BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
CRAIG LEVEIN has revealed how he battled through five feet of snow and navigated abandoned cars to ensure Hearts were able to train ahead of their Scottish Cup showdown against Motherwell.
Edinburgh has been battered by Storm Emma this week, with blizzards, wind and ice effectively shutting down large swathes of the city. Transport was brought to a standstill on Thursday and Friday, while the public were advised not to travel in treacherous conditions.
Hearts’ training base at Oriam remained officially closed yesterday, however the Jambos were allowed to utilise its full-size indoor pitch. Levein and the vast majority of his first-team squad braved the beast from the east for the session.
He said: “It wasn’t exactly easy getting in for training on Friday! In the village where I am, there were snow drifts of five feet and somebody’s car got abandoned and that blocked everyone in.
“I would imagine it’s the same for everyone because this has been unprecedented weather. The good thing is most of our lads stay fairly local.
“The main routes are fine. Once I got out of the village and on the main road it was okay, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“It has been an unusual preparation but everyone is in the same boat and will have their own stories of difficulties at this time.
“We had the day off on Thursday and that didn’t work out too badly for us with it being a Sunday match.
“Friday was important because we didn’t do a lot on Wednesday either after the game on Tuesday night, and we have been able to use the indoor pitch at Oriam which makes a big difference.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether they will just call this game off or not, but I hope not. I am hoping the it will go ahead.”
The Jambos have seen Ian Cathro replaced at the helm by Levein, a large swathe of ‘home’ matches played at Murrayfield during the redevelopment of Tynecastle and another massive upheaval in the first-team personnel.
Much of that will be forgotten if Hearts seal a spot at Hampden.
Levein continued: “We have had a difficult year with everything that has happened, there have been a lot of changes and also the huge expense we have had to go to to erect the new main stand.
“If we could get to Hampden it would be fantastic for everyone, especially the supporters.
“I normally associate Hampden with finals but the way the tournament is shaping up it looks like both of the semi-finals will be there as well, so I am hoping we can do really well in this game and give our fans a day to look forward to.”
Levein, however, is in no doubt about the scale of challenge that awaits them against Motherwell after heaping praise on the work being done by Steelmen boss Stephen Robinson, who has already guided them to the Betfred Cup final this term.
Levein, who will monitor the fitness of Demi Mitchell and John Souttar ahead of the trip west, added: “This is one of the hardest draws we could have got.
“When you get to the quarter-finals of the cup the first thing you’d like is a home draw, then you’d like to avoid the top teams in the league which we’ve managed to do. Motherwell away is probably the next hardest one.
“They had a little blip when Louis Moult left for Preston when the transfer window opened but they seem to have steadied the ship a little bit and added [Curtis] Main, who has done a god job.
“They’re back to pretty much where they were pre-Christmas and at that time they were going really well so it is a difficult place to win games.
“Stephen has them playing in a way where they all understand what they are doing, and it’s always dangerous when a team as a way of playing and they’re good at it, but I think we still have a great opportunity to impress.”