London Hearts Supporters Club

A Scottish Cup replay at Rugby Park?

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A Scottish Cup replay at Rugby Park? Been there, done that; long, long ago, 1987 it was, when we were still discovering bloodstains on our clothes that had seeped from the wounds of the season before. It had become apparent that Hearts were not going to mount a Championship challenge – we blew the league in November, rather than May (something of a mercy, one might say) on although the writing on the wall had been daubed there as early as August when Arbroath dumped us out of the League Cup.

So we were free to concentrate on the Scottish Cup; and our minds were concentrated even more as Rangers, now under the steady, level-headed stewardship of Graeme Souness, welcomed Hamilton Academical to Ibrox. The visitors abused the hospitality somewhat as the gloriously-named Adrian Sprott achieved immortality in Scottish football by scoring the only goal of the game. The Hearts v Kilmarnock tie was a dull nil-nil and the replay was fixed for the Wednesday night. Sportscene showed the highlights in all their glory, a blooper by Henry gifting Killie their opener followed soon after by a magnificent 12-stud lunge from ‘Roger’ Whittaker into the chest of Jim McSherry - while Roger was lying on his back at the time. A goal down, a man short, an unlikely hero claimed centre-stage as a then-unknown Wayne Foster collected a corner at the back post, let fly and got us a second replay.

A toss of a two-headed Darvel milk token decided the game should be played again at Rugby Park on the following Monday: the Saturday was a black, black day as London Hearts journeyed up en masse to watch Rangers destroy Hearts’ 15 month unbeaten home record 5-2 and also destroy Hearts in the process, as Butcher, Souness, Graham Roberts, Jimmy Nicholl, John McLelland and (sad to report) Dave McPherson kicked Colquhoun and co to bits. So while 14 LH members went up, only 13 came back as one of them (me) was so incandescent with rage that he resolved to stay for the Monday replay, even though that did mean phoning his work to give a unilateral declaration that he would be taking the day off. (Leaving a message on the answerphone is a bit easier than having to address the manager in a dialogue…)

Getting to Kilmarnock on a Monday evening in February, however, was more difficult than it would be now. (Nae free buses, that’s for sure.) And since there were five of us – Ian ‘Mad Dog’ Grant, his son Keith (‘Mad Pup’), Graham (‘soon to dance with the Queen Mother’) Blacklaws, me and my brother – there was no logical, sensible way of getting our sorry asses doon the A77, which is why the five of us piled into my brother’s 4-seat H-Reg Vauxhall Viva, and sallied forth.

Finding the ground wasn’t difficult, but finding a parking space within two miles of the ground was. We got into the ground five minutes after kickoff having run most of the way (and staggered the rest). Ah, the old Rugby Park! Younger readers will not understand the notion of standing on cinder-filled railway sleepers that seemed half a mile from the pitch. Through the binoculars we saw Gary Mackay open the scoring, and that’s the way it was until just after half-time when Colquhoun got to the bye-line, squeezed a cross to the back post and in the melee Kenny Black rammed it in. Almost immediately Hearts played the normal trick of the late ‘80s, going 2-0 up and then disappearing up their own fundament like frightened rabbits, so after the obligatory Kilmarnock counter it was anyone’s match. But cometh the hour etc etc, and with a minute left, our first live sighting of the legend-to-be, the man with a film star’s name and a film technician’s looks, Wayne Foster put on an impressive burst of speed, outstripped the defence, and in utter contrast to the subsequent years by remembering to take the ball with him, he chipped the keeper to win the game 3-1. Un-bloody-believable.

As you can very well imagine, we were as chuffed as a dug wi’ two tails (especially after we found the car) and the journey back to Glasgow was marked by poor attempts to make up a new song about Wayne. Anyhoo, I was dropped off somewhere near Glasgow Central where I stuffed a black pudding supper down my gullet before proceeding to the ticket office.
“When does the London Nightrider leave?” I asked.
He looked at his watch. “About twenty minutes ago.”
Reality hit me in the face like a big frying pan.
“But… the one from Edinburgh leaves at 11.10.”
“Aye but the Glasgow one leaves an hour earlier because it’s a longer journey.”

And there it was, dear reader, I stood contemplating a night on a bench in Glasgow Central Station – no shortage of company, I supposed, and plenty of gut-warming liquid goodness to be shared around – until he said “You could try and catch the last low train to Motherwell and get the Inverness Clansman to London. Leaves Motherwell at twenty to one.”
Twenty to one it leaves Motherwell more like, I thought, but I skeltered down some stairs and managed to find this ‘low’ train he was talking about and sure enough, some fifteen minutes later I found myself in the Riviera that is Motherwell, the station in darkness apart from an upstairs office with a single bare lightbulb shining through a cracked window. No sign of life, and definitely no sign of trains. I spent the next half hour wondering if I’d been had, that the ticket office jakey was now in the boozer telling his mates how he’d spun a yarn to some gadgey frae Embra who was now staring up a tunnel hoping the Cannonball Express was going to get him to London before daybreak. The one ray of hope was the sound of footsteps on the platform and some shadows as three others arrived. I could make out something suitcase-shaped, so either Paul Ferris was standing next to me with Arthur ‘Fatboy’ Thompson in his Louis Vuitton holdall, or it was another wayward soul in as dire a strait as I. At a quarter past midnight a train silently pulled into the station, and I was all for getting on it, but none of the others made a move, and it moved away as quietly and unannounced as it had arrived. Where it was going – well, maybe it never turned up . . .

Meanwhile, on the M8, four men and a Vauxhall Viva were having a spot of bother. The strange noise coming from underneath the bonnet was diagnosed as the engine running, but the failure of the rear lights was proving something of a problem, particularly for the two policemen who stopped to point this out. And they weren’t budging, nor were they prepared to let them drive off. A visit (by foot) to a local garage was unproductive, particularly at midnight when all they were prepared to sell was petrol, Back in the Viva they sat for many minutes under the watchful eyes of the constabulary, wondering exactly what they were supposed to do. As it happened, doing nothing was eventually the right thing to do, as either the two cops got bored or got a calling-all-cars to go to a Polmadie kebaberie and arrest Ian Durrant (again) and they drove off. However, discretion being the better part of valour and all that guff, the Viva Crew decided that skulking back on B-roads through the sort of villages that are only visited by UFOs was the best idea, Once back in Edinburgh, the car conked out completely near High Riggs and was left abandoned till the following day.

At a quarter to one in a bitterly cold Motherwell station, a train with no lights on inside stopped. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes (hardly necessary in the dark) and got in. You could smell it was old, old rolling stock, but it was warm and it was moving. There weren’t many people aboard, but we weren’t short of companionship when someone got on at Preston and by the time we shuntered through Crewe he had given us five or six Jesus-Loves-You songs accompanied by his five-string guitar. The sun has come up by the time he was removed by police at Watford Junction for not having a ticket, and possibly for not having any shoes. For the rest of the day I had that odd sensation of wondering if it really had all happened, and were it not for the newspapers which told the tale of 11 Hearts heroes, I might have doubted the reality of the 5 Hearts-supportin’ heroes who’d eventually got themselves home. And that, my friends, is how the Legendary Viva Hearts Supporters’ Club was formed. The Viva took us to, though not always back from, various odd bits of Scotland to watch Hearts win, lose, draw. We’re still going but the Viva went the way of the world a long time ago. Oh – after Hearts beat Celtic in the next round – some bloke called Robertson scored – we all thought Hearts were going to win the Cup.


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