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THE SCOTSMAN Monday, 18th May, 1998

Manager's game plan works a treat as Gorgie club's 36 inglorious years come to an end

Tactician Jefferies' head rules his Hearts


THIS was the game in which Hearts finally gave up their addiction to lost causes.

An aversion to bagging the game's glittering prizes, which has haunted the Edinburgh club since 1962, ended against Rangers at ten to five on Saturday with a momentous change of fortune.

Not even the sense of destiny which swept Hearts towards their first Scottish Cup triumph since 1956 could, however, dull their manager's sense of fun.

When Colin Cameron converted the penalty kick awarded after just 32 seconds of action, Jim Jefferies turned to his assistant, Billy Brown, in the Hearts dug-out and inquired: "How much ******* longer to go?" Long enough, as it turned out, to make history.

Having first crossed swords with Rangers in the Scottish Cup's showpiece game of 1903, Hearts had never beaten Rangers in a final.

To overcome their most daunting adver-saries, in a competition they hadn't won since the heyday of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh, turned out to be an intoxicating experience even for a club which plays in the colours of claret and Chardonnay.

After spending the best part of 36 years perfecting an act as Scottish football's most fated losers, Hearts threw off the shackles of the past and em-braced success.

While it would be doing Jefferies' side an injustice to paint them as lucky winners, few connected with the club would contest the suggestion that Hearts have played better football in the past and ended up empty-handed. The game plan drawn up by their manager turned out to be designed to win a trophy rather than plaudits.

Sipping a glass of champagne after shepherding his flock back to Tynecastle on Saturday night for a party which almost took the roof off the new stand, Jefferies explained how he'd plotted the heist which stole the: cup from Rangers by playing Walter Smith's side at their own game.

Jefferies' smash-and-grab act was based on the painful experience of talking just one point out of 12 from Rangers in the league championship and conceding 13 goals along the way.

The manager knew that to take the same cavalier spirit into the final would, in all probability, leave Hearts filling their traditional role of gallant runners-up.

So he devised a 4-5-1 system which made life much harder for Rangers when they had possession of the ball than is usually the case against Hearts.

It wasn't pretty to watch, but until the last ten minutes of frantic assault on Gilles Rousset's goal, the plan worked well enough to restrict Rangers to a handful of goalscoring chances.

"It wasn't just a good day for us, it was a good week," reflected Jefferies.

"We'd taken the team away to Stratford and talked about what we wanted to do down there.

We’d played Rangers four times and I knew if I set the team up the way I had done before this season then we were in trouble.

"Facts are facts and we'd been losing an average of more than three goals a game to them.

"We had to learn from our mistakes.

Instead of taking the game to Rangers, we let them have possession and handed them the task of breaking us down.

"My hope was that the more they pushed forward, the better the chance we would have of catching them on the break."

Jefferies admits his scheme couldn't have been given a greater fillip than that first-minute penalty.

Steve Fulton, the captain, picked up the ball in the inside-left position and ran at the Rangers cover.

As the midfield player headed for the box, Ian Ferguson caught his back leg with a challenge and sent Fulton sprawling.

Ian Ferguson caught his back leg with and sent Fulton sprawling. <br><br>

TV replays were unconvincing as to whether the foul tooth place inside or outside the box.

Referee Willie Young’s decision was a penalty and Hearts were in front before the crowd ..

Hearts were in front before the crowd had time to draw breath.

Hearts were in front before the crowd had time to draw breath.

"Of course, the penalty goal was a bonus," said Jefferies, "because it suited exactly how we wanted to play.

I’m not going to deny we got a break in that moment, because it meant the onus was with Rangers to chase the game.

"You always worry about a footballer of Brian Laudrup's calibre, but other than his shot which hit the post it I didn’t see them make another clear-cut chance before halftime."

Much of the credit for the success of the manager's strategy had to be given to their back four of Dave McPherson David Weir, Paul Ritchie and Gary Naysmith, as well as Rousset.

Weir's saving tackle in the madness of the dying seconds on Sergio Porrini, as Rangers set up camp in the Hearts box, was crucial in taking the cup to Tynecastle.

Ritchie and Naysmith also turned in the kind of composed performances which belied their tender years and suggested they'll be Scotland players sooner rather than later.

The reason the Hearts defence had their work cut out was because not every detail of Jefferies' plan worked.

Both the wide men, Thomas Flogel and Neil McCann, didn't quite grasp their roles and sat in too deep.

McCann, in particular looked neither fish nor fowl land played more as a wing back than an a winger. It was one of the day's oddities that the individual most believed would be Hearts' match-winner turned out to have no great bearing on the game.

Stephane Adam, in the style of Mark McGhee when he was an Aberdeen player, performed heroically as the lone front-runner and delivered one of his best performances in a fine season.


His goal at the start of the second half had "Made in France" stamped all over it, since his compatriot, Rousset provided the line of supply from a free-kick. Lorenzo Amoruso attacked the ball and was caught in two minds about whether to play a back-pass to Andy Goram.

He hesitated fatally.

Adam nipped in front of the Italian, won the ball in the box and fired an angled shot towards Goram's right-hand corner, which the goalkeeper got a hand to but couldn't stop.

Jefferies was not naive enough to believe that the match was over at that point, but he knew Adam's goal was a massive step along the road to lifting the cup.

Rangers, who brought on Ally McCoist at half-time and switched from a 3-5-2 formation to 4-3-3, got a reward nine minutes from the end when Rino Gattuso split the centre of the Hearts defence with a thrilling pass, which the veteran striker steered into the corner of the net.

That set the scene for a finale which tested the nerves of everyone with a scrap of interest in a Hearts victory.

When Weir tripped McCoist on the edge of the box it seemed as if the match would be book-ended by penalties and the game would spill over into extra-time. Again, TV evidence about whether the foul was inside the box or out was inconclusive. Mr Young awarded a free-kick and Walter Smith remarked afterwards he wanted to hear no more rubbish spouted about referees favouring Rangers.

This match marked the last rites for one of the great periods in Rangers history, and the mature way in which everyone connected with the club handled defeat said a lot about their character.

An hour after the final whistle, Smith and his assistant, Archie Knox, sat together in the empty stand with a couple of cans of the sponsors' elixir.

While it was too soon for them to dull this parting shot of disappointment, there are too many glory days in the memory bank for the pain to last too long.

Bearing in mind that 42 years had elapsed since Hearts last won the Scottish Cup, even the Rangers fans were aware of the bigger picture and generous enough to applaud their rivals in then moment of triumph.

The applause from the Rangers end added an unexpectedly dignified end to a grand occasion.

Fans of football clubs are more faithful to their teams than their wives or husbands.

What made this occasion memorable, then, was the sense of fulfilment Hearts took back east with them.

It was a turning point for a great club which couldn't be measured in terms of silverware alone.

Taken from the Scotsman

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