Since the recent influx of wingers to Tynecastle, there has been much debate amongst Hearts fans over just who is the best player of that position to have graced the famous maroon and white. There have been many strong candidates in the past 30 years or so, with the likes of Neil McCann, Eamonn Bannon and Allan Johnston all being touted by many fans, but one name more than any other stands out from the rest……..John Colquhoun.
Originally signed by Alex MacDonald in the mid ’80s from Celtic after a supposed approach for Davie Provan had been knocked back, Colquhoun went on to become one of the most feared wingers in Scottish Football for the best part of a decade. My earliest memory of him was his spectacular volleyed winner at Hampden against Dundee United in the 1986 Scottish Cup semi-final. This was the sort of the goal that would go on to become Colquhoun’s trademark: spectacular and crucial.
Instantly recognisable on the field with his shirt tucked in at the front but out at the back (he’s the only player I’ve ever seen doing this) and his impossibly bandy legs, Colquhoun was never given the credit he deserved as an all-round footballer in my opinion. Despite being classed as a winger, he was actually a very potent goalscorer too and would rarely fail to reach double-figures in a season. Sadly, like many other Hearts players in his generation, international recognition was not what it should have been and he was only ever capped once, coming on as a substitute in a friendly against Saudi Arabia. Scotland were crying out for a decent player in his position at the time, but he clearly suffered from ‘I don’t play for the Old Firm or in England’-syndrome and was all too often overlooked, which was a shame.
After leaving Hearts to sample football in England in the early ’90s, JC returned to Edinburgh in 1993 when Sandy Clark took over as Tynecastle boss. Colquhoun had struggled to make an impact during spells with Millwall and Sunderland and some fans were sceptical about Clark taking him back at the age of 30, particularly as spending most of his career being kicked up and down by full-backs was bound to have taken its toll on him. However although it’s true that some pace had been lost, JC turned out to be a success at Hearts the second time round. He was most effective when Jim Jefferies took over, when he was deployed more as an out-and-out striker and his cleverness complemented the predatory instincts of Robbo and pace of Alan Lawrence. I’m sure he was also of great help to the young winger Allan Johnston at that time and the two of them excelled on a cold January afternoon at Ibrox in 1996, when Hearts won 3-0 with Johnston scoring a hat-trick. Colquhoun also helped Hearts to reach the Scottish Cup Final that season and indeed scored a cracking goal in the final against Rangers, but we won’t dwell too much on that particular match!
For me John Colquhoun is the best winger Hearts have had since ’86. I think we’ve had more talented and probably quicker players in that position, but for sheer consistency and all round contribution it’s got to be him. It’s all about opinions of course, but I’ve included some of my favourite JC moments to help convince any of you non-believers……………….
1) A raking 30-yarder into the top corner of Celtic’s net at Tynecastle when top of the league in the ’87-88 season. Billy McNeill famously called it a ‘fluke’ – he always was a good loser!
2) A devastating performance against Motherwell in the Scottish Cup at Tynie at the end of his first spell at Hearts. We won 4-0 and he scored twice, one of them a run from the half-way line where he beat three men, rounded the keeper and rolled it in……….magic!
3) Battling relegation under Sandy Clark, we went to Easter Road and won 2-0 with JC scoring both. The first of these was an amazing 30 yard lob over Jim Leighton at the Dunbar End……….
4) The late winner against defending league champions Aberdeen at Pittodrie in ’86…….we thought that would win us the league…………the celebrations in that beach end were unbelievable!
5) Late equaliser that same season against the same opposition at Tynecastle to cancel out a ludicrously awarded penalty………..we thought THAT would win us the league……..!
6) A brilliant hat-trick against St Mirren at Love Street in a 6-0 win there in ’87/88. Probably the coldest I’ve ever been at a football match!
7) Not many will remember this, but a late winner at Pittodrie in the mid-’90s…….wearing the Inter Milan-style strip. Long ball over the top bounced up and he feigned to shoot…….two defenders bought the dummy and when it sat up again he lashed it in the corner…….get in there!
8) Another late winner, this time against Motherwell in a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Fir Park in ’87 I think. Huge crowd was there that night in shocking conditions….we’d struggled all night but Colquhoun scored a rare header to put us through five minutes from time.
9) Late equaliser against Rangers on a wet Wednesday night at Tynecastle in ’93/’94. 2-0 down at half-time, Mackay scored to put us back in it and then late on, Robbo fired over a low cross and JC bulleted a diving header in at the back post to spark wild celebrations. To celebrate he ran over to the Shed and slid on his knees and just about went right into the corner flag on the soaking turf!
10) His performances against Bayern Munich, particularly in the Olympic Stadium. Although he missed good chances to put us through, the way he created openings for himself and generally ran a class defence ragged was magnificent.