Goal of The Season 2002-03

Back to Chief Grouser

Probably there hasn't ever been such a wide choice for Goal of The Season in Hearts' history. Having consulted with several old people this seems to be A Fact. What's so pleasing is that this year's candidates come from a very broad base (one of the secrets of Hearts' success) - Maybury, McCann, McMullan, Valois and Severin have all scored screamers from outside the box; de Vries, Stamp, and Weir have provided high-class finishes following clever, intricate football. But another noticeable feature is how many great goals have been important, which makes it almost impossible to decide on the best goal Hearts have scored this season without taking its context into account.

Stamp, Weir and McCann are the particular stars because of what their goals MEANT. But there's one I'd nominate as more important than those: against the odds, born out of determination, superb in its execution, and a springboard to greater things, both in the game itself and for the rest of the season: it is the absolute acme of Hearts' this year.

When Nick Colgan threw the ball long to Alen Orman on the halfway line, Neil Janczyk half-tackled him, but Jean-Louis Valois, in spite of having a right old stinker of a game, flew back to complete the challenge, won the ball and Janczyk raced away with it. Not panicking, he saw the options, and in his mind he knew what he wanted to do. He did it. He picked out Kevin McKenna thirty yards away, himself having a poor game and a disappointing season, who peeled away from Zambernardi (Sandy Clark's Man of the Match, by the way!) and the header was perfection itself. We know what happened next.

What makes it the goal of the season is that Hearts were losing, and were suddenly winning. Hearts were coming off the back of two lucky draws and two very bad, if different defeats (Dundee didn't have to be very good to beat us at home, and then we were well-horsed by Celtic on telly) and the season was threatening to cave in. (It's not important to this argument that Hibs were coming off five straight wins, but nice to remember it.) McKenna's goal proved something to the players and the supporters, and that is why a couple of ridiculous defeats (Motherwell and Falkirk) could be shrugged off (apart from a few uppity 'fans') and why late goals kept on flooding. Put it this way, without Kevin McKenna there would have been no Graham Weir.

And one final memory: Alex McLeish's miserable coupon on Sportscene afterwards. Gracious as ever. He wasn't even wearing a tie and certainly not the Burberry tie he wore at the 2001 Cup Final. I know a manager is meant to wear the club's colours, but that was just taking it too far.