It’s been a hectic few years for Hearts fans. Now with their first Scottish Cup final appearance since 2012, Saturday’s game with Celtic is one that a loud, proud and loyal fanbase has been waiting on for seven years too long.
But just how pivotal can these fans prove to be on special occasions at the national stadium? NTOF spoke exclusively to 1998 Scottish Cup winning captain and manager, Gary Locke and Jim Jefferies, to find out.
Player’s perspective on the fans
Asked if the Jambo contingent could be the team’s 12th man on Saturday, Locke responded: “Without a shadow of a doubt.
“I’ve been fortunate to play for Hearts at Hampden a few times, and there’s nothing better when you run out and see the whole stadium full of maroon and white. The fans will play a huge part on Saturday.”
“I’m pretty sure, as I know a lot of them, they’ll have had a few beers before the game and they’ll be very vocal.
“And then it’s up to the team to hopefully start the game well, and if they start the game well, the fans will back them for 90 minutes. If we do that, and everybody sticks together, then we’ve got a great chance of winning the cup again.”
“I’ve been supporting the club since I was a boy. Hearts were my team and I used to go along to the games. In those days, you could mix with the supporters so it wasn’t as bad as it perhaps is now,” Jefferies said.
“So when I spoke to the players at the start of the week before that (the 98 cup final), I said to them they would never believe how well they’ll be held in the supporters’ esteem if they pull it off and I thought that was our best chance of pulling it off because we had played well that season.”
It certainly proved the case in 98 at Celtic Park with the Jambos ending their 42 year wait for the Scottish Cup.
“A lot of people say to me that ‘98 (was what) started going from being unlucky or not being able to getting over that final hurdle for 40 years. Once that was done, they went on to win it twice.
“People mention that to me and say ‘you’re the one that, through that team, started the trend of getting Hearts back to where they should be.’ So you take a little bit of comfort from that.”
That was their first Scottish Cup since beating Celtic at Hampden in 1952. And the fans would give every bone in their body to see Hearts repeat the feat at the same location on Saturday.