Gary Mackay: Save Our Hearts movement now worthwhile

Tynecastle's iconic main stand will be replaced in the coming years. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

Tynecastle's iconic main stand will be replaced in the coming years. Pic: Lisa Ferguson

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Around 11 years ago, one of the most popular chants around Tynecastle was “Keep Hearts in Gorgie, We’re Gonna Keep Hearts in Gorgie.”

I was proud to be part of a Save Our Hearts movement that ultimately stopped the former chief executive Chris Robinson moving our club away from its spiritual home to Murrayfield. Without those protests in 2004 and 2005, we’d have gone to the rugby stadium and who knows where we would be now. I certainly don’t think we’d be in as healthy a predicament as we are now, that’s for sure.

Needless to say, I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard confirmation on Thursday that, after more than a decade of uncertainty, the club would be staying at Tynecastle. It’s just magnificent, and makes all the effort and rallying during the Robinson era seem worthwhile. I think there can be a widespread feeling of vindication among all those who stood up against a move which could have had dire consequences for the club.

When Save Our Hearts first began, all we wanted was to keep Hearts at Tynecastle. In hindsight, some of us probably regretted one or two actions that took place, but none of it was done out of nastiness towards any individuals, it was simply because we were so desperate to remain at Tynecastle.

It would have been a guessing game as to how things might have panned out if we had gone. There was a bit of talk of us going to Sighthill and other parts of the city, but the reality was that the only option on the table at the time was us going to Murrayfield, and I think every genuine Hearts supporter knew that would have been a disaster. It would have been soulless. I think the protests made Robinson and his fellow board members aware of the strength and depth of feeling about staying at Tynecastle. If people had just accepted the plan to move to Murrayfield – like Robinson wanted us to – it would have gone ahead.

Even though we stopped Robinson moving us away from Tynecastle, there’s always been a lingering worry throughout the Romanov years and also at the start of Ann Budge’s reign that getting a new stadium would be back on the agenda. That uncertainty has been there for the best part of 15 years.

Even Ann admitted that from a business perspective it would have made sense on lots of levels. Given the respect she commands and the understanding of the club she has displayed since taking over, if she had decided to move us away from Tynecastle, I think there would have been more acceptance from the supporters if that was what she felt was best for the club.

However, Robinson’s intentions simply weren’t right for the club. The only reason he wanted to leave was to clear debt, so it would only have been a short-term fix, which could have killed us in the long term. If we were playing at Murrayfield, I’m not convinced the Foundation of Hearts would have got off the ground the way it did because I don’t think there would have been the same appetite for supporters to buy into it if we weren’t still at Tynecastle.

Time moves on and clubs have to move stadiums, but it would have been particularly sad if Tynecastle was to be bulldozed because it is one of the most iconic grounds in Scotland. So many ex-players and present-day players have spoken about what a wonderful, atmospheric stadium it is, and I think everyone, no matter who they support, would agree that it would have been a major loss to the Scottish football landscape if we had to move away.

I spent time with Hearts-supporting friends over the weekend and we were reminiscing about great European games at Tynecastle against the likes of Lokomotive Leipzig and Bayern Munich. This stadium is such a huge part of the history of the club, and also the community.

You can see as you drive through Gorgie that the area is struggling a bit, so hopefully the news that Hearts are staying put will have a galvanising effect. I’ve got mates from all over the Balgreen, Craiglockhart, Stenhouse and Tynecastle area, and. It will give the whole community a lift knowing that they will continue to have an influx of close to 20,000 people spending money in pubs, cafes and restaurants in the area twice a month.

I have to admit There will be a bit of emotion when the old stand gets knocked down because it’s been there throughout most of our great history, but you have to move with the times. The fact it’s being knocked down to allow us to stay at Tynecastle will outweigh any level of emotion about losing the old stand, that’s for sure.

The news just continues the steady flow of positivity since Ann arrived at the club. There has been nothing that anybody could challenge about the way the football club has progressed since she got involved, and long may that continue. Thursday’s news was as good a Christmas present as any Hearts supporter or Save Our Hearts member could ever have wished for. Everyone involved in Save Our Hearts should feel they played their part because ultimately this opportunity to stay at Tynecastle long term wouldn’t have been available if Chris Robinson’s regime had taken the club away from its spiritual home.