It was always likely that Hearts would draw sympathy this season as they sought to recover from a 15-point deduction in the SPFL Premiership. It was far less certain that some of it would come from John Hughes, the former Hibernian player and manager who is now in charge of Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
The 49-year-old has become renowned for trying to wind up journalists during interviews, yet there was no punchline yesterday as Hughes gave his views on the plight of Hearts. He will get a closer look at the Tynecastle club today when they arrive in the Highlands on league duty and there seems little chance that he will alter his stance.
Hughes is sympathetic to the heavy point deduction which has left Hearts struggling to stand up for themselves in the league; the team now 17 points behind Partick Thistle. Hughes believes that his old rivals should have been fined instead and given a better chance to stay in the top flight this term.
"It is not a factor that I am from the other side of the city. I take no extra pleasure in beating Hearts," said the Inverness manager. "I am coming up for 50 now. When I played, I did so with my heart on my sleeve and my allegiance was clear. But I'm at the stage now where I believe, for the good of Scottish football as a whole, we need a strong Hearts and a strong Rangers. I don't know if it was the right decision to put them down the leagues.
"What I would have done - and I have heard this bandied about - would have been to fine them and channel the money back into the grassroots of Scottish football. We want Hearts in the top league and I want to be playing them."
Greg Tansey is unlikely to be so choosy in who he comes up against. The Inverness midfielder returned to the Highlands last month following an ill-fated move to Stevenage and he is simply relishing the chance to play regularly in an historic campaign for his side.
"I kept tabs on Inverness when I was down south and saw the lads were doing well. I saw they were into the League Cup semi-finals," said the Englishman. "The club are breaking boundaries and achieving things that Inverness have never done. We are setting the bar higher and higher.
"It has continued by getting through to the club's first cup final. It is all about making history and this is definitely a club on the up."
Hearts are most likely down already. The gap between the Edinburgh club and the relegation play-off place is extensive and not even a sustained run of good form can be expected to rescue a place in the top flight. It was a situation which many at the club will have made their peace with by now, although there are those who took a little longer to come to terms with the dire situation which is facing the club.
"I didn't know anyone up here, so it was all brand new to me so I quickly whacked Heart of Midlothian into Google," said Paul McCallum, the striker who has joined Hearts on loan from West Ham United until the end of the season. "I looked at the league table and I saw they only had two points all season. I was like: 'Woah! What's going on there?' I didn't know they were in administration."
The financial reality at the club has brightened somewhat, with sizeable investment having been revealed ahead of millionaire Ann Budge's prospective takeover as part of The Foundation of Hearts. It has been announced that she is funding the £2.5m purchase of a majority shareholding, with FoH injecting £2.4m of working capital during the first season. It is a total which will rise to £3.8m over the first two years.