HEARTS have found an unlikely ally in the form of Jack Ross, the Hibernian head coach, who has labelled the treatment of their Edinburgh adversaries as ‘contradictory and puzzling’.
The Jambos were ordered to cease training by Scottish football’s Joint Response Group (JRG) on Thursday evening despite being almost two weeks into their pre-season preparations.
That sparked a furious reaction from the Hearts hierarchy, who believe they are being punished for misdemeanours of players from Celtic and Aberdeen.
A farcical situation was exacerbated when it emerged that English club Hull City, including Ross’ former Sunderland skipper George Honeyman, have been utilising the Jambos’ Oriam facility this week.
“I think it is very difficult to join the dots on that one and believe it makes any type of sense,” said Ross. “Especially given the fact that there’s now an English club training at the same facility.
“One of my former players is at Hull so I know they’ve been up here for a few days as part of their pre-season preparations.
“It’s contradictory, to say the least, and not that helpful to Scottish football.”
It is a rancorous situation which has a knock-on effect for Hibs, even if Jack Ross is yet to turn his attention to their Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts in the last weekend of October.
That monumental showdown at Hampden is one of the major reasons his Tynecastle counterpart, Robbie Neilson, ordered his charges to report for duty as early as August 3.
Asked whether the JRG’s call could benefit the Hibees, Ross added: “I don’t pay attention in terms of their preparation and what they’ve got ahead of them. I’ve got enough to focus on here. But, in the broader picture, I do find it puzzling.”
Ross has played and coached in the lower reaches of the game, previously experiencing life at the likes of Camelon Juniors, Clyde and Dumbarton.
So his ‘enormous sympathy’ extends to all rungs of the Scottish ladder, with expensive and logistically challenging efforts to ensure a return to training for many clubs now rendered in vain until August 24.
“This is not only Hearts – but for other teams out-with the professional pyramid as well,” he added. “Many have been back doing socially distanced training and have had to put the brakes on their preparations as well.
“I have enormous sympathy because I’ve worked at different levels of the game, I know the challenges and I know how much it means to people to be out training; to be involved in something.
“I can understand their frustration. I can understand because it’s through no fault of their own.”
Meanwhile, Ross has confirmed that Hibs aim to present Martin Boyle with an enticing contract offer in the near future following his blistering start to the season.
The Australia internationalist has notched two goals and tormented backlines during the Hibees’ 100 per cent start to the campaign, but is a free agent next summer.
However, Ross, who welcomes Motherwell to Easter Road this evening, has not given up hope of retaining his services.
“At the moment we are in discussions with Martin and his representatives about trying to put something in front of him that would enable him to stay at the club,” added Ross.
“The advantage we have is that he very much enjoys it here, that’s a good starting point.
“He’s at a critical stage of his career, he has important decisions to make, but it’s nice we’re in a situation where we are having those discussions.”
PORTEOUS: I’D LOVE TO SEE ‘BRILLIANT’ McCRORIE AT HIBS
Ross, meanwhile, was reluctant to address Hibs’ ongoing interest in Rangers defender Ross McCrorie, albeit it is understood they did submit a second bid for the player on Thursday, leaving defender Ryan Porteous to instead lavish praise on his Scotland under-21 captain.
“He’s a brilliant guy, skipper of the national team and can play a lot of positions,” said Porteous.
“I’ve enjoyed playing with him and if we can get a calibre of player like him in, then I’d definitely like to see him here.
“That’s not something I get a say in – but he’s a really good player.”