John Colquhoun's crisply volleyed
goal which ensured Hearts participation in the Scottish Cup Final on 10 May left the club poised to lift the League and Cup double. a possibility which. at the start ofthe season. would have seemed as likely as Graeme Souness signing for Rangers. It has been a long wait for their huge support. many ofwhom will recall the spectre ofa last match ofthe season defeat from Kilmarnock in 1965 which cost the Edinburgh club the Championship they last won five years before.
The new Hearts. four years in the making. seem a different proposition. They were the first major club to gamble on a
, player/manager; ifAlex
Macdonald’s football is restricted to
the reserves these days. his assistant
. SandyJardine. recruited by
MacDonald in 1982 at what was . erroneously supposed to be the ‘ twilight of his career. is still an
immensely inﬂuential figure at the centre oftheir defence. despite having clocked up his l()()()th match
earlier in the season.
MacDonald and Jardine brought a wealth ofcareer experience to Tynecastle. Jardine as a seasoned
international defender. MacDonald
a highly intelligent and tirelessly aggressive midfield player
j occasionally undervalued by fans but
never by his fellow professionals.
They are known to be perceptive
thinkers on the game. but are
I currently reluctant to speculate on
the outcome of the crucial handful of
; remaining matches. preferring to let results speak for themselves.
The club‘s success this season has
been founded on a total commitment v to teamwork; they have developed a
smoothly-oiled pattern using a rejuvenated Clark as a deep-lying
i centre-forward. supplying a steady 1 flow of headed ﬂicks for the mobile
Robertson and Colquhoun in the area, or the venomous shooting distance of Mackay. Black and Ian Jardine.
Managerial shrewdness in the transfer market has been matched by their ability to extract the maximum contribution from their signings. Clark being a casein point. while Colquhoun. a tricky but indifferent winger with Celtic. has been switched to a striking role with startling success. With the
IN THE RIGHT PLACE
Few would have predicted at the start of the season that Hearts would win the Premier League. Now it’s odds on they will. . . and they might even do the double. Kenny Mathieson tells why.
hard-working Berry supporting Mackay‘s skills in midfield. and a sound (ifoccasionally erratic) defence marshalled by Jardine and the talented Levein. Hearts have built a low cost side which has already proved good enough to create a new Premier League record sequence. ,
Given the managerial background,
it is not surprising that they remind
' many ofthe Rangers treble-winning : teams in which both figured; like
; Tolstoy‘s happy marriages. good
football teams tend to be much alike.
One quality the sides undoubtedly share is an obvious conviction that
they are simply not going to lose. a I determination evident in all but a l rather panicky last fifteen minutes of
Hearts semi-final against Dundee United. who remain the major threat to their title hopes. John Greig. once tipped for the Hearts managerial seat himself. is quick to pay tribute to his ex-lbrox colleagues’ work in developing such a good team spirit at Tynecastle.
‘Alex and Sandy have worked hard on the balance of the side. Building a team is a long-term process. it doesn‘t happen overnight. They
established a base to build on with players like Jimmy Bone and Willie Johnston — the running joke was that you had to be over 30 to get a game. but those players did a great job. They took the club back into the Premier League. and bought the manager time to bring on outstanding young prospects like Robertson and Mackay.’
Greig. who divides his time between running his travel business and covering football for BBC Radio Scotland. has had plenty ofchances to assess Hearts progress this season.
‘I said after I watched them beat Aberdeen at Pittodrie that people had better start taking them seriously. more for the manner of the victory than the result itself. They now have a good mixture ofyouth and experience. and good discipline on the field. People say they are lucky. and they certainly have avoided injuries. which can cripple any side. but I‘m a great believer in the theory that. to a large extent. you make your own luck in this game.
plenty of sweating
‘Hearts have seemed to me to be a sleeping giant since the late 19505. I used to say what a marvellous opportunity they would provide for a manager to take over and build from scratch. Chairman Wallace Mercer has played a huge part in this revival — remember they were literally days from bankruptcy when he took over. The players are the men who ultimately succeed or fail. but the job of rebuilding Hearts, ofputting them back on a sound footing as the third biggest club in Scotland, has been an all-round effort involving everyone at Tynecastle .‘
It is a resurgence which John is happy to admit pleases him greatly.
‘I’m delighted. Deep down. I‘m still a Hearts supporter — they were my team before Rangers. and I‘ve always retained a soft spot for them. Actually. the one big disappointment of my football career was that I never got to play a game for Hearts; 1 would love to have played even in a testimonial.‘
And that double? ‘I would love to see it — I certainly think they are capable of it. and would deserve it. They have been the outstanding team in Scotland this season. and their success has been good for Scottish football. Personally. I wouldn‘t be greedy— l‘d settle for the League. Nothing worth winning ever comes easy. and ifthey succeed it will be on merit. They have worked hard for it.‘
Alex MacDonald is the first to stress that Hearts have won nothing yet - there is still plenty ofsweating to be done before any champagne starts to flow. That said. barring a colossal failure of nerve —
a commodity they have not conspicuously lacked thus far— Hearts look set to crown a remarkable season with a trophy. and have every chance of becoming only the fourth club to lift that elusive double. Either way. the sleeping giant is awake and roaring. (Kenny Mathieson)
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_, _. -._.__‘_l The List I8April— l May35