Craig Beattie on that Hearts celebration, Hibs ‘canter’ and Paulo Sergio’s cigar
In 145 years of Heart of Midlothian history, nobody has celebrated beating Celtic quite like Craig Beattie.
Memories of the pasty-white shirtless body charging round the Hampden Park track after scoring the winner in the 2012 Scottish Cup semi-final are indelible from Tynecastle folklore.
Would Steven MacLean or Sean Clare mark a decisive goal the same way in this year’s final between the clubs? Probably not. There is only one Craig Beattie, after all.
He is now 35 and studying for an HNC to work in social care with underprivileged children. You can bet one of the stories he will tell to brighten any kid’s day will involve Sunday, April 15, 2012. Hearts went on to beat Edinburgh rivals Hibs 5-1 in the final, but Beattie’s big day was the semi.
Gary Hooper equalised for Celtic on 87 minutes after Rudi Skacel had put Hearts ahead in the match. When Marius Zaliukas’ 90th-minute shot struck Joe Ledley’s arm, Beattie stepped forward for the penalty. A former Celtic striker, he planted the ball high beyond Fraser Forster and set off for that famous celebration. He is now better known for that than anything else in his career. Which he is perfectly fine with.
“I had an assist for our goal and then we lost a late equaliser,” he recalled. “You’re thinking: ‘Here we go. A valiant effort but then you’re out.’ I managed to pop up with a last-minute winner and then the crazy celebration. I don’t think I’ll ever allow that to be forgotten about. Kids at my work, people in the street or guys I’ve just met, it’s forever on the tips of people’s tongues.”
Could he run that fast now? “No.”
Beattie’s career glittered early on at Celtic despite fighting for game time with legendary strikers Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton and John Hartson. Seven major trophies in six years is a remarkable haul by anyone’s standards.
“John Hartson posted on his Instagram recently that Larsson, Sutton and Hartson scored 437 Celtic goals combined. It was just my luck that was the era when I was trying to get a game,” said Beattie. “It was great to learn from them but the worst time trying to get into the team. I’m still proud of what I achieved.
“I moved down south to West Brom and then Swansea. You’re probably forgotten about to an extent. I got the goal for Scotland against Georgia. The last-minute semi-final winner for Hearts and the celebration boosted my popularity with certain people. Maybe not so with others.”
His memories of the 2012 final mostly involve post-match joviality. A hamstring injury threatened Beattie’s participation until hours before kick-off. He was only deployed by manager Paulo Sergio as a substitute for the last 14 minutes.
“I literally just got through the training session the day before the final to make myself available. Paulo put me on the bench.
“Beating Celtic in the semi was a big part of our campaign. I was confident we had Hibs’ number in the final. I reckon they thought that, too. I think they were dreading us getting to the final. If Celtic got through, Hibs could have gone in pressure-free. The fact it was Hearts after we had beat them in every game that season made for more pressure.
“When [Pa] Kujabi was sent off and we went 2-1 up, it went from being a close game to being on easy street. The ‘ole’ football took over and it was an absolute canter thereafter.”
His happiness in the end was derived from the joy of others.
“The most satisfying thing for me was seeing some guys win probably their first and last medals. It’s something they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Having played with Larsson, Sutton and Hartson at Celtic, I was totally spoiled. I felt I contributed to some of those Hearts players getting to that platform and the elation they had afterwards.
“I enjoyed having a chat with Paulo after the final when he was puffing on a cigar and de-stressing. He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat, quite chuffed with himself, and rightly so. Him and his coaching staff had worked so hard during the well-publicised financial issues at Hearts that year.
“His squad hadn’t been paid for two, three, four months. PFA Scotland were in every other day for crisis meetings. Lads were struggling for fuel money to get to training. It was a case of: ‘If the boys turn up for training today let’s just be thankful because some of them can’t afford it.’ That’s how serious the problem was.
“Paulo got a tune from all the players under those circumstances, which must be really satisfying.
“He was a calm character at the best of times. He got really intense when he had to ramp it up a bit. He was a big kind of hardy guy, a big old-school character, but had a nice soft side to him as well. Brilliant to work for.”