Police ‘begged’ Hearts not to score during Edinburgh derby

John Robertson celebrates Hearts' 2-1 win over Basel in Switzerland. Picture Danny Lawson

John Robertson celebrates Hearts' 2-1 win over Basel in Switzerland. Picture Danny Lawson

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Former Hearts striker John Robertson has revealed how a senior police officer once begged him and his Jambos team-mates not to score against Edinburgh foes Hibernian during a powder-keg derby clash.

The former Scotland international tells the story of the bizarre police intervention during the first episode of new BBC Scotland documentary Scotland’s Game.

This opening programme revisits the controversial period 26 years ago when Tynecastle chairman Wallace Mercer proposed a merger between the two capital clubs.

But his plans to create a new club to be called Edinburgh United were met with a furious backlash from Leith.

The Hibs support organised what ultimately turned out to be a successful campaign to thwart the deal - but the situation had still not calmed when the old rivals faced off at Easter Road in September 1990.

Unsurprisingly, tempers were running high and crowd trouble broke out. Police struggled to keep control and the game was disrupted several times in a first half when Hearts took a three-goal lead.

In the documentary, Robertson says: “The place was packed to the rafters, and it was a horrible atmosphere. Hibs fans were going bananas and rightly so, Hearts fans weren’t too happy about it either. We were the anti-Christ at the time, we were the enemies.”

Fearing more disruption, Robertson claims desperate officers appealed to the players to help calm events by going easy in the second half.

Robertson continued: ‘We were all looking stunned, thinking - some strange request, that. He went out the door and Sandy Clark (Hearts caretaker manager) said, ‘Yeah, yeah officer, no problem at all, no worries, I know where you’re coming from, we’ll leave it at that’.

“He shut the door and said, ‘Nah, that ain’t happening guys’.

Thankfully for the authorities, Hearts failed to find the net in the second half and the score remained 3-0.

Rod Petrie, current chairman of Hibs, reflected on the significance of his team’s fans’ campaign.

He told the documentary: “It was probably close to the club’s darkest hour and everybody who was part of ‘Hands Off Hibs’ deserves great credit for the passion that they showed and the determination they showed to save the football club.”

Hearts supporter and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond added: “Anybody who really understands football understands that you can’t have yin without yang. You can’t have Hearts without Hibs, you can’t have Celtic without Rangers and you cannot, must not, ever effectively deprive people of their football loyalties.”