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John Robertson <-auth Gary Ralston auth-> Douglas McDonald
[D Riordan 22]
15 of 025 Paul Hartley 55 L SPL A


Dec 30 2004

By Gary Ralston

KEITH WRIGHT knew John Robertson was destined for the top when he played as a sweeper and still finished top scorer for his team.

Since childhood, former Hibs striker Wright and the Hearts boss have enjoyed a warm friendship that really should have been ended years ago on the grounds of mental cruelty.

They teamed up as 13-year-olds at youth cracks Edina Hibs after Robertson bravely agreed to move from arch-rivals Salvesen but since then the Tynecastle legend has brought him nothing but anguish.

Robertson once left Wright's toddler son in tears and almost a decade later still hasn't been forgiven for ruining his birthday celebration.

He was part of a Jambos team that inflicted untold misery on Hibs spanning 22 unbeaten games over five years in the early 90s.

And after popping in another derby strike he never tired of reminding his pal at set-pieces of the latest career milestone he has just reached.

Wright simply shakes his head and chuckles at the memories as his pal contemplates his first derby as a boss when the Jambos travel to Easter Road on Sunday.

Wright, now working as youth coach at Livingston, reckons his former club can continue their recent form under Tony Mowbray with a victory that would cement third place in the SPL.

But at the back of his mind lurks the fear that Robertson is about to pull on his boots and inflict more damage on Hibs.

Wright said: 'John and I go a long way back to our days at under-13 and under14 level with Edina Hibs after he made the switch from Salvesen, which was the boys' club equivalent of moving from Tynecastle to Easter Road.

'It was a big move and a brave one because of the rivalry but we enjoyed good times and won the Scottish Cup there, as well as many local trophies.

'He was a wee sweeper but still ended top scorer as he was always taking free-kicks and marauding forward to hit strikes from the edge of the box.

'I played up front and in one season we had a devastating partnership,hitting 60 goals - he got 58 of them.

'Since then he has been nothing but a pain in the a *** and cost me a right few win bonuses in the six years I was at Hibs.

'The biggest boot between the legs he gave us was in October 1995 when he scored an equaliser in injury time at Easter Road to give Hearts a 2-2 draw.

'It was after that game he came out with the famous quote, 'It's not over until the fat striker scores' and it was a huge blow to us as we had only just emerged from that spell when Hearts had gone 22 games without defeat against us.

'We were all but celebrating another win as there were only seconds to go when he equalised.What a downer it was - and he left my lad Scott in tears.

'He was Hibs' mascot that day as a fourth birthday treat - Robbo's son also led out Hearts - - and he couldn't believe it when his dad's side didn't win. Scott still hasn't forgive him.

'But Robbo has scored goals like that throughout his career. Like Ally McCoist, he was a yard quicker in his head than most defenders and was prepared to gamble, which mostly paid off.

'I never took part in the banter during these derby games but he always made sure he passed and whispered the last word in your ear.

'I used to get fed up coming back to cover at corners after he had scored and he would come over and tell me that was his 16th or 20th career goal, or whatever, against Hibs.

'He always made a point of asking me to remind him how many I'd scored against Hearts - and I only scored four in my years at Easter Road.They were never our best team to play against.'

Wright, axed as Cowdenbeath boss earlier this season before Allan Preston invited him to Almondvale where he also now assists in scouting for new boss Richard Gough, has kept a keen eye in Robertson's career progress.

He was delighted to see him prosper at Inverness Caley Thistle after moving from first-team coach at Livi and banks on him succeeding at Tynecastle.

But he has warned Hearts fans they might have to give their new manager time after he took over at a delicate time of the season.

Robertson has been trying to shift the playing style to suit the passing game that helped Caley Thistle to the First Division title last season.

Hearts are also clouded in uncertainty while Vladimir Romanov tries to complete the purchase of Chris Robinson's shareholding in a move that would see him become majority stockholder in the club.

Meantime, Robbo's hands appeared tied as he bids to bolster the squad with new additions during the transfer window and offer contracts to players who can quit for free in the summer.

Wright said: 'It's great to see him do so well as a manager,aided by Donald Park who is the best signing he'll ever make.

'Hearts fans need to be patient because he has taken over the club at a difficult time but because of the stature he enjoys they'll give him time.

'It might cost hima couple of derbies and I fancy Hibs this weekend because of the great stuff their young boys have been playing recently.

'They were different class against Celtic and their lads won't be nervous about this one as youngsters don't know fear.

'But knowing Robbo, he'll produce something special and it's at the back of every Hibee's mind that he's in the opposition dugout now.

'We'll be hoping he doesn't go on the same run as a manager he enjoyed as a player and I'm also hoping Hearts' injury list doesn't get any longer.

'Then Robbo might be tempted to list himself on the bench and the last thing we'd want to see is him coming on with two minutes to go.'

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