Euan Crumley, Mail on Sunday
May 3, 1986. My ninth birthday. My team, Hearts, were going to win the league. All they had to do was get a draw away to Dundee at Dens. Simple. By rights, I should be a Dundee fan.
My parents, and pretty much my entire extended family, either come or came from Dundee. My great grandfather was even the goalkeeper of the Dundee team which won the Scottish Cup in 1910.
However, I was born and brought up in Stirling and my Dad didn’t ever force his team on me. Something about Hearts had struck a chord with me, plus I’d heard somewhere that if you ‘follow the Hearts, you can’t go wrong’. So, as an impressionable youth, it made perfect sense to focus my allegiances on Tynecastle.
My boyhood judgment looked to have been more than sound on that fateful final day of the league season. As I sat listening to the match on the radio at home with my parents it looked like I was about to be given the gift that would keep on giving. Hearts were going to become champions. Until Albert Kidd came on.
Mum and Dad don’t usually wince when Dundee score, but they did that day. They offered words of consolation as the Hearts title dream died and, foolishly, I believed there would be other chances.
Of course, there weren’t. Near miss followed not-so near miss and I had begun to convince myself that I’d never see my team lift a trophy (the Tennent’s Sixes didn’t really seem to count).
But then came season 1997/98. I was in my first proper job as a sports reporter in Glasgow and tried to get through to Edinburgh as much as possible to get in the midst of the squad.Something was different about the team that season. They started winning. Consistently. They even mounted a league challenge which only fell away when spring came.But they were in the Scottish Cup Final.
My friend Ally and I scoured for tickets and he finally got some with only a couple of days to spare. Now, all Hearts had to do was beat Rangers. And they did. I was dumbstruck. Having had no practice at this winning lark, I didn’t know how to react. The shock wore off about two hours after the final whistle, halfway to Edinburgh, heading for the party that was taking over the city.
We sang, a lot. And drank, a lot. And finished up outside Tynecastle in the early hours, coincidentally as the Hearts players were coming out of their own party. Ally saw striker Stephane Adam, scorer of the winning goal that afternoon, wobbling towards him. ‘Thank you Stephane,’ he slurred. ‘No, thank you,’ said the Frenchman .
He had given us a gift that would keep on giving.