BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
HEARTS defender Peter Haring is adamant the suffocating pressure of a promotion push in Austria last term has steeled him for the lofty expectations at Tynecastle.
The 25-year-old was a pivotal part of the SV Ried side that spent the entire season battling to reach the top-flight – only to miss out on a playoff place by one point following a run of just one win in their final four league matches.
Haring insists the vitriol from the supporters was tangible as their campaign collapsed, with some ‘troubles’ among the hardcore fans, so the towering defender is not fazed by the demands of being a Jambo.
While not comparable with that ire, Hearts were jeered off by a portion of their own punters following a 1-1 draw against Raith Rovers on Saturday before bouncing back by battering Cowdenbeath 5-0 on Tuesday evening.
Nevertheless, the heat will be back on when Inverness visit Tynecastle on Sunday afternoon in a winner-takes-all clash in Group C, with Craig Levein’s men requiring a victory to leapfrog the Highlanders and secure a last-16 place of the Betfred Cup.
“Last year I had to deal with pressure as well, so that is nothing new,” said Haring. “We had to get promoted and win every game with Ried – and we didn’t do that. I know pressure.
“Of course, this is a bigger club, but football is the same everywhere. If you play for a club that wants to win, wants to lift trophies or is aiming for promotion – like we were – it’s all the same.
“The fans were passionate in Austria. There were some little troubles as well and, when the fans weren’t comfortable with the team, they are always angry. The players were angry as well.
“But I was glad to play for Ried last year because it’s a club with a big tradition in Austria so I was happy for the experience and I think that has made me ready for this step at Hearts.”
Indeed, Haring would not have it any other way.
“I want to play for a club with tradition and demands,” he continued. “Playing in front of big audiences is much more fun. That’s what a football player wants to do – perform in big stadiums, in front of a big crowd and enjoy their football.”
Hearts’ Betfred Cup campaign has been anything but serene, with their meek draw against Raith preceded by a 2-1 win against Cove Rangers that was marred by the club fielding the ineligible Andy Irving.
They were subsequently deducted two points by the SPFL, but will still sneak through if they can defeat John Robertson’s Caley Jags.
“A win over Inverness means we will be in first place and through to the knockout stage – so as a team, we know what we have to do,” said a determined Haring. “With a club like Hearts, you have a chance to win trophies and that is a big attraction to come to a club like this. We are trying to get as far as possible in every competition we can.
“Last year we [Ried] got to the quarter-finals but I have never played in a cup final so that would be something special.”
Haring opened his account for Jambos as the Blue Brazil – down to ten men from the half-hour mark – wilted, with the big defender powerfully heading home an Anthony McDonald corner to make it 3-0.
Albeit just his third appearance for Hearts, it felt like a long time coming.
“It was a good feeling because I knew I missed a couple of chances in the last few games,” he smiled ruefully. “I missed two chances against Cove so it was time to score! I always try to be dangerous so I’m happy to get my first goal.”