Football: FAN'S EYE VIEW: No 193 Heart of Midlothian

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Tell me, I asked the commercial manager of Hampden Park, these seats I am thinking of buying from the Old South Stand that you're knocking down, have they been there long? Yes, she said. So I bought three and when they were delivered I stared at them, sat on them and started to dream.

What did it feel like to be there, to see it, to hear it, to have sat on this seat on 18 October, 1962?

Norrie Davidson scored and, when John Cumming lifted the trophy, did anyone know, could they have even begun to imagine, that the League Cup final victory over Kilmarnock was to be our last trophy of any kind for 34 years? I, fortunately, have not had to wait that long; I wasn't born until 1966. Thirty years of hurt, never stop believing... sounds familiar?

As a child I had two dreams, neither of which have come true. The first was that an Italian princess with brains and beauty would make the admittedly rather odd decision to spend the rest of her life with me in a Hampstead flat watching football five nights a week. The second was that the captain of Hearts would walk up the steps of Hampden Park, lift a trophy, turn to me and shout: "This one's for you, Richard."

Tomorrow at Celtic Park, Hearts play Rangers in the Coca-Cola Cup final. I think we'll win.

On 18 May 1996, at Hampden, Hearts played Rangers in the Scottish Cup final. I thought we'd win then, too. It was a close match, Rangers just scraping home 5-1. And yet there I was just a few hours later among the modest crowd outside the George Hotel in Edinburgh as the team arrived for the post-match wake. I stretched out my arms just to touch Gilles Rousset, our goalkeeper. A poignant moment, I remember thinking, for if only Gilles had stretched out his arms in a similar fashion earlier in the day he may have stopped Laudrup's tame shot from rolling over the line into the back of our net when the game was still up for grabs.

But I haven't had to wait until next year. On 23 October, I made the trip from my office in Westminster to Edinburgh - for the Coca-Cola Cup semi-final against Dundee.

Darren Beckford scored and I knew we were on our way. I was on my own at the game and so I searched for someone to share my joy with. Hugging someone you don't know is a strange experience if you stop to think about it, but when you have just scored in a semi-final you don't. Next to me was a large figure, also on his own, probably due to his habit of placing a whole meat pie in his mouth in one go. His moustache bore the remnants of his previous meals that day. Yet there I was, as Beckford scored, in what can only be described as a passionate embrace with this very person.

Two more goals led to a 3-1 victory - but the atmosphere at the whistle was somewhat muted. We had leaped over the garden wall only to meet the Barbarians at the gate - we had Rangers in the final.

I once asked my father why he hadn't encouraged me to support a team that won something every now and again. "Once a supporter, always a supporter," he replied. So if I'm standing next to my dad tomorrow as Dave McPherson lifts the Coca-Cola Cup, it will be one of the happiest moments of my life. I'll even forgive you, Dave, if you don't manage to pick me out in the crowd - but fathers of Italian princesses, lock up your daughters this summer. I'm on my way and I'm on a roll.

Comments