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Hearts stopper is fondly remembered as a true great

"Cruickshank is better than Yashin," so the chant goes. There are few goalkeepers held in higher esteem by supporters than Jim Cruickshank at Hearts.
The legendary former stopper sadly passed away in the early hours of yesterday morning at Marie Curie Hospice in Edinburgh. He was 69.

One of the club's greatest ever goalkeepers, Cruickshank was adored by fans who coined a famous tune in his honour during the 1960s.

"Aye, aye, aye, aye, Cruickshank is better then Yashin. Ernie is better than Eusebio - and the Hibees are in for a bashing."

Cruickshank hailed from the tough housing estate of Drumchapel in Glasgow, where he played for Drumchapel Amateurs. He joined Hearts from Queens Park in May 1960 and, after three years deputising for the established Gordon Marshall, assumed the goalkeeping responsibilities for season 1963/64.

He played in the Hearts side which lost the Scottish league championship on goal difference in season 1964/65, and also suffered the disappointment of losing the 1968 Scottish Cup final against Dunfermline.

Cruickshank continued excelling into the 1970s, appearing in the 1976 Scottish Cup final defeat by Rangers and in the famous European Cup Winners' Cup tie against Lokomotiv Leipzig. He left Hearts for Dumbarton in 1977.

At club level he was untouchable and was revered throughout the east of Scotland. However, in Glasgow he was dismissed as being too small at 5ft 11in. Consequently, he earned only six full caps for Scotland. His talent is perfectly illustrated in the fact the national team lost only once with Cruickshank in goal.

Those who played with him still lament the fact he did not represent Scotland more often. "He was a fantastic goalkeeper who never got the credit he deserved, particularly from the west side of the country," said Donald Ford. "They just kept saying, 'he's too small', which was an absolute load of rubbish. Jim was brilliant.

"It was so sad he played for Hearts and not Rangers or Celtic. Because of that, he didn't get the international caps he deserved.

"Gordon Marshall was first choice for a season or two after he came to Tynecastle but once Cruicky broke into the team they could have won the league in 1965. He should have been up there with the others in Scotland because he was outstanding.

"There's no doubt there was a bias. At that time, if you didn't play in Glasgow you had to accept you weren't going to get recognition.

"That certainly applied to Jim and it was very sad. He deserved more Scottish honours than he got."

Ford remembers Cruickshank's lightning reactions and quick-thinking on the field, attributes which set him apart from his peers at the time.

"He was tremendously quick around his penalty box and coming off his line. That was in total contrast to his demeanour off the field.

Cruicky wandered about as if next week would do but what an astonishing transformation between getting out of his car, walking into Tynecastle and getting his strip on. He was like lightning in his area.

"Cruicky would claim anything. If corners or crosses were coming into his box, he would get rid of anybody in front of him to get there; his guys, the opposition or whoever.

"His attitude was that the ref would never give a penalty against a goalkeeper trying to get the ball, so he would just destroy everything in front of him. Inevitably he got there.

"He was also superb at working his angles. Of all the years he was there, ask anyone who went to Tynecastle regularly and they will find it very difficult to remember him giving away a goal. You could count them on one hand.

"The only other goalkeeper who was remotely as good coming off his goal line or with angles was Pat Jennings. I played against him twice when he was at Spurs and he was really quick off his line and at judging angles.

"For a forward, that always makes it difficult. If a keeper is narrowing your angles it cuts down your options quickly."

On the golf course, Cruickshank would show his more aggressive side. "Jim was very quiet but had a great sense of humour," continued Ford. "I remember him on the golf course. It's hard to remember anyone getting more angry at themselves than Cruicky if he didn't hit the ball properly. He was terribly self-critical but it was really funny to watch."

Taken from the Scotsman

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