans, we’re always so keen to give something back and this is such an important thing.
“You see the players that have come through the academy and the difference it makes.
“It’s a good time at the club. Just coming to Tynecastle and being among the fans, it’s a totally different feeling to previous years.
“It’s buzzing and you’re getting these massive crowds coming to all the games. It’s an exciting place to be and a nice place to be again.
“What Ann Budge has done is just incredible and it’s great to have someone that you have so much faith in.”