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SPL: Will Hearts continue to be consistent?

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While Rafael Benitez's rotation policy has been the subject of much debate in the English media, there is no doubt that it is a method the Spaniard believes in and is his and his only.

Consistent rotating of the Hearts' first-team however usually carries with it the insinuation that owner Vladimir Romanov is having more than a hand in team selection,

So will things change after Romanov watched his first Hearts game of the season, against Aberdeen last weekend?

Unusually, 10 of the Hearts side who had recovered well from a poor start to earn a draw at Hibernian the previous week were retained for the Tynecastle clash with the Dons.

The result? A stylish 4-1 win for the Edinburgh side and an admission afterwards from assistant first-team coach Stephen Frail (the club's main frontman in terms of talking to the press) that: "To get consistency in performance, you probably need it in selection as well.

"That's not to say it won't be rotated for certain matches and certain individuals won't be brought in to play against certain players, but we need consistency in selection."

Some solid partnerships appear to be forming, captain Christophe Berra and Ibrahim Tall at the back, Michael Stewart and Icelander Eggert Jonsson in the heart of midfield and Christian Nade and Andrius Velicka up front.

When talented winger Andrew Driver and the likes of Laryea Kingston are added to that list, Hearts have a decent looking core of players and one that can match anyone else in the SPL on any given day as wins over Celtic in the CIS Cup and Rangers in the league have shown.

Controversy is never too far away of course. Defeats at Hearts are not treated the same as anywhere else as people look for an explanation of who is picking the team and what influence Sport Director Anataloy Korobochka and Advisor on Sports Matters to the Board Eduard Malofeev actually have.

The loss at Kilmarnock at the end of October for example was the subject of a vitriolic attack in the Herald on 'the shambles that is Heart of Midlothian Football Club' when only the decision not to play Steve Banks in goal could be considered strange. Everything else that happened that day (a red card for Nade and Frail being sent to the stands could and does happen in any game at any club).

In the midst of it all however Hearts are in the semi-finals of the League Cup and are moving up the SPL quite nicely. Whether that is because of or despite Vladimir Romanov will remain the subject of debate but as ever in football, only results on the pitch will matter.


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