For an era of Hearts fans, things won’t get much better than the feeling of winning the 1998 Scottish Cup final. Against a star-studded Rangers team, who had the likes of Brian Laudrup and Gennaro Gattuso, Jim Jefferies‘ men walked away with an unbelievable 2-1 win.
It was Hearts’ first major honour in over 30 years, ending many decades of being ‘the bridesmaids’ at cup finals as avid Jambo, and Hearts legend Gary Locke’s best mate, John Quinn put it.
Along with the help of two other die-hard Hearts fans, Gary McWhinnie and Neil Hunter, this is the story of Hearts’ 1998 Scottish Cup success, from the perspective of fans who experienced it.
A rollercoaster of emotions
Having grown up alongside 1998 winner Locke, Quinn admits one of the more special parts of that day was seeing one of his best friends lift the trophy.
He told NTOF: “I grew up with Locke and we used to go to Hearts games together. When 1998 came it was absolutely incredible.
“A lot of Hearts fan went into that game with hope. We’d been disappointed at Hampden before. You weren’t really expecting to get a victory against such a strong Rangers side.
“We got the greatest start you could ever dream of, with a penalty inside a couple of minutes. When that went in, it was scenes of jubilation I’ll never forget.”
The Jambos were 2-0 up with 10 minutes to go. From ‘Hearts daft’ McWhinnie’s perspective, there were some people who couldn’t handle the final five minutes, once Rangers pulled it back to 2-1.
McWhinnie told NTOF: “My seat was directly opposite the dugouts at Celtic Park. All I seen with five minutes to go was people swarming out of the stadium. I was wondering, where are they going, we’re 2-1 up!
“I walked into the kiosk area and there were hundreds of older Hearts fans stood where they couldn’t see the park. They didn’t want to see the final five minutes as all they were used to was heartache.”
When that final whistle did go though, and Hearts were the victors, there was one particularly special moment for Hunter, who told NTOF: “I was only 15 at the time and a Hearts scarf was put above my head once I was born.
“My dad waited 44 years before he seen Hearts lift a trophy. It was the first time I seen him shed a tear at the end of that game.”
Gorgie Road celebrations
Having only been in his mid-teens at the time, Hunter’s only regret about that famous day in 1998 is he was perhaps too young to appreciate it.
“I think when I was 15 I never realised the enormity of it. We hadn’t won the Scottish Cup for 42 years at the time, it was an incredible achievement. I never realised till later in life what we had actually managed to do.”
Quinn, however, was well aware of what he had just witnessed. He recalled the moments of brilliance as him and many other maroon supporters made their way back to Edinburgh, with unrivalled moments on Gorgie Road.
“When the whistle went it was disbelief. Even thinking about it now sends shivers down my spine. If the game wasn’t good enough, the scenes on Gorgie Road were incredible.
“Everyone ascended upon it and nobody expected anything like it. I remember the team bus going along Gorgie Road and I seen players standing on top of the roof!
“Players like Jose Quitongo and Paul Ritchie were there on the roof with horrendous suits and Hearts scarves. Back in the day mobile phones weren’t popular, everyone was just taking it in. We got to live it all.”
The celebrations lasted long into the night. Some stayed up partying all through the weekend, others needed a lie down after an adrenalin filled day.
Very few have a story quite like McWhinnie’s though, who used the Tynecastle pitch as a bed after the Scottish Cup victory.
He explained how he ended up there: “After the final we went back along Gorgie Road. It was the most surreal thing you’ll ever see. I couldn’t get a taxi home that night, so I had nothing better to do than jump the Tynecastle fence and go into the Wheatfield Stand!
“At that point I was on another planet. John Robertson was my hero, and two weeks previous to that, he had scored a penalty against Rangers on the penalty spot towards the Roseburn Stand at Tynecastle.
“My intention was to get on the park and sleep on that spot and that I did. Amazingly, someone else had the same idea I had. He and one of his mates wanted to sleep on the park as well. When they came in though, they thought I was a dead body!
“It was incredible. Panic set in the next morning though and I climbed back over the fences, heading straight onto a number three bus back to Dalkeith. 1998 was the greatest feeling ever as a Hearts fan.”