Football: Hearts full of pride

Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 1
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The Independent Online
By Phil Gordon

Heart of Midlothian 2 Rangers 1

THE parade that no-one dared talk about, for fear of cursing yet another Scottish Cup final, at last became a reality yesterday as the sun beat down on Edinburgh Castle.

Just a few hundred yards down the historic streets, Jim Jefferies' own history-makers gathered outside St Giles' Cathedral, where, embedded in the cobble stones, is the Heart of Midlothian, which inspired the club's name.

Walter Scott's novel, about a hero locked up in the Scottish capital's infamous jail, lives on through that minimalist monument from where the open-top bus inched its way through thousands of Hearts fans, along Princes Street and finally to Tynecastle.

It is a fitting piece of symbolism for the football club which finally escaped its own sentence. Imprisoned by 36 years of fallow history, Hearts finally had a trophy to embrace after the epic adventure at Celtic Park on Saturday.

The 2-1 defeat of Rangers gave the Edinburgh club back its soul. Now Scotland's third biggest club has a piece of silverware to go with its history and potential.

It also restored the heart to the Tynecastle club which had been labelled chokers after losing the Double in 1986 in a traumatic seven days, not to mention a Scottish Cup final defeat in every decade since they last won the trophy in 1956.

Grown men wept tears of joy in Edinburgh on Saturday night. One Hearts fan, Roddy McDougall, an exile in London who has seen all four cup final defeats, plus last season's Coca-Cola Cup final demise against Rangers, explained: "We had a party arranged in 1986 to celebrate winning the league and then one for the cup final the following week. Both turned into wakes. So we never organised anything this time."

McDougall was only two the last time Hearts had the need of an open-top bus, when they won the League Cup in 1962, and made sure that his own son was not going to miss out on this one. His wife Liz brought their baby son Douglas, celebrating his first birthday, onto the streets to share in the occasion.

Indeed, sentiment was everywhere with Hearts. Gary Locke, their young captain who missed the final through injury - he was stretchered off after just two minutes of the 1996 final, a 5-1 defeat by Rangers, with cruciate ligament damage - was brought onto the pitch by his team-mates to share in the celebration.

Locke, in his cup final suit, strode up to the podium with captain-for- the-day, Steve Fulton, to lift the trophy.

But perhaps it was the last man up to receive his medal, John Robertson, who truly summed up how it felt to release years of pent-up emotion and frustration.

Robertson, who has spent 18 years at Hearts - save for one ill-chosen campaign with Newcastle - without a medal to show for his effort, enduring all the pain, stood there, looked at the medal, and without any pumped- up gestures simply patted his own heart beneath that white shirt.

Unlike Gianluca Vialli at Wembley last year, Hearts' record goalscorer never made it off the substitutes' bench for an emotional finale. The little striker is almost certain to be released this summer when his contract ends, but Robertson was too overcome to be bitter.

He realised there was little room for sentiment as Hearts hung on to the lead that had been cut in half by Ally McCoist's 81st minute goal.

"Jim Jefferies apologised to me in the dressing room," revealed Robertson, "because I was stripped and ready to go on. But the whistle blew before I could get on.

"But it didn't matter because it was such a great day for the club and anyway, it had reached the stage that I didn't want to go on in case I messed it up for the boys."

Robertson, the only link with the Double team-that-never-was in 1986, gave his erstwhile colleagues a poetic roll call, insisting: "I want to dedicate my medal to Craig Levein, Gary McAllister, John Colquhoun and the rest of the guys who never won anything with Hearts. I am just lucky to have been around long enough to finally get a winners' medal."

Even the incomers have taken this club to their hearts. French international goalkeeper, Gilles Rousset, whose blunder two years ago precipitated the collapse against Rangers, declared: "I have only been here three years but I am a Hearts man now. I had lost a French Cup final and that Scottish Cup final and I can't explain how good it feels."

Rousset's joy was in part due to his compatriot Stephane Adam, whose pace troubled Rangers all day and brought the crucial 53rd minute goal which gave them the vital two-goal cushion, after Colin Cameron's penalty had punished Ian Ferguson's first-minute foul on Steve Fulton.

Hearts now, have stopped looking back. Instead, they are embracing the future. Chairman Chris Robinson expects his club to almost fill Tynecastle's 18,000 seats next August with season ticket holders.

"This is the greatest day of our lives," he said, "but we plan to invest money in the team to ensure Jim Jefferies can give us a few more." If Jefferies does, then the Premier League title pipedream of this season, could become a reality next May.

Goals: Cameron pen (1) 1-0; Adam (53) 2-0; McCoist (81) 2-1.

Hearts (4-4-2): Rousset; McPherson, Ritchie, Weir, Naysmith; Salvatori, Fulton, Cameron, McCann; Flogel, Adam (Hamilton, 78). Substitutes not used: Robertson, Murray.

Rangers (3-5-2): Goram; Porrini, Gough, Amoruso, Bjoklund; Gattuso, McCall (Durrant, 68), Ferguson, Stensaas (McCoist, 46); Laudrup, Durie. Substitute not used: Negri.

Referee: W Young (Clarkston)

Bookings: Hearts: McCann, Hamilton. Rangers: Amoruso, Durie, Durrant, Ferguson.

Man of the match: Rousset.

Attendance: 48, 946.