Date: 20th November 2008 at 5:23pm
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Which Hearts players over the years did you feel received poorer press than their abilities and contributions deserved during their time with the club? Or which others were perhaps given dog’s abuse from the terracing when in actual fact you thought their presence in the team was of great value to their team-mates?

I’ve put together an XI of players I’ve seen at Hearts over the year that I feel would fall into this category. See if you agree or disagree with them, and as ever feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments….

Goalkeeper: Henry Smith

There’s no question that Henry made his mistakes over the years, particularly in higher profile matches, but generally this guy was a great ‘keeper for Hearts and had far more good games than bad ones.

Sadly because the national press only tended to focus on the big games though, they always remembered the Hampden howlers as opposed to some fantastically consistent runs of form, including two spells (one in the late ’80s, the other early ’90s) that eventually saw him being capped for his country. This was a shame, as many people ended up seeing Smith as little more than a comedy character, which of course he was at times, but he was still an excellent goalkeeper.

Right-back:Hugh Burns

I know a lot of guys who thought that Burns was hopeless, but from my admittedly hazy memories he was nowhere near as bad as that, and in fact was a considerable improvement upon the genuinely hopeless (in my opinion!) Walter Kidd at right-back.

I have a feeling it was more to do with his alleged off-field problems that he never managed to establish himself as a Hearts first-team regular, as he had pace, decent ability to link up with the midfield and was physically sound – thighs like tree-trunks if I remember correctly in fact!

Left-back:Neil Pointon

Hearts have been very lucky over the years in this position, but I often think that Pointon is unfortunate not to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Gary Naysmith, Tosh McKinlay and Takis Fyssas when fans are talking about their best ever Hearts left-backs.

This guy was a good old-fashioned full-back who arrived at the club during a time when his sort of character was exactly what was needed (like now actually!), and his experience and know-how were invaluable to Jim Jefferies’ rebuilding of the Hearts squad back then.

Absolutely hard as nails, solid in the air and a great leader on the field, Pointon was also no doubt partly responsible for the excellent player that young Naysmith eventually became.

Would love to see him back at the club in some capacity.

Centre-back: Davie McPherson

Yes we’ve all called him ‘Donkey Dave’ and affectionately shouted ‘ee-aw’ from the stands at Big Slim, but I often felt that McPherson’s appearance gave people a false impression of his abilities as a player, perhaps in a similar way to Peter Crouch in the present day’s game.

Slim looked like the proverbial ‘donkey’ centre-half, with his beanpole-like physique and a flowing mane of dark hair. Not many Hearts fans were overly excited about his signing in the late ’80s from Rangers, but it turned out to be one of the best pieces of business the club had ever done. McPherson not only became a fine defender for Hearts, he exceeded all expectations and eventually had a distinguished international career, as well as earning the club more than three times what they initially paid for him when he transferred back to Rangers a few years later.

Slim was by no means a flawless footballer, but he had much more ability than the majority of fans gave him credit for – he read the game very well from the back, was commanding in the air and his charges forward were the thing of legend. Definitely a candidate for any ‘cult XI’ too!

Centre-back:Willie Jamieson

There weren’t really many highlights during the Tommy McLean era of the mid-90s at Tynecastle. Most of his signings were uninspiring to say the least, but for me this guy came into the side and hardly put a foot wrong in the short time he was with the club.

An out-and-out defender, I’d say that Jamieson was equally as effective as several other centre-halves that the club had had at around that time (e.g. Hogg, Van De Ven), and he was infinitely better than the disaster-on-legs that had been Jim Weir, whom the club had shelled out more than £300K on the previous season.

Willie played a memorable cameo centre-forward role in an epic League Cup tie at Dens Park that finished 4-4 in ’95 (Hearts lost on penalties), and who can forget that 35 yard strike to equalise against Celtic in the last minute?! Definitely a man who made his mark.

Left-midfield: Stevie Fulton

Another whose appearance didn’t particularly do him many favours. Weight was always a problem for Fulton throughout his career, although it’s debatable whether or not it was this or his infamous ‘Roberto Baggio’ tag (after an ill-advised comment from his manager at Celtic, Billy McNeill) that had many Scots seeing Fulton as a mere comedy character!

The truth was though that Fulton was one of the most skilful midfielders to have played for Hearts, and after a difficult settling in period at Tynecastle when he had to fight hard to win over many of the fans, he ended up leaving the club as a Hearts legend following the exploits of season ’97/98.

Right-midfield:Allan Moore

Hearts signed Moore as an 18 year-old from Dumbarton back in the late 80s, and although he was like a stick insect back then I always thought he had something to offer as a player in the Premier League.

Perhaps if he had filled out a bit more in the early stages of his career he’d have really made the grade, but as it was he did go onto do well at clubs like Dunfermline and St Johnstone later in his career, generally in the top division too.

A very pacy and skilful winger, but perhaps destined always to be deputy to the legend that was JC – perhaps a case of simple bad timing for the guy as far as his Hearts career was concerned.

Centre-midfield:Gary Mackay

It might sound a bit strange having Hearts’ record appearance holder in an XI like this, but I never felt that Gary fully got the credit he deserved over his abilities, despite always remaining popular for the service he gave the club.

Perhaps this is partly due to the fact that Joe Jordan almost ruined his naturally attacking game in the prime of his career in the early 90s by playing him at right-back, but Mackay at one stage was right up there with the best midfielders in Scotland, and over the years was always one of the few players at Hearts whom you could rely upon to create something. If he made mistakes he always came back to give it another go, and they always say that ‘God loves a trier’!

A great Jambo, but also a fine player in his day.

Centre-midfield:Vincent Guerin

For some reason this guy used to get a fair bit of abuse from those around me when he played for Hearts, but I could never fathom out why. For me he was one of the most skilful players I’d ever seen in our midfield, and although he never had the pace or dynamic bursts from the centre of the park that say Colin Cameron did, he had much more guile and class, and his play was generally very easy on the eye.

Not too unlike Bruno Aguiar is these days actually….

Striker:Ian Ferguson

Nope – I don’t mean ‘Bayern Munich Fergie’ (his name was spelled ‘Iain’!) – this is the guy that Joe Jordan signed from Raith Rovers in the early ’90s.

Another player who looked cumbersome and useless due to his lumbering, Dave McPherson-style build, but this guy put in a good few really performances for Hearts, managing to score quite a few important goals for the club too during what was a fairly difficult time for the team. One rasping New Year derby strike against Hibs that went in off the underside of the crossbar lingers particularly well in the memory.

Arguably contributed much more than big-money striker partner of the time, Ian Baird.

Striker:Christian Nade

Well, hopefully he won’t be considered ‘underrated’ for too much longer! But I’ve always felt that until very recently Nade had been given a fairly hard time at Hearts, as for me he’s always had unpredictability and skills that others in the squad clearly don’t, even if he has had problems with his weight.

Time will tell if he ends up being a hit at Tynecastle, but he’s by no means the worst forward we’ve ever had at the club, and definitely has the ability to make himself a favourite.

Perhaps if he takes a leaf out of Baggio’s book he may yet fire himself to into Hearts folklore……then again……!


4 Replies to “A Very Underrated Hearts XI!”

  • Gosh Mr H – some real “names” from the past there. I must look up the LondonHearts site abut the Raith Rovers Ian Ferguson – I though Doddie had signed him in the late 80s, but I could definitely be wrong. Looked a decent player on the odd occasion he got a game. Maybe a few years before your time, but a certain Willie Gibson in the 70s got dogs abuse from the fans right throught his career – partly for his appearance, partly for being so lightweight, and partly for missing some sitters. Yet he had a decent scoring record and did remarkably well at holding the ball up against giant defenders, and chasing lost causes. I reckon if you were to ask Drew Busby (who played alongside him), Willie G would get a pretty good rating – I liked him anyway. More recently, John Millar took dogs abuse for a year or two after Jordan signed him – then spectacularly turned into a classy midfielder overnight !! From the current squad, maybe Robbie Neilson comes into this category – overshadowed by the Hartleys and Pressleys of recent years, but slowly earning himself a place in our hearts as one of our better defenders.

  • Yeah I did think about Millar and Neilson – Tommi Gronlund was another – but then I realised…..I didn’t really rate any of them! Millar in fact was to me OVER-rated purely because he scored a few goals – apart from that he was a very limited footballer. On reflection Gary McSwegan might have been a good entry here though, for many of the same reasons as you give for Willie Gibson.

  • Good article sir. Jamieson definitely deserves to be on the list, he was much better than Van De Ven and didn’t have a stupid moustache.

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