The image of Ian Cathro strolling around the Tynecastle pitch, having just watched his team exit the Betfred Cup at the hands of Dunfermline, and about to fulfill a meaningless but mandatory penalty shoot out, spoke volumes. Cathro was an isolated figure in a crowd of bodies. Not one player paid any attention to him. This highlighted a crucial aspect of what matters in team sports: no matter how educated you are (or portray yourself to be), how talented, or whether you can discuss tactics for hours on end - if you cannot foster team spirit, you have nothing.
Contrast Cathro and his players' body language with that of an energised Pars squad, who had risen to the occasion, and had faced up to and outplayed their higher league opponents. There is undoubted talent in the Dunfermline squad, but to succeed against opponents from a higher division requires a bond between individuals that can collectively inspire and elevate performance levels, and ensure that regardless of perceived ability, OUR team will be as one, OUR team will play to our strengths, and OUR team will match and then surpass the drive and determination of our opponents, and OUR team will succeed, no matter what is "expected" to happen.
In the second Betfred Cup group game, after Dunfermline had dominated against East Fife but couldn't score, the team won the penalty shoot out and gained a bonus point. After each kick, the Pars player was warmly greeted by his team mates back in the centre circle. Leading the handshakes and hugs was Joe Cardle. The Pars winger has started the season well, but it is not just his playing ability that is impressive: his attitude has been exemplary, actively encouraging his team mates, the first one to congratulate or to give advice, to put an arm around the shoulder, to lead by example, to pull together this group of players and to build up the belief that this is OUR team, and we are all together and will be there for each other.
Allan Johnston was an animated figure on the touchline at Tynecastle. While Cathro stood with a far away look on his face, with the disinterest of a husband trailing behind his wife as she slowly looks through blouses in a sale at M&S, Johnston was coaching the team with vigour. This transferred to the players - from the experienced Cardle and Sean Murdoch to the 17 year old Callum Smith, on his first start for the senior team.
Dunfermline showed tremendous togetherness. This was not restricted just to the players on the pitch. The bond between players and fans has rarely been stronger - there is a real sense that everyone associated with the club is pulling together.
The last word goes to Pep Guardiola, talking about team spirit:
"Team spirit is the most important thing. After that, you can create tactics, but we have to create something special with ourselves."