Date: 6th June 2007 at 1:24pm
Written by:

There are murmurings in the press that Tommy McLean could be making a return to management by returning to his old job at Motherwell.

Reading this brought back some shuddering memories of when McLean had his ill-fated time in charge at Hearts in the mid-’90s. What a strange season that was. It was the same year that Chris Robinson and Leslie Deans bought the club from Wallace Mercer and it also saw the opening of the new Wheatfield Stand where I was one of the privileged 6,000 or so who had a season-ticket there.

Robinson and Deans’ first significant move was to sack Sandy Clark from the manager’s post and appoint the more experienced McLean, who had recently left Motherwell after a lengthy, successful spell with the Lanarkshire club. I always felt that this was a mistake and very harsh on Sandy, who despite having his problems the previous season (Hearts had fought relegation for most of it), had ended it with an impressive run of form and he’s made some very astute signings (Stevie Frail and Mo Johnston most notably). However the new owners clearly wanted to stamp their mark on the club and they did that with the appointment of McLean, a man that they hoped would put Hearts back challenging for European places.

It’s funny though, because although most Jambos will remember the McLean era as being a desperate time with little in the way of things to cheer about, Hearts at times did play some of the best football I’d seen for a long time that year. Most of this was largely due to the signing of veteran Jim Bett, who at 35 was well past his best but even still, I don’t think I’ve seen a Hearts player before or since who had the all-round midfield ability that he had. He was simply awesome: he had two great feet, impeccable awareness and passing abilities and he still had a bit of dig as well. Because of his age though, he could only be an influence for so long and that’s why we ended up struggling a lot of the time.

Most of the other Hearts signings that year were candidates for the ‘worst ever’ category however. I’m not sure how many of you remember this, but the club had a share issue that season asking the fans to basically stump up the cash to give McLean some readies in the transfer market. There was a surprisingly good response to this and I think it was something like £500K that was raised. Imagine our disappointment then, when we saw what our gerbil-like friend did with that money! The names of Colin Miller, David Hagen and Craig Nelson are likely to make many of us reach for the sick bucket aren’t they? To be fair, Hagen and Nelson were highly rated young Scottish players at the time (U21 internationalists) and initially their signings were met with some optimism, but in the end they just didn’t step up to the plate. Miller was simply awful.

One player who did do much better than anyone expected was the almost comedy-like figure of Willie Jamieson, who wrote himself into Hearts folklore with a stupendous last minute equaliser against Celtic that season. The ball dropped to him around 30 yards out and the shot he unleashed after it had bounced once simply rocketed into the top corner past the Celtic ‘keeper, who was still Pat Bonner I think at that time. That was obviously his defining moment in his Hearts career, but otherwise Jamieson acquitted himself admirably…………mind you, it’s all relative!

The season’s highlight was most definitely the epic 4-2 win over Rangers at Tynecastle in the Scottish Cup. Hearts had been 2-0 up at half-time, but Rangers, who were a truly decent side at that time with the likes of Brian Laudrup taking Scottish Football by storm, fought back to make it level and we feared the worst. However we were soon 3-2 up thanks to Robbo and Kevin Thomas wrapped up a famous Hearts victory in injury time after a legendary charge down the right flank by ‘donkey’ Dave McPherson had paved his way. Great memories, but they were few and far between that season.

Eventually Hearts managed to avoid relegation on the last day of that season thanks to a 2-0 home win over McLean’s former club Motherwell, but the writing was on the wall for the gerbil by then. Rumours had been doing the rounds for months about the lack of respect that the players had for the manager and to be honest, McLean’s heart never quite seemed to be in it. As you’d imagine, when he left there weren’t too many tears shed.

After departing Hearts, McLean had a relatively successful spell at Dundee United, but not before he managed to completely shaft (for want of a better word!) Raith Rovers in the process. He took the job in Kirkcaldy for a week, then walked out and took the United job that had suddenly become available. I think that says a lot about the man to be honest.

Since then McLean has not really been all that visible within Scottish Football, but if the rumours are true about Motherwell wanting him back, then the wee nyaff may well be back on our screens very shortly. I was going to say that I wouldn’t wish this amount of misfortune on Motherwell, but he did actually do pretty well for them there before, so perhaps it’s just the right club for him. Time will tell on that, but sadly the memories of that one season he had at Hearts do not appear to be fading particularly fast……….


One Reply to “The Dreaded Tommy McLean”

  • It was a bad time, but that cup tie against Rangers is one of the best nights I’ve ever had at Tynecastle. Thanks for bringing back the memories!

Your Comment