FIFTEEN years have elapsed since John Robertson last graced an Edinburgh derby, yet he is still hammering Hibs. The Hearts legend’s training drill was reproduced by Dylan McGowan and Callum Paterson for the decisive goal in the Capital clash on Sunday. It seems, even years into retirement, Robertson is still a sharp thorn in the side of those at Easter Road.
Fifteen years have elapsed since John Robertson last graced an Edinburgh derby, yet he is still hammering Hibs. The Hearts legend’s training drill was reproduced by Dylan McGowan and Callum Paterson for the decisive goal in the Capital clash on Sunday. It seems, even years into retirement, Robertson is still a sharp thorn in the side of those at Easter Road.
Coaching the Hearts forwards once a week gives Robertson regular involvement in football following his departure as East Fife manager last year. He is already having a major impact. Last week, he put together an exercise involving crossing and a headed finish at the front post. Lo and behold, that very move provided Hearts with a priceless winner in the derby just days later.
Having scored 27 times against Hibs in his career, Robertson knows exactly what is required to cause damage in one of Scottish football’s high-octane fixtures. “He’ll definitely have plenty to say about it,” laughs McGowan. “I think he owes me a bottle of champagne anyway because he came and took a skills school session and I won it. You can put that in if you like,” he smiles. “I kept him out of a relegation battle at East Fife as well . . .
“He said he owes me a bottle. If I scored against Hibs I was getting a crate, but I don’t get that far forward. We work on crossing and finishing all the time in training, but Robbo has come in and done exceptionally well. He’s made sure that we all look to the right places. The strikers have learned a lot making the movement into the box. We’ve worked on it and luckily it’s come off, so everyone’s happy. The goal was me and David Smith down the line, I got the break of the ball and looked up and Callum got on the end of the cross. I’m not going to say my crosses were that good in training, but it came good at the right time and Callum did the rest.
“I think he was the only one in the box. I knew he was in there somewhere. I looked up and saw him coming to the front post – he normally does that anyway. I thought I’d put it in there and give him a chance and he’s done brilliantly to finish it. We’re happy we took the three points because we really needed it.”
McGowan is interrupted at that point by manager Gary Locke. “I just spoke to Callum and he said somebody else crossed it in.” “Aye, very good,” is the defender’s reply. Clearly, the feel-good factor has returned to Hearts after the derby victory and McGowan is simply delighted to have contributed. At 22, he is one of the most experienced members of Locke’s squad following loan spells at East Fife and Gold Coast United.
“I wouldn’t say I had a major hand in the result,” he continues. “I put a ball in and Callum got on the end of it, but I thought a lot of players did exceptionally well. Jamie Hamill and Scott Robinson were different class in the middle of the park, as were Brad McKay and Danny Wilson at the back. Jamie MacDonald was steady in goal, too. It was a team effort.
“As soon as we went a goal up, we kept our heads and kept Hibs at bay. We had lost Ryan Stevenson to injury as well. For a young team to be able to do that breeds confidence. As defenders, it’s always our aim to keep things tight. If we get a chance and take it, then we win the game. If not, we take away a point and that’s good to know as a defender. If you keep a clean sheet, you’re going to get something out of the game. When we went 1-0 up, the emphasis was on us to hang on and we did that brilliantly.”
Pressure on Hibs was well-documented before kick-off at Tynecastle and only intensified at full-time. Manager Pat Fenlon is facing calls for his sacking by the Easter Road board and, to an extent, that deflected some limelight away from Hearts.
“I think it helped us,” says McGowan. “Everyone has written us off this season, so I don’t see too much pressure being put on us. Everyone goes on about how young we are, people are coming out in the papers saying we’re going to get thrashed and all that sort of thing. It only serves as motivation. We are all young players, but we will all take our chance and hopefully prove we deserve to be here and stay in this league.
“Sunday showed we can play at this level, but it’s only one result. We need to take it on and build consistency. If we do that, then we can start saying that we deserve to be in this league.
“The fans are different class, especially in a derby. You just can’t get enough of it. The feeling I had on Sunday is one I’ll never be able to explain. To look up and see all the stands full and going mental, that’s why you play football and that’s why you play for this club.
“When I first came to Hearts I knew it would take a long time for me to get to this point. When I arrived there were a lot of players who were already seasoned professionals. I knew it was going to be a gradual progress. Now I’m in the first team, I’m extremely happy to be taking my chance.”
By winning three points, Hearts began to recover ground in their fight to stay in the Scottish Premiership. The onset of administration in June brought an automatic 15-point deduction for season 2013/14. Having reduced that to 12, the next target is single figures this Friday evening against Premiership newcomers Partick Thistle at Firhill.
“It’s definitely a start. We need to get to nine sooner or later and that’s the mindset,” explains McGowan. “Hopefully we can reach that point on Friday night against Partick, but we just need to start stringing results together and not worry about teams in front of us.
“We can only control what we do and aim to get to zero as quickly as possible.
“We’ll be looking to get [the deficit] out of double figures and we have a big chance to do that on Friday. Partick have shown they’re a good team and no mugs. They deserve to be in the league so it’s going to be a good test for us. It’s one I’m sure we’ll be up for.”