Celtic and Rangers are Scotland’s two biggest and most successful clubs. Saturday’s Scottish Cup final and 1998’s Scottish Cup final won’t mean as much to the Old Firm as it does to a team like Hearts. Their class of 98 still remain club legends, with their biggest exploits playing for the club happening 21 years ago.

With Jim Jefferies at the helm, Gary Locke captaining the side, both believe that team was as good as a non Old Firm team will get.

Gilles Rousset was vital to the team in goal

No successful football team wins anything without a top drawer goalkeeper. Gilles Rousset was exactly that, according to his former manager.

Speaking exclusively to NTOF, Jefferies claimed: “I was pleased he was man of the match but every player gave everything that day.

“There were some outstanding outfield performances but for Gilles to get it, I think made up for his huge disappointment with the second goal in the ’96 final, when it went through his legs.

“A freak goal which virtually killed the game for us. So that was really pleasing because he was a terrific goalie, I still talk to him a lot to this day and he’s a great guy.”

The Frenchman achieved legendary status in Gorgie thanks to the 1998 Scottish Cup victory. Mandatory Credit: Aubrey Washington /Allsport

His former teammate and club captain at the time equally thought the world of the towering Frenchman.

“He was brilliant. He wasn’t just a brilliant goalkeeper, he was a brilliant teammate,” Locke began.

“Gilles was a bit older than the likes of myself, McManus, Paul Ritchie, Gary Naysmith, he was a father figure. But he still had a laugh and a joke with all the boys as well.

“That was the thing with that whole squad, we all got on really well. We had quiet lads in the team, we had our characters in the team so it was a really good mix of both the type and age within the squad as well.”

“Our defence is as strong as the old castle rock”

The then club captain was quick to praise his former boss when it came to the defence.

 

“We were really lucky because the gaffer’s recruitment was fantastic. He brought in Davie Weir from Falkirk, who was a brilliant player and went onto huge things with the national team and Everton, playing in the Premier League.

“He and Paul Ritchie had a great understanding together. I played most of the season. Dave McPherson played, Gary Naysmith at full back, Neil Pointon.”

Both his former gaffer and skipper sang Paul Ritchie’s praises when speaking to NTOF. Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

Equally, the manager looks back with great admiration.

“Great back four. Dave McPherson, Davie Weir, Paul Ritchie, the young player of the year that year. Gary Naysmith was an outstanding young player, proved it by going on to play for Scotland and Everton, a good career.”

“Our forwards can score and it’s no idle talk”

“The whole team was well balanced,” claimed Jefferies.

“Salvatori did a lot of the graft, breaking up the ball. Stevie Fulton was the best passer, for me, in the league. And Colin Cameron, you’ve never seen a midfield player with as much energy getting in touch with the striker.”

Scoring the winner that day was Stephane Adam, who again the manager couldn’t praise highly enough: “Stephane Adam was a very clever player to play off the shoulder and Neil McCann had pace to burn.

“It was a really, really well balanced team and we always felt we had a chance.”

French forward Stephane Adam doubled Hearts’ lead against the Gers at Parkhead. Mandatory Credit: Alex Livesey/Allsport

Equally, Gary Locke couldn’t be more complimentary of his former teammates: “Then we had a midfield three with a great balance to it which kind of prevented me from playing in there with Cameron, Salva and Fulters.

“And we obviously had Robbo, Jim Hamilton, Stephane Adam, McCann up front.

“In the main, that was normally the team that played. Then you had the fringe lads who came in and did great jobs as well. We genuinely did believe we had such a good squad.”

And so it proved as the Jambos won their first Scottish Cup in 42 years. They’d give anything to repeat the feat on Saturday against the other half of the Old Firm, playing Celtic at Hampden.

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