Hot Goal Time Machine: Hearts

May 23, 2014

For a description of exactly what this series is about and how the idea was formed then be sure to read the open letter at the top of our opening blog. For the rest we’ll summarise: we’ve asked a blogger from every team in the Scottish top flight to recall their favourite goal from every season since 1998. For this entry our editor Craig Fowler decided against outsourcing for the contribution and took the pleasurable trip down memory lane himself. Spoilers – There are a few strikes against Hibs.

1998/99 – Stephane Adam v Rangers (2-1 win)

I’m not entirely sure that this was the first televised game in the SPL, but for the sake of this article I’m going to assume it was. Certainly, it was the first time the teams had met since the previous May where Hearts lifted their first trophy in 36 years in a nerve-wracking Scottish Cup Final. The 1997/98 term hadn’t just been about the cup win, it also included a genuine title challenge from ourselves that lasted right up until the end of March. Going into the new season there was a belief that we could take that one step further and secure our first Championship since 1960. Meeting Dick Advocaat’s Rangers was a good way to find out.

Five minutes in, Neil McCann is released on the left. His attempted ball across to Adam is so bad it’s actually good since the Rangers defenders can’t halt their momentum to block it and it falls for the Frenchman who shuffles his feet and puts us 1-0 up. Around 15 minutes later Jim Hamilton made it 2-0 and though Rod Wallace scored before half-time we managed to hold on.

The reason I’ve gone for this is that it was pretty much the apex of our season. Instead of challenging for a title we almost got relegated! It took the panic buying of Darren Jackson and the return from injury of Colin Cameron from injury to preserve our SPL status.


1999/00 – Gary McSwegan v Aberdeen (3-0 win)

This is a bit of cheat to start this blog because I can’t actually recall the goal itself. All I know was that my favourite player scored a hat-trick, netting the final two down my end of the ground, on my 13th birthday. It would actually be McSwegan’s second treble against Aberdeen in two games having done it at Pittodrie on the last day of the previous campaign. He’d be our top scorer this year and scored twice against Hibs, including the goal that put us into Europe (we finished third but were pretty average in Jim Jefferies final full year), and yet he got booed whenever he returned to Tynecastle as a Kilmarnock player. That’s Hearts fans for you.


2000/01 – Robert Tomashek v Dunfermline (7-1 win)

The most notable thing about this season was Jim Jefferies leaving and Craig Levein taking his place. Other than that we were pretty pedestrian, apart from this game. It remains the only time in my life I’ve seen Hearts score seven goals in a match and I must thank Jimmy Calderwood for his ridiculous decision to go 2-4-4 after we’d taken a quick 2-0 lead. With the game at 6-1 everyone wondered which of Colin Cameron, Andy Kirk or Stephane Adam was going to get the seventh goal and secure their hat-trick. In the end it was our former Slovakian midfielder who capitalised on a mistake in the Pars’ backline to complete the rout. At full-time I received a text message from a football scores update company telling me “Hearts 7 (S-E-V-E-N)…”, which I kept for the entire duration of that phone’s life.


2001/02 – Ricardo Fuller v Motherwell (3-1 win)

This still might be the best solo goal I’ve seen a Hearts player score in the flesh and he certainly deserves to be at the centre of a joyous moment from this season, because we certainly didn’t have many without the gangly Jamaican. It may have been the most mundane, sinfully boring campaign if Craig Levein hadn’t managed to unearth this gem from Tivoli Gardens on a season long loan deal. Eventually, it would become a pretty poor year all the same, again we finished 5th, but Ricardo gave us some great moments along the way. We were 2-1 up at the time and ‘Well were pushing for a way back into the match. On the counter Fuller took counter of the ball in our own half, flicked it around one covering defender, did the same to another before dummying, and then rounding, the goalkeeper and putting the ball into the back of the net. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford the £750,000 asking price to keep him beyond that season and none of us were surprised when he went on to have a stellar English Premier League career with Stoke.


2002/03 – Austin McCann v Celtic (2-1 win)

We made such a habit of scoring last minute goals this season that the club brought out an end-of-season VHS tape covering the campaign, despite the fact that finishing third was our only accomplishment of note. Such highlights include Mark De Vries goals three and four in the 5-1 rout over Hibs in the first home game of the campaign, Phil Stamp’s winner at Easter Road and Graham Weir’s double deep into injury to rescue a point against (you guessed it) Hibs in the New Year derby. However, I’ve gone for McCann’s thunderbolt against Celtic, and I’ll take the time to explain why.

For me, this was the perfect football game. Baked in glorious April sunshine, both clubs could do with the points as the season drew to a close. Celtic were desperate to keep up with Rangers in the title race, while we were looking to keep our advantage over Kilmarnock in third. It made for a high octane, thrilling encounter with both teams going at it. The best aspect of which was that we were the better team. We were! Hearts were outstanding that day as every player left absolutely every ounce of energy they had on the pitch with wee Weir’s bullying of Bobo Balde – a man around a foot taller than him – a notable example of such desire. And yet, such as it always seems to be when you’re doing well against the Old Firm, we couldn’t take out first half chances and were a goal down midway through the second half. McCann, filling in for the injured Stephane Mahe, had a terrific day and it was unfortunate that the only time he was burned for pace by Didier Agathe it resulted in a tap-in for Henrik Larsson. Only this time we didn’t crumble. Coming back with incredible resolution we equalised through Phil Stamp when he turned Scott Severin’s wayward shot goalward. The scene was set.

A point wasn’t a bad result for us. As is usually the case against either member of the Old Firm, we had written off the match beforehand, safe in the knowledge that we kept our lead over Killie regardless of the result. Celtic, however, were desperate for the win. They threw everyone forward believing they had to win the match. Then a misplaced pass from Sean Maloney led to a Hearts counter. Andy Kirk gave the ball up to Severin who streaked through the middle of the park. He fed it out wide to McCann supporting from left-back. I distinctly remember looking across to see who was helping and saw Phil Stamp coming in from the other side. That’s where I thought McCann was going when he struck the ball and, from my angle behind the goal, only realised that he’d shot when the ball crashed off the far post and nestled into the back of the net. Bedlam, sheer bedlam! There wasn’t even enough time for them to launch another attack as “What a Beautiful Day” by The Levellers blared out over the PA system after the full-time whistle. It was as well. It really, really was.

In the end, we went back into Europe and McCann’s goal ended up costing Celtic the title. Added bonus.

2003/04 – Mark De Vries v Bordeaux (0-1 win)

My first ever European trip took us to the south of France for a tie that was supposed to be more about the holiday than it was about the football. Few gave us much of a chance, and that includes Craig Levein who played a 5-4-1 formation with everyone behind the ball hoping to keep the score close before hopefully tearing them a new one in front of a packed Tynecastle in the return leg. Behind the defensive wall was a young Craig Gordon. The keeper had made his debut the season before and still hadn’t made too many first team appearances, having recently replaced Tepi Moilanen after a 5-0 humiliation at Celtic Park only a few weeks prior. Levein publicly mused over the decision in the week leading up to the match, wondering if Gordon was a little inexperienced for such a high pressure encounter. In the end he went with the younger option and it was to be one of the best personnel decisions of his Hearts managerial reign. Gordon had a superb game, making a couple of stunning saves along with half a dozen solid ones to keep the score at 0-0 entering the last 15 minutes. Then we got a free-kick.

Paul Hartley floated it up, Kevin McKenna rose and looped a header which the keeper touched onto the far post and the ball rebounded back across goal. It wasn’t crossing the line until de Vries came crashing in to send the ball home. To this day I don’t think I’ve seen a crowd celebrate a goal for so long. By the time everyone had stopped jumping, hugging and screaming the game had already restarted. In an excruciatingly tense final 10 minutes we managed to hold on for a famous victory.

Then in the return leg Albert Riera unleashed an incredible 35 yard shot in the first minute which flew into the top corner of Gordon’s net and completely f****d our advantage. We would go on to lose 2-0 and exit. But still, what a trip!


2004/05 – Robbie Neilson v Basel (1-2 win)

Another European trip, another famous win. I was tempted to pick a goal I never saw thanks to issues with Setanta when the channel first launched on British digital boxes at the beginning of this season, which caused the screen to go black in my local shortly before de Vries’s first goal in a 2-2 draw at Braga that pushed us into the group stages of the UEFA Cup for the first time. However, while that may have been a mildly entertaining story, it doesn’t compare to the feeling when Neilson’s slammed the ball into the back of the Basel net and gave us real hope of qualifying for the knockout stages for the same competition.

Levein had gone and John Robertson was now the new manager. We hadn’t gotten off to the best of starts under Robbo, but things were ticking along OK when we headed out to Switzerland. Having been beaten by Feyenoord and Schalke in our first two games we really needed a victory to have any hope of surviving the five-team group. Normally managers needing a win wouldn’t necessarily set their teams up to attack from the off, but fair play to Robbo because we went for it that night, lining up in a flat 4-3-3. Dennis Wyness scored the opener half an hour in and we defended our lead well for 45 minutes until the hosts equalised late on. It seemed like we’d have to settle for a respectable draw, only for the least likely of Hearts goalscorers to arrive in the penalty area and drive the loose ball under the body of the Basel goalkeeper.

Like the previous entry it was a European away trip in which I was in attendance. In fact, we’ve got a surprisingly good record in the three trips I’ve made away in Europe to watch Hearts with the other being a 0-0 draw with Sparta Prague. Sadly the same cannot be said for home games. In fact, we lost our next and final group match “at home” (Murrayfield) to Ferencvaros where Robbo booted Csaba Laszlo up the arse at full-time.


2005/06 – Paul Hartley v Hibs (4-0 win)

So, so, so many to choose from. What a season! There’s still that lingering pang of “what could have been” considering how brilliant we were at the beginning of the campaign and how ordinary we looked under Graham Rix. Any time anyone ever brings the topic up – “Hearts would have won the league if…” – I always argue the opposite. Celtic finished on 90 points that season. As good as we were, we had a thin squad and cracks were already beginning to show before the split between George Burley and Vladimir Romanov. Sure we would have ran Celtic closer to the title, but in the end a second place finish and Scottish Cup win would have been all we would have gotten.

I’ve gone for Hartley’s goal against Hibs. Do you need it narrowed done more? Ok, his goal in the Scottish Cup semi-final. You need me to be more specific? (*smugface*) All right, his second goal in the aforementioned Hampden showdown. Before 19/05/12 this was the biggest derby in the history of both clubs. With Division Two Gretna waiting for the victors it was, essentially, the final before the final and words cannot describe the nerves I felt in the weeks leading up to the game. However, as the day went on and I heard the missing Hibs players and saw the missing Hibs fans, I slowly started to come to the realisation that this was our day. When Hartley made it 2-0 I knew there was no way they were coming back. And what a goal it was! Pulling the rug out from under Zibi Malkowski’s legs, Hartley positioned himself to cross before curling in a beautiful shot around the two man wall that beat Zibi at the front post. The rest, they say, is history.


2006/2007 – Marius Zaliukas v Hibs (1-0)

There’s a common theme running through this you may well have noticed. I was tempted to mix it up and go for Roman Bednar’s winner against Celtic or Saulius Mikoliunas’s goal against Athens, but both those narratives ended in disappointment – I genuinely believed us to be title contenders at the former and Champions League group stage entrants during the latter. Instead I’ll go with the goal that allowed me to have the most fun I have ever had in a football stadium after the game’s conclusion.

We were toiling in the league. Valdas Ivanauskas was been binned and the nightmare team of Stephen Frail and Anatoly Korobochka had taken over. Hibs, on the other hand, were charging up the table after a slow start and had taken the League Cup the previous weekend. They were so confident, in fact, that they announced their intention to parade the trophy after the full-time whistle in a bid to rub the success right in our faces.

The match was a pretty poor affair compared with the epics of the previous two years, though we defended resolutely and limited the hosts to only a couple of chances. We never created anything ourselves, then again we were missing a number of key players and had to start both Ketutis Ivaskevicius and Linas Pinibaitis in our midfield five. I remember having little idea what the time was and in my drunken state proclaiming this fact to my friend Lee. I didn’t want to know the time. A draw was absolutely fine as a result and I didn’t want to count down the minutes. I wanted the final whistle to come as a pleasant surprise. I stated my ignorance just as an Andy Driver free-kick was being floated into the penalty area. Misinterpreting my words, Lee says “ten to go” just as Andy McNeil’s feeble punch is connecting with the ball. My response of “awww, I didn’t actually want to know…” was then interrupted by Zaliukas lashing the ball into the net on the half volley. I dunno how this was possible, but I ended up lying on the stairs with a pile of screaming, jubilant bodies on top of me. It sounds painful, but all I remember is the incredible elation you only feel in moments of such unmeasurable joy.

The real fun hadn’t even started yet. Instead of leaving at full-time, around 99% of the Hearts fans in the away end stayed. “Bring on the wee cup!” we demanded. We were refusing to go. Hibs wouldn’t re-enter until the nasty Jambos were all gone and I had to be forcibly removed by a policeman. Upon being unceremoniously chucked from the stadium I broke down in fits of laughter at the entire scenario.

2007/08 – Andrius Velicka v Celtic (0-2 win)

Probably the second best strike to make the list. Halloween 2007, an away trip to Celtic in the League Cup quarters, we’re absolutely pish that season and if we don’t get hammered 5-0 (as we did two months previous) I’ll be pretty happy. Unbelievably, we do ok in the first half. We’re not really creating much but then neither are they. The longer the game goes on we starting believing. Then Calum Elliot comes off and Velicka goes on. There’s under 15 to go when Driver cuts it back for him to open the scoring. With four minutes remaining he kills the game off. A counter attack started by a poor Evander Sno pass – undoubtedly the Hearts man of the match on the night – leads to Andrius Ksanavicius pinging a cross-field ball to Velicka. The Lithuanian runs at Stephen McManus before unleashing a 20 yard thunderbolt into the top corner. This is literally the only happy memory I have from a season where I once chose to take an extra shift at work rather than watch us get beat by St Mirren.


2008/09 – Gary Glen v Hibs (0-2 win)

I’ll be surprised if anyone disagrees with me about this. Despite being a much improved team under Csaba Laszlo we would only beat Hibs once in five matches across league and cup, though I’d say we got the one that really mattered. Scottish Cup third round between the sides at Easter Road, Steven Fletcher is sent off for a lunge at Christophe Berra and Christian Nade (!) gave us a first half lead. Typical of Laszlo’s Hearts side we never looked much like adding to it. That was until the 90th minute when Christophe Karipidis played through a sublime pass right into the path of Glen who rounded the goalie without breaking stride. I remember screaming “WE’VE DONE IT, WE’VE DONE IT” like a demented mental patient amid the bedlam following the ball hitting the back of the net.


2009/10 – David Obua v Hibs (1-2 win)

I feel I’m getting very boring now. Well, in my defence, wins against Hibs in otherwise nondescript seasons where we do our usual underachievement in spite of an inflated wage budget are the only real things to look back on with pride. And yet again, despite being guff for the majority and finishing behind them in the league table, we managed to remain unbeaten against them throughout this campaign.

Anyway, this was the last game of the season between the clubs and the only one, presumably for a good few years yet, where both sets of supporters would be sharing one stand after Hibs decided to renovate the shed. Logically I can’t explain why, but I got it into my head that I must get a ticket for this reason. And so I was there to go mental and almost knock a woman unconscious with an accidental flying elbow when Graeme Smith allowed David Templeton’s cross to trundle all the way over to Obua to tap in. Cue the best celebration by a footballer ever as the big stork runs over to the West Stand, doubles back on himself and then runs past all the Hibbys over to us, all the while shooting off imaginary guns. “That’s gangsta.”


2010/11 – Rudi Skacel v St Mirren (3-0 win)

I think a lot of people will go for Kevin Kyle v Hibs, but I’ve picked on the Hibees enough. Besides, what I remember most about this season is the incredible unbeaten streak as we went from a run-of-the-mill side to genuine title contenders at the turn of the year – y’know, before it all fell apart and we were lucky to finish third. That run was kick started by the re-signing of Skacel and the coming togther of the most cohesive Hearts starting eleven I have witnessed since 2005. Before Jim Jefferies worked it all out, however, we played St Mirren in a league game where the former hero showed us he still had it. Although, I must admit, I didn’t actually appreciate this goal at the time. We were 2-0 through a Rudi double and in my hand I clutched a betting slip with that exact scorecast. I was in line to win around £80 when, in injury time, he picked the ball up on the right, advanced into the penalty area before smashing in at the front post. I was gutted. A few weeks later I interviewed Rudi for a Hearts podcast where I told him the story. He said he’d make it up by taking me out for a few beers. I’m still waiting Rudi, I’m still waiting…


2011/12 – Craig Beattie v Celtic (2-1 win)

This is a controversial choice, but not without good reason. Obviously, in years to come, this generation will look back on the 5-1 Cup Final win as the greatest moment in the club’s history, bar none. However, for those of us that were there and experienced both games, many say the semi-final victory over Celtic was a much more delirious experience. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the final. When I’m drunk, alone and near a laptop the second thing I’m pretty much guaranteed to do is watch the goals back to myself (I won’t tell you the first thing). But, in reality, the last 40 minutes are a bit of a non-event. We were just waiting for the full-time whistle to go so we could get the party started. I’d dreamed of a Rudi winner 10 minutes from time, with the euphoria of a late goal followed by a few minutes of nerve biting tension and then the sweet relief of the full-time whistle. Instead I let out a half-hearted “yeah!” when Craig Thomson ended the match. Hibs put a dampener on the win by being so crap!

Beattie’s goal in the semi-final, however, a very different story. There’s even a photo on the Hearts website where you can see my friends and I losing the plot when the ball hits the back of the net, and again at full-time. Plus, the celebration known as “the Beattie” will live with me forever. “Taps aff!”

2012/13 – Michael Ngoo v Inverness CT (1-1; won on pens)

David Templeton scoring to put Hearts 1-0 up at Anfield would likely be the choice of 99% of Hearts supporters. Though I think John Callan put it best in his Aberdeen blog when he said that, and I’m paraphrasing here, the fondness in which a goal is remembered depends on there being a positive conclusion to the narrative which surrounds it. When I think of Temps’s goal I always feel a twinge of sadness that we didn’t hold out for those final few minutes and get the game to extra time. Even though our tired legs would have meant we were slaughtered in extra-time, it would still have been beautiful to say we defeated Liverpool at Anfield inside 90 minutes.

The League Cup semi-final win over Inverness at Easter Road was the undoubted domestic highlight of an otherwise grim campaign. We were 1-0 down when big Michael Ngoo volleyed in the equaliser before going on to win the game on penalties. It was the first time I’d seen us emerge victorious from a LC semi in six attempts stretching back to our victory over Dundee in 1996, and I thought we had a potential star in big Mikey. That never quite worked out, even though I always thought he was a good addition at a time when we were really struggling.


2013/14 – Ryan Stevenson v Hibs (0-1 win)

Billy King against the same side would have been my choice if I actually saw the goal. Instead I was asleep in a Budapest pub toilet; the victim of a long weekend stag-do. I wasn’t even drunk, just horribly hungover and could afford the comforts of an extended stay in the hotel room. So the toilet floor it was.

Callum Paterson’s against the same side was considered. Many will pick that because it gave us belief that the impossible could be overcome and that we might stay up and that things would all work out and the team would come of age, blah blah blah. I never thought we’d stay up. Not deep down anyway.

So I’ve gone for our League Cup win at Easter Road. By this point the realisation had set in that this was going to be a long campaign and we were waiting for a Hibs administered battering in retaliation for all the pain we had inflicted on them the previous few years. And boy did they batter us in the first 25 minutes. It was wave after wave of constant Hibs attacks and yet, through a combination of our defenders throwing themselves in front of the ball and Jamie MacDonald making one of the best saves I’ve ever seen, the game remained at 0-0. Then Jason Holt slipped a pass inside to Stevenson and the midfielder/attacker/tattoo fanatic swivelled before unleashing a powerful shot that arrowed into the corner of the net. It should have been a good start to a bad day if Hibs were able to keep up their earlier dominance, but the goal brought back that familiar fatalist feeling and they barely created anything else of note before the full-time whistle went.


If you want to read more on Hearts then be sure to check out Joel Sked’s “Player Performance” blog where he examines the form of every Hearts first team member this season.