Sunday, 9 May 2010

Last Day Shenanigans

It’s the end of another season. A season that began full of promise - Hearts fans are the eternal optimists - but took a turn for the worse in early January. The return of Jim Jefferies has steadied what many believed was a sinking ship but few could blame Hearts supporters for putting this season behind them and looking ahead - with optimism once more - to the start of season 2010-11 in August. Hearts chances of qualifying for a place in next season’s Europa League were snuffed by their failure to defeat Dundee United at Tynecastle last week - on an evening when their Euro rivals were sharing an astonishing twelve goals at Fir Park - thus avoiding a do-or-die last day scenario. For that, I am almost thankful as such scenarios tend to put a shiver down my spine.


Now even though I have a third grandchild due this week I am too young (honest, guv) to recall the events of 1965. I was just three years old when Hearts faced Kilmarnock at Tynecastle on the final day of the 1964/65 league season. Remarkably, the destination of the league title was between these two clubs with the Old Firm nowhere to be seen. Now back in the black and white days of the mid 1960s, if teams were level on points at the top of the league at the end of the season, the Scottish League rules meant goal average, as opposed to goal difference, would determine the winners (don’t ask…) The upshot was that, after all the arithmetic was done, all Hearts needed to do to avoid handing the league title to Kilmarnock on a plate was to avoid losing by two goals. Even a 1-0 loss would be enough to give Hearts their first championship win in five years. However, older Hearts fans know the script. In front of nearly 40,000 fans at Tynecastle, Hearts proceeded to lose 2-0 and give the men from Ayrshire the championship. I am told that some Hearts fans were so devastated by the turn of events that they never returned to Tynecastle. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last occasion where Hearts snatched despair from the jaws of triumph on the final day of the season…

Fast-forward seventeen years to 1982. Despite a truly awful season downstairs in the First Division – a campaign that saw Hearts lose to the likes of Queens Park and East Stirlingshire – the latter at Tynecastle, I kid you not younger readers – the maroons faced already promoted Motherwell in the final game at Tynecastle needing a win to secure promotion. The other team who could deny Hearts? You’ve guessed it – Kilmarnock. Nevertheless, they needed to beat Queen of the South by five clear goals as well as Hearts botching things up in Gorgie. More than 15,000 turned up at Tynecastle on a sunny May day to see the maroons do the business. However, Motherwell, inspired by youngsters Gary McAllister and Brian McClair, showed why they had won the First Division by a mile by winning 1-0. Still, at least there was no chance of Killie scoring the proverbial barrow load was there? Cue the half-time score from Rugby Park – Kilmarnock 6 (six as the teleprinter might report) Queen of the South 0. More final day heartache for the maroon hordes - we were doomed as early as half-time. The feeling of anguish I felt that day was even more acute than the despair I felt at Dens Park on the day of Jambo Armageddon - the last day calamity of 1986. Hearts had such a brilliant season in 1985/86 and no one thought they could win the league until the final few weeks. On that fated last day, Hearts needed just a single point against Dundee to secure their first league title in over a quarter of a century. Every Hearts fan knows what happened. Sure, we were all in tears when Albert Kidd scored twice in the last eight minutes to give Dundee a 2-0 win and so deny Hearts their first league title in over a quarter of a century, but we were immensely proud of our team that season.

Kilmarnock - aye, them again - were to deny Hearts again on the final day of season 2000/01. Hearts needed a win from their last game against Dundee at Tynecastle to qualify for a place in Europe - and hope that champions Celtic would take care of Killie at Rugby Park. However, Hearts fans flames of optimism were doused when they heard the Celtic team line-up. Their manager Martin O’Neill chose to use that game to field his reserve team. Although Hearts duly defeated Dundee 2-0, Killie notched a rare win over the Old Firm to secure their place in the UEFA Cup.

It’s not all been doom and gloom on the final day for Hearts of course – who could forget Juanjo’s great goal against Hibs at Tynecastle to secure UEFA Cup qualification in 2000? However, if you can forgive my natural pessimism, with Hearts having nothing to play for in today’s final action of the season against Celtic then at least it shouldn’t affect my blood pressure too much.

Then again…

3 comments:

  1. i am following yr blog . u r invited to follow my blog

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  2. I am glad this season is over and happiness was returning to my mind when I read that!
    Thanks a bunch.........

    ReplyDelete