Joe Hamill and Neil Janczyk experienced heady days of famous European victories, Edinburgh derby wins and triumphs over the Old Firm in their time together as young players at Hearts.
Tomorrow afternoon, however, they’ll come face-to-face in midfield at the humble Penicuik Park when Janczyk’s Penicuik Athletic host Hamill’s Bonnyrigg Rose in a Midlothian derby in the East Region Super League.
It is just over a decade on from one of Hearts’ best European successes, when current Hearts boss Robbie Neilson netted a famous winner John Robertson’s side of November 2004 secured a 2-1 Uefa Cup triumph over Swiss champions FC Basel in their own backyard.
That night, a 20-year-old Hamill played the full 90 minutes at Basel’s St Jakob-Park, while fellow youngster Janczyk took it all in from the substitute’s bench. The duo came through the Hearts youth system together, but tomorrow they’ll be on opposing sides.
Hamill, on-loan at Bonnyrigg until January from League One side Airdrie, revealed he hadn’t watched the highlights of the famous win until just the other day.
He said: “The other night when Liverpool were playing Basel, someone put something on my Facebook about the game. I’d never seen any highlights of the game until the other night. When you see things like that when you are older you realise how much it meant and you can appreciate it more.
“When I was playing back then, I didn’t think of the importance of it. It was a game and I just got on with it as such. Once you get towards the end of your career you look back and realise. It was brilliant, it was absolutely different class. You just look back and say ‘wow’.”
The midfield duo would usually have battled against each other in the engine room tomorrow at Penicuik Park, withHamill, originally a winger as a youngster, now operating in a central-midfield role. However, Janczyk has recently been utilised as a left winger under manager Craig Meikle after taking time to impose himself in his usual berth in the middle of the park.
Janczyk’s first game in his new position was a 2-0 loss away to Bonnyrigg at the beginning of November, but Penicuik have since gone unbeaten in their last four league matches and share third place with tomorrow’s opponents.
Janczyk said: “I’ve started playing out wide on the left in an attacking role and I’ve just been tucking in and getting in holes and keeping hold of the ball higher up the pitch. I didn’t quite fancy it when the manager first said it, but I’ve actually done quite well.”
The 31-year-old, who joined last season’s Premier League champions in the summer, felt they deserved a point in that encounter and is seeking revenge in tomorrow’s match.
He said: “We all kind of thought we deserved a point at least, but the sending off in the second half didn’t help us. We were on top at the time and looked more likely to score.
“It’s a big game for both of us and we need to keep ourselves up at the top of the table. We’ve gone unnoticed at times and I think teams coming to Penicuik have underestimated us.”
Hamill, who went on to join his first Hearts boss Craig Levein down south at Leicester City before returning north with Livingston, believes Janczyk is one of the best players he has played with, although he never envisaged his former Jambos team-mate playing as a winger.
He said: “Last time we played he was out on the left wing. He’s never been a winger, he’s always been a centre midfielder.
“Boys say to me ‘who is the best player you have ever played with?’ and I always say Janny is one of them. When I was at Hearts with him, he could put the ball anywhere he wanted.
“As long as he stays out my road tomorrow and stays out on the left wing, it will be fine.”
Hosts Penicuik are still without player-manager Meikle, while the game will come too late for defender Stephen Bunyan, who is recovering from injury. Bonnyrigg’s Jonny Brown is doubtful, while midfielder Conor Thomson will undergo a late fitness test on his ankle.