Monday, 30 August 2010

Dundee United 5 Hearts 6

A classic Scottish Cup encounter at Tannadice from 1968

Vicky's Hearts Blog

Have a look at this fine Hearts blog by my pal and fellow Jambo, Vicky. Excellent stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Heart of Midlothian 1 Dundee United 1

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Sunday 29 August 2010 - Tynecastle

Good news, bad news. Hearts remain unbeaten in the SPL (yes, I know it's only three games but it's more than most of the others can say). However, they threw away two points and therefore the chance to move into third place in the table by allowing Dundee United to snatch a scarcely deserved equaliser near the end of an entertaining game at Tynecastle.

When I read the team lists prior to kick off I was dismayed. Last week's hero, Calum Elliot, had failed a last minute fitness test. Lee Wallace had passed - only to pull up during the warm up.  With Palazuelos suspended and Zaliukas, Driver, Stephen Elliott and Gary Glen all injured it was another patched up Hearts team with Ryan Stevenson pairing Kevin Kyle up front. Nevertheless it was Hearts who dominated most of the game with Suso Santana and Eggert Jonsson particularly impressive.

After dictating the play it was no surprise when Hearts took the lead after half an hour. Suso raced clear of Garry Kenneth from deep inside his own half before finding Templeton charging into the box. The youngster seemed to lose control of the ball initially but he narrowed the angle and with Pernis rushing from his line, Temps did enough to slip the ball past the advancing keeper. Hearts could and should have added to their lead but failed to do so - something they would regret.

The warning signs were there particularly when United were awarded a very soft penalty with fifteen minutes left. However, justice was done when home keeper Marian Kello brilliantly palmed away Daly's effort. Sadly, there was nothing Hearts could do about Gomis' rasping twenty five yard effort flew high into the net past the despairing arms of Kello with just five minutes left to give United a barely deserved share of the spoils.

For the second home game in the SPL in succession, Hearts let a lead slip. That said, there was much to be pleased about with this latest performance particularly when you consider the players who were missing. Hearts are playing decent stuff again, the players are fighting for each other and when the casualties are back results will come.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Nicky Walker

Until the arrival of Gilles Rousset in 1995, it’s fair to say Henry Smith made the Hearts goalkeeping position pretty much his own at Tynecastle. There was only one serious challenge to Henry’s fourteen year reign, which came when manager Alex MacDonald paid the not inconsiderable sum of £125,000 to Rangers for Nicky Walker in 1989.

Born in Aberdeen in 1962, Walker began his career as a teenager with tonight’s opponents Elgin City in the Highland League. His talent was obvious even at an early age and he was only 17 years old when he signed for Leicester City. However, the youngster didn’t settle in England and joined Jock Wallace’s Motherwell a year later. When Wallace answered the call to rejoin Rangers following the departure of manager John Greig in 1983, he wasted little time in taking Walker with him to Ibrox.

Despite Rangers struggling at this time, Walker was the number one number one in Govan. However, this was a time when Aberdeen and Dundee United were top dogs in Scottish football and when Hearts also threatened to pass Rangers by in season 1985/86, the Ibrox hierarchy took drastic action. Jock Wallace was sacked and Graeme Souness was appointed manager in the spring of 1986. The ‘Souness Revolution’ was immediate with one of the former Liverpool player’s first signings being England goalkeeper Chris Woods. Walker was no longer first choice and fell down the pecking order. He was delighted to join Hearts in 1989.

Walker vied for the Hearts goalkeeping shirt with Henry Smith but it wasn’t until the arrival of Joe Jordan as Hearts manager in 1990 that Walker became the established first choice as keeper following Smith’s loss of form. Indeed, Walker made such an impression he played for Scotland against Germany in 1993. However, when Joe Jordan left Hearts in 1993 and Sandy Clark took over as manager, Henry Smith was again the first choice and Walker found himself in a similar scenario to the one he was in at Ibrox. Hearts appointed Tommy McLean as manager in 1994 and he brought in another goalkeeper, the highly rated Craig Nelson from Partick Thistle - with Walker heading to Firhill as part exchange.

Walker enjoyed a new lease of life in Glasgow and two years later, he was on his way to his hometown club when Aberdeen paid £60,000 for his services. After three years at Pittodrie, Walker spent brief spells at Ross County and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. He then concentrated on his family’s shortbread business in the Highlands.

Today Nicky Walker still has an active role in football - he is goalkeeping coach at Highland League side Strathspey Thistle.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Hamilton Academical 0 Heart of Midlothian 4

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 21 August 2010 - New Douglas Park

Hearts manager Jim Jefferies has said that it will take time for him to rebuild the Hearts team and get the players performing in a style he wishes. On the basis of today's hammering of Hamilton Accies, it would seem he's already some way down the road to achieving this.

Striker Calum Elliot was the star of the show today, scoring twice and being instrumental in the penalty award. His first goal, after just six minutes saw the former Scotland Under-21 latching on to the ball 22 yards out before curling a fine, left-footed drive into the far corner. That early goal settled Hearts and eighteen minutes later they doubled their lead. Home defender Martin Canning attempted a bizarre passback, the ball eventually falling to Hearts David Templeton, who held off his marker before giving keeper Cerny little chance with his stinging drive from 18 yards. It was a sublime finish from a player who promises so much.

Hearts were in easy street but the almost inevitable sending off for the visitors arrived with just under half an hour left when Palazuelos' high tackle on Flavio Paixao resulted in a second yellow card for the Spaniard. Accies had more of the game now but failed to breach Hearts defence. With fourteen minutes left the home side were also reduced to ten men when the unfortunate Canning was red-carded after bringing down the impressive Calum Elliot in the penalty box. Substitute Kevin Kyle duly lashed home the penalty to make it 3-0 before Elliot made it three goals in two games when he pounced on a mistake by Wilkie to race clear and stroke the ball in off the far post from 16 yards.

It's been ten years since Hearts last won by such a margin away from home in the SPL. Youngsters Elliot, Thomson and Templeton again impressed and it's interesting to note the four Hearts goals were scored by Scots - it's been a while since one has been able to say that.

It's early days, of course. But on today's evidence, Accies will struggle this season. For Hearts, when you consider they had the likes  Andrew Driver, Eggert Jonnsen, Gary Glen and Stephen Elliott all missing today then it would seem Jim Jefferies is starting to assemble a half decent squad.

One that, at long last, is beginning to score goals and entertain...

Argentine Hearts

A recent visitor to this site was a gentleman from Argentina called Nicolas. The link to his excellent website is below. It just shows the far-reaching impact of the famous Heart of Midlothian FC...!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Heart of Midlothian 1 St. Johnstone 1

Clydesdale Bank SPL, Saturday 14 April 2010 - Tynecastle

The first game of the season is nearly always a special occasion. For the only time of the season all the teams start equal and fans share the same dreams, however fanciful they might be for some. So it was that Hearts entertained St. Johnstone on Saturday. Hearts manager Jim Jefferies knows improvements needs to be made and to this end a new strikeforce of Kevin Kyle and Stephen Elliot have arrived in Gorgie with the promise of goals.

Neither man was fit enough to start on Saturday although both came on with thirty minutes left. By then Hearts had taken the lead with a Calum Elliot header following Lee Wallace's near post cross, only for St. Johnstone to reply immediately, with debutant Sam Parkin heading home from 12 yards. Hearts had the better of the game and really should have won it when Saints' Steven Anderson was sent off for scything Suso after 73 minutes. However, Derek McInnes' men defended resolutely and while Kyle and Elliot caused danger they couldn't get the goal Hearts deserved.

It's always disappointing when you don't win your opening game, particularly at home, but Hearts showed enough to suggest a big improvement from last season. Jason Thomson was immense in defence while David Templeton showed plenty of inventiveness. As they proved last season, St. Johnstone are no mugs and will prove difficult opponents for anyone.

My grandson Jack attended his first game and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. But it's early days yet, son. One game down, thirty-seven to go for this season....

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

History in the Making at Tynecastle

The first home game of the season. We may have had a month of World Cup drama but for died-in-the-wool Hearts fans, the return to Tynecastle to see their favourites after three long months away is the highlight of the summer. And for this particular Jambo, this Saturday afternoon will be particularly significant. For my five-year-old grandson Jack will be with me at Tynecastle - to witness his first ever Hearts game.

Now, I will be the first to admit that my daughter Laura has looked at me and what more than four decades of following Hearts has turned me into and doubtless wondered if there wasn’t a child protection issue here. Since I attended my first Hearts game in 1968, I’ve experienced the joy and heartache - okay, admittedly it’s been more the latter - of being a Jambo. Now I’m going to subject young Jack to similar experiences. Small wonder Laura isn’t the only one concerned…

However, I know it won’t be long before Jack is smitten by the Jambo bug and will immediately be eagerly anticipating his next visit to Tynecastle (he will, honestly!) I only hope his first Hearts game gives him the same experience I enjoyed nearly forty-two years ago. The memories are a bit hazy but I do recall Hearts defeating Falkirk 3-1 at a crumbling Brockville Park - it was beginning to crumble even as far back as 1968 - and me being captivated by the huge Hearts support that day. My father had taken me to the game from our home in Cumbernauld with the intention of bringing me up to be a Falkirk Bairn. I have thought about what might have happened if Falkirk had won that day - would I now be taking grandson Jack to the Falkirk Stadium to watch First Division football? Worse still - my father could have chosen the Falkirk-Hibs fixture that season. Horror upon horrors, I could have been a Hibby although it’s difficult to even imagine being captivated by them…

Of course, the world is a far different place today than it was in 1968. Jack tried to get in the psyche of his first visit to Tynecastle by watching some of this summer’s World Cup from South Africa. Now I know what you may be thinking, dear reader. Watching the likes of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Kaka may lead to young Jack being slightly disappointed when he sees Marius Zaliukas and co taking on the finest Perth has to offer - although, having said that, none of the aforementioned perceived superstars of world football got beyond the quarter final stage of the World Cup. Moreover - and I’ll keep my fingers crossed on this one - there’ll be none of the vuvuzelas that dominated the atmosphere throughout the World Cup blaring at Tynecastle on Saturday. I lost count of the number of times that wee trumpet in South Africa irritated the hell out of me during the summer - but enough about Clive Tyldesley…

Much as watching football’s premier competition was, for the most part enjoyable - particularly the latter stages - part of me was yearning for the boys in maroon and returning to Tynecastle to see Scottish football. It may not be on the same technical level as Spain, Germany, Holland et al but there’s a passion about following your own team that just doesn’t happen with the World Cup. Unless Scotland are playing, of course, but we haven’t graced the football world’s top stage since 1998 and the fear is we’re getting used to our country just not being there.

On a personal note, this season I will no longer be sampling a pre-match pint in the fine hostelries of Gorgie before a Hearts game. I will be starting my grandson off on something I hope will become a family tradition - following Edinburgh’s finest. As my father encouraged me to support Falkirk, (God rest his soul) and my two daughters weren’t particularly keen on football, taking my grandson to his first Hearts game on Saturday could be the start of something big.

I only hope that forty years from now when I’m nearing ninety years of age my grandson doesn’t blame his increased state of anxiety, high blood pressure and depressive episodes on being a Hearts fan. ‘Cos I’ll be the one carrying the can for his mid-life crisis…