The first in a series of articles, which looks at the most memorable key figures at Hearts during a particular decade …..
We start with the 1970s – a decade of disappointment generally. From an embarassing 7-0 home defeat to Hibs in 1973.?.through to a first-ever relegation from the top league in 1977.? followed by another in 1979. Even the emergence of talented youngster Eamonn Bannon had limited effect, due to his forced sale to Chelesea just to keep the club afloat. Highlights included reaching the Final of the inaugural Texaco Cup in 1972 (losing to Wolves 3-2 on aggregate), reaching the Scottish Cup Final in 1976 (losing 3-1 to Rangers), and a fine European win against Locomotive Leipzig later the same year (5-3 on aggregate).
With the benefit of hindsight, a certain young defender from Wallyford called Jim Jefferies would become a club legend some 25 years after he signed – so we`ll leave him until the 1990s article, shall we ?
Who would you pick as the key people at Hearts during the 1970s` and what are your memories of them ? Here are 4 of mine –
Originally signed in 1964, Donald didn`t turn professional until after he had become a regular in the Hearts first team around 1967. He was a gifted sportsman who represented Scotland at both cricket and football, as well as being a qualified accountant and local councillor in Linlithgow. Although not sturdily built, Donald was a fine player who would have scored many more goals had he not found himself at a club which was in slow but steady decline since the glory days of the 1950s. He enjoyed an improved goalscoring spell in the early 70s with the arrival of Tommy, Murray, Donald Park, Kenny Aird, Drew Busby and Bobby Prentice, but retired through injury in 1977 after a brief spell at Falkirk.
Quite simply a brilliant goalkeeper, who would have won many more caps for Scotland if Celtic`s Ronnie Simpson had not been the preferred ‘keeper. Signed in 1960 from Queens Park, Cruickie became a first-team regular when Gordon Marshall left in the mid-60s – and his Hearts career spanned an amazing 17 years. A lasting memory is a penalty save in 1970 from a Tommy Gemmell thunderbolt penalty in a 0-0 draw with Celtic at Tynecastle !! He played through until 1977, including the 1976 Cup Final against Rangers.
Although some way short of being a greatly skilled player, Drew certainly brought much needed “oomph” to the team, when he signed from Airdrie in 1973. For years, he and Drew Jarvie had been a thorn in Hearts` side whenever we played Airdrie – so the fans were delighted to see him in maroon. Throughout his 6 years at the club, he earned a reputation for fierce distance shooting, with a goal against Hibs (1973) and 2 against Celtic (1978) particularly memorable.
Jock Stein still had several survivors from the European Cup winning Celtic side, notably Bobby Lennox, plus the emerging Kenny Dalglish – so the young Prentice was deemed surplus to requirements when Hearts signed him in 1973. Before the League Cup sections at the start of the season were complete, the Hearts fans were enthralled by his speed and ball control on the left-wing – to the extent that many wondered if Jock Stein had made a big mistake in selling him !! To this day, I`ve yet to see anyone in Scotland produce more deadly crosses from the left-wing while running at speed. With Busby, Ford and (later) Graham Shaw to aim at, Hearts scoring rate took a turn for the better. As with all tricky wingers, his form varied wildly – sometimes brilliant, sometimes infuriatingly woeful. My first memory of him was in a match against Dundee at Tynecastle in a League Cup section, With the score at 0-0 and minutes remaining, he received a throw-out from the Hearts keeper inside his own half, then set off on a mazy run – beating man after man. At least 6 Dundee players were left sprawling on the ground as he drove into the box and rounded their keeper. The crowd were ecstatic, yet stunned, at what they were witnessing – a Hearts player capable of destroying an entire team on his own !! Just as we hailed the most brilliant goal of the decade, Bobby sent his shot over the bar. In hindsight, that one moment encapsulated the euphoria and disappointment of being a Hearts supporter.