BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
TERRY BUTCHER reckons Rangers were hit by a train on their last visit to Tynecastle.
Yet the Ibrox legend believes that was the result that got their season back on track.
Mark Warburton’s charges endured a chastening night on their last visit to Gorgie, with the Jambos running out 2-0 winners in what would prove to be Robbie Neilson’s final match in charge of the capital club.
It was one of the lowest points in Rangers’ return to the top-flight as they failed to deal with the tempo and physicality of the hosts, not to mention an electric, emotionally-charged atmosphere in the stadium. Hearts went above the Gers into second place that night in November.
However, instead of wilting, the Glasgow giants pieced together six wins in their next eight outings and return to Edinburgh as a different team – and with an 11-point advantage over the men in maroon.
Butcher, speaking ahead of tonight’s game which is live on BT Sport, added: “Rangers were steamrollered when they last went to Tynecastle – hit by a train! It was a disaster. But they way they have bounced back is to be admired.
“You learn more about players in defeat, and you learn more about teams in the way they recover. Just like Rangers have done.
“Rangers’ record since that game has been great, they have shown determination and, in my opinion, their pride was hurt by that night. Rightly so, they were very poor – completely swept away.
“It was Robbie Neilson’s last game, there was an emotional lift ahead of the manager leaving, and Hearts wanted to do it for him. They were more up for the game than Rangers were and I believe Rangers learned from that game.
“I think they got a lift, bizarrely, from a defeat. I think they will be much better prepared this time.”
Meanwhile, John Robertson insists the visit of Rangers is the perfect acid test to see whether Ian Cathro’s new recruits sink or swim in the cauldron of Tynecastle.
Hearts completely rebuilt their squad during the January window, with Tony Watt, Juanma, Igor Rossi, Alim Ozturk, Robbie Muirhead and Conor Sammon leaving the club to make way for new recruits. They have also lost Callum Paterson and John Souttar to injury.
Aaron Hughes, Lennard Sowah, Malaury Martin, Andraz Struna, Dylan Bikey, Moha El Ouriachi, Esmael Goncalves and Greek duo Alexandros Tziolis and Tasos Avlonitis have all arrived in Gorgie during a transfer frenzy.
Of the starting line-up when Hearts last faced Rangers at Tynecastle, six are unavailable, either through injury, international duty or because they have been shown the exit door.
But Robertson has urged the new boys to take advantage of the element of surprise and prove they can handle the intensity of the game in Scotland.
He said: “As much as having a lot of new faces to face Rangers can be seen as a slight negative, the other side of the coin is: what do Rangers know about them? Not a lot.
“One thing is for sure, after 90 minutes on Wednesday they will know what Scottish football is all about, because the atmosphere is pumped up. It will give a little taster for everyone else to see where Rangers and Hearts are.
“Nearly two months ago we comprehensively beat them at Tynecastle. Since then Mark’s team has definitely improved, we have dipped a bit and so it will be interesting to see where both teams are.
“For the guys coming in from the continent, it is football at its rawest level – 17,200 there, baying for their teams, under the lights at Tynecastle. Fantastic.”