Affairs of the Hearts

Fan's Eye View: No.93 Heart of Midlothian
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My father once gave me a book entitled The History of Heart of Midlothian 1874-1984. Inside he inscribed: "To Rick - Once a supporter, always a supporter.'' And therein lies the essence of my dilemma.

Why, in the early seventies, when I first became interested in football, was I not in the slightest bit concerned what Radford and George were doing for Arsenal in one part of north London or what Gilzean and Peters were doing for Spurs in another?

After all, I was only two-and-a-half when I moved from Edinburgh, so why bother that I now found myself in a London which was totally uncaring for the exploits of Drew Busby and Donald Ford? Donald Ford, my first real football hero; actually, Donald mad e it to the Scotland squad for the '74 World Cup finals. He also ended up leading goalscorer scoring a hat-trick against Brazil in the final on a glorious summer's day in Munich in June of that year. However, his performance then may have been aided somewhat by the fact that the Scotland team that day was made up of nine other Hearts players. It would have been 10, but my mum stood on our goalkeeper, Cruikshank, and as I had no more glue, I had to use the England goalkeeper, thus dispelling rumours that they weren't represented in the '74 finals.

And so it was that, finding myself a minority displaced and far from the team I loved, my passion, instead of waning, grew stronger, my grandfather's posted newspaper cuttings becoming a regular precursor to the club call line. My visits to Tynecastle infact are now more regular than they were in those early years, and in my first year at the University of Edinburgh I did a degree in Hearts. We were unbeaten from 8 October to 3 May. A-level re-takes, I thought, were well worth it for this.

3 May, 1986. I knew we were going to blow it, despite all the too-readily printed flags and banners proclaiming "Hearts 1985-1986 Premier Division Champions'' which covered Dens Park, Dundee. However, it did take 83 minutes of the most tense match in ourhistory for a man with the unfortunate name of Kidd to put us into our misery. Was it, therefore, a surprise to either me or my father that we found ourselves being consoled ever so sympathetically by a group of Aberdeen fans one week later at Hampden Park, as we lost the Scottish Cup Final 3-0?

If I thought that was bad, just wait. April, 1988 - one up versus Celtic with three minutes to go, Hampden, the Scottish Cup semi-final. Our goalkeeper, Henry Smith, who seems to have his own personal pension scheme sorted out - save nothing, earn a lot - decided that I couldn't afford the weekend in May just before my third-year exams to watch the Cup final. He and Frank McAvennie - in front of whose feet he dropped the ball twice in the last three minutes for Frank to score twice and put us out 2-1 - had obviously meticulously devised this plan. Did they not realise that I had no exams at the end of my third year?

I spent the Cup final weekend in a depression the likes of which I only ever normally experience when a girl I am chasing asks if we can be good friends. No, this was worse; I can forget about the girl eventually. And Frank and Henry, so concerned about my exams - where were they on the day of my graduation?

But how to lay low the childhood belief of Billy Connolly that our full name is Heart of Midlothian Nil, how to avoid me choosing a Fantasy League team next season called Thirtysomething, a name I chose as it is one that emanates frequently from my lips whenever I am asked the question, "How many years since Hearts last won a trophy?''

Recently I was sent to the British Newspaper Library. Bored, I turned to microfilm of The Scotsman from 23 April, 1956, the day after we last won the Scottish Cup final, beating Celtic 3-1 at Hampden Park, which reads: "The Hearts chairman, Mr Nichol Kilgour, paid tribute to the team, the trainers, and the manager, Mr Tommy Walker, on a great achievement. He added, jokingly, the hope that it would not be another 50 years before they had another Scottish Cup success.'' Not funny, Mr Kilgour.

Not funny at all.

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