London Hearts Supporters Club

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<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
John Robertson <-auth Moira Gordon auth-> Levan Paniashvili
[D Rosa 30]
13 of 025 ----- E H

This is our story

Robbo calls on his men to write a new line in the Hearts song and follow the heroes of 1989


DO, OR die trying. That seems to be the new Hearts motto. Under John Robertson a more positive approach has been adopted on the pitch and this week it’s hoped that newfound ease going forward may just propel Hearts into the final 32 of the UEFA Cup and take them closer to emulating the feats of Alex MacDonald’s class of 1989.

On a night offering all or nothing, Robertson knows there will be no danger of being caught in two minds. Hearts need three points. Their victory over Basel last month offers the capital side a chance to finish in the top three in Group A but they know that they need to beat Ferencvaros at Murrayfield on Thursday and hope Feyenoord take something from their trip to Switzerland, if they are to maintain a European interest into the New Year.

If they do, Robertson says they will be chasing the same legendary status enjoyed by the players who took the Gorgie club to the quarter-finals of the tournament in 1989, only to be bettered over two legs by the mighty Bayern Munich. It is still regarded as the pinnacle of the club’s European achievements, but building on the success of recent seasons where plucky performances were translated into victories, such as the away win over Bordeaux last term, Hearts are now determined to leave the hard luck stories for others and forge a European pedigree instead.

"If we were to get through, it would be up there [in the club’s historical highlights]. It still wouldn’t be as momentous as Alex MacDonald’s run to the quarter-finals in the Olympic Stadium against Bayern Munich, where we came within the breadth of a post twice of going through to play Napoli and Maradona in the semis. But if we could get through to the last 32 it would be just behind that and we would know that any future progress could take us up and alongside Alex’s fantastic run."

Mention that European foray to Hearts fans and an image of Iain Ferguson, goal hero in the first leg 1-0 home win over the Bundesliga club, is likely to spring to mind. Now Robertson wants his current clutch of players to achieve the same notoriety.

"I feel every game gives you that opportunity, whether domestic or European, but to be the guy that gets the winning goal on Thursday, especially if things go our way in Switzerland and that takes us through, you’d be remembered for life. Iain Ferguson against Bayern, Mike Galloway in Vienna, etc, these things do stick in supporters minds. Even last year, everyone knows Mark de Vries got the winner in Bordeaux, so, yeah, it’s a chance for somebody to step out from the shadows and become a cult figure for life.

"I don’t care who it is. Look at the last round ... Robbie Neilson comes from nowhere to score his first-ever goal for the club and who would have bet that. And there was also Paddy Kisnorbo, against Braga here, scoring a vital goal so the opportunity is there for someone who is established or maybe not so established.

Getting through to the latter stages of one of the world’s premier club competitions would be the next logical step for a club on a continuous journey of self-improvement, according to the captain, Steven Pressley. Having tasted European football while at Rangers and at Dundee United, in his six-and-a-half years at Hearts, he says the transformation has been so complete that a shot at Europe’s elite is no longer considered the cherry on top but a vital ingredient of every season.

"My first year at the club came on the back of the Scottish Cup success and a relatively good league campaign so that year there was already a lot of expectations, but since then it has been a slow process of rebuilding a team and year on year we have progressed and year on year the supporters’ expectations have gone up, but that in itself brings pressure and its great credit to the players here at the moment that not only have we competed and performed well on the Euro stage, but also domestically. We are in the semi-final of the CIS Cup and although we sit a few points behind Aberdeen, we are still in touching distance [of third place] in the league."

But when results are on the up and up, that is reflected in the self-belief in the dressing room, which is why the European results in particular over the past few years will stand the players in good stead on Thursday. "I think our young players have gained a lot of confidence from all our results and performances because you are pitting your wits against some of Europe’s top players," says Pressley. "Up till now we have never been found wanting and because of that every game has generated a bit more confidence in these players and we can only benefit from that."

Having dragged themselves back into the reckoning with three points in Basel, after losses to Feyenoord and Schalke, the unthinkable, as far as both manager and captain are concerned, would be beating the Hungarians but seeing the dream killed off by an unfavourable result in Switzerland.

It happened to Pressley, when at Rangers in 1993. Although not a starter that night when the 0-0 result against CSKA Moscow at Ibrox was rendered insignificant by Marseille’s defeat of Brugge in the other group match, he still didn’t enjoy the experience and is desperate to avoid a repeat.

Although, reminding everyone how tricky their own task will be against a Ferencvaros side who not only held Feyenoord to a draw in Budapest but came within a last-gasp-penalty miss of a share of the points with Basel, the Edinburgh personnel believe it is achievable and are now just hoping for some luck.

"We will only want to know the score [from St Jakob Park] if we’re winning, it’s as simple as that," says Robertson, aware that with in excess of 30,000 fraught fans expected at Murrayfield, it’s unlikely the results elsewhere will escape them. "The most important thing is that we do our job against a very good side, let’s not make any bones about that. They are a good side and we will have to be at our best to win the tie. It’s a tough one. It was similar on the last game of the season at Caley. We had to win and before we had even kicked off we knew that Clyde were 1-0 up so sometimes it’s good to know and sometimes it’s bad. If you’re winning you want to know how things are going elsewhere but there’s no point in knowing if first and foremost we haven’t taken care of our job, because then any result in Basel would be useless to us anyway. "

And there would be no solace in the fact that they had come so close, according to Pressley. "Over the last eight, nine, ten years the dependency has been on the Old Firm but we have proved that we are capable of playing against some of the top sides in Europe and getting results and that’s good for the whole of Scottish football and should give everybody a lift.

"But if we don’t progress, it would just be another hard luck story and that’s something we don’t want to be involved in at this club. We said before the group draw we weren’t just satisfied being involved in these group stages, we wanted to progress and we maintain that, so if we don’t qualify we will be disappointed."

Down and out or up and at ’em. It’s in the balance but if Hearts fail, it won’t be for the want of trying.

Taken from the Scotsman

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