Wednesday, 23 February 2011
On a Wing & a Prayer
Those who know me will tell you I can be difficult to please. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Being a year away from my half-century and being a grandfather to three aspiring Jambos (if my daughter reads this, I’ll explain later dear) I’m at that stage in life when one tends to look at some of the years gone by through rose-tinted glasses. Or, in my case, maroon ones. Hearts supporters of my generation will recall the days when teams played three players up front. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Hearts had the 1980s version of the Terrible Trio - John Robertson, John Colquhoun and Sandy Clark - tormenting defences. In recent years, it seems the ability not to lose games - as opposed to going out to entertain and win games - has brought success. Csaba Laszlo’s time in charge of Hearts more often than not saw just one player up front - and Christian Nade was never going to terrorise defences with his lightning turn of speed.
Jim Jefferies return to Tynecastle has transformed Hearts and many supporters like me are gladdened to see, on occasion, Hearts play with three players going forward with Kevin Kyle, until his recent injury and Stephen Elliot supported by the latest in a long line of Hearts players to have fans on the edge of their seats over the years - David Templeton.
Hearts fans of my age have been brought up on players dancing down the wing in maroon. Back in the 1970s, I remember my delight at Hearts capturing Kenny Aird from St. Johnstone and the breakthrough to the first team of a young Bobby Prentice. Aird was one of those players whose commitment was never questioned and the fans appreciated his all action style. ‘Oh Bobby Prentice On The Wing’ was a chant that regularly emanated from the Tynecastle terracing as Rab would - on his day - torment defences across the land. Even in the dark days of the late 1970s, Prentice would have competition for his place in the first team from Malcolm Robertson, who sadly passed away last year.
Veteran winger Willie Johnston was perhaps past his best when he came to Tynecastle in the early 1980s but his replacement was young John Colquhoun, who, like Rab Prentice more than a decade earlier, left Celtic for Gorgie. JC could be equally effective through the middle as a strike partner for John Robertson. In the 1990s, we had Allan Johnston and the mercurial Neil McCann. ‘Terry’ McCann was, perhaps, the best winger I have seen in my years following Hearts. Those of us who were at the 1996 Coca Cola League Cup Final with Rangers at Celtic Park will never forget McCann tearing the Rangers defence to shreds that afternoon. Hearts lost an epic final 4-3 but McCann’s phenomenal display wasn’t forgotten by Rangers manager Walter Smith who took him to Ibrox two years later.
I have to say no one in a Hearts shirt has excited me in the same way Neil McCann did - until now. He’s still young and inexperienced but there’s something about David Templeton’s displays this season that is a throw back to the days when football was all about entertaining and not the results driven business it is today. ‘Temps’ has always been highly thought of at Tynecastle but it’s been Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown who have brought out the best in the 22 year old Glaswegian. His goal against Hibernian at Easter Road earlier this season was sublime. It reminded me in many ways of Archie Gemmill’s memorable goal for Scotland against The Netherlands in the 1978 World Cup, the way he left defenders trailing in his wake before finishing with style.
You can almost feel the anticipation from the crowd when Temps gets the ball and surges forward. Yes, he is prone to the odd mistake just like any other player but there can be no better tutors for the lad than Messrs Jefferies and Brown. It was the Hearts management duo who made the aforementioned Neil McCann the player he was.
Templeton undoubtedly has the skill and work rate to take him to the very top. I suspect there have already been a few scouts from over the border keeping a keen eye on him. It doesn’t come as a complete surprise to learn his middle name is Cooper - clearly, his family were paying homage to one of the finest wingers in Scotland, Davie Cooper, when their son arrived in the world in 1989.
I hope Temps sticks around Gorgie for at least a couple of more years. I don’t get a lot of excitement at my age but seeing the Glaswegian Wonder Boy fly down the wing takes me back to a bygone age when style and panache was king. Something David Templeton has in abundance!