20th anniversary: Hearts legends recall momentous 1998 Scottish Cup triumph
'When the ball dropped, I knew Amoruso wasn't aware of me. He didn't have a look. I was at his back and he couldn't see me. I knew I would get a chance to shoot. I touched the ball and I was quite wide on a tight angle. I had to shoot quickly.'
He did. Andy Goram couldn’t stop it. Hearts were 2-0 up and dancing in the Parkhead sun. The 1998 Scottish Cup final has been upgraded to ultra HD quality in Stephane Adam’s mind. The Frenchman’s second goal in the 2-1 victory is a cherished memory, for it ultimately ended a 42-year wait for the trophy.
“I tried to shoot as powerfully as possible,” continues Adam, speaking 20 years to the day since Hearts’ triumph over Rangers. “When I saw the ball go into the net, I just remember the noise from the stand. I knew we were 2-0 up. Then it was just adrenaline – such a sweet feeling knowing we had a chance to win.
“I saw the joy and the tears on people’s faces. I saw grown men crying. I knew nothing else could happen now. Even when Rangers scored later, I was quite sure we were going to win.”
That entire weekend remains the highlight of Adam’s career. “I won three trophies as a player – the Under-21 French Cup, the French League Cup with Metz and the Scottish Cup with Hearts. I think the Hearts one is special because of the long wait for a trophy and the passion of the people.
“It’s different from France. French people love football and love their club, but they are not passionate. When I came to Scotland, I saw people give everything to their club and you can feel that. Especially when you see 200,000 people in the streets of Edinburgh to celebrate winning the cup.
“I didn’t know a lot about Hearts when I signed the year before, but I learned the history that season. Talking to players and supporters, they told me they would never forget us if we won something.
“Going to Celtic Park for that final, we felt we were going to win the game. I just remember the confidence we had in the team. We scored after two minutes and it was the perfect start. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.
“I never expected to see so many people for the trophy parade the day after. That’s when I realised how important it was. All these people told me all season how important it was to win a trophy. They talked to me about 1986, the team that lost the title and the cup in the space of one week. There was a lot of frustration.
“I realised at the end of the game and during the party on the Saturday night how big it was, but I had no idea how many would be on the streets the next day. I think there were more people on the streets of Edinburgh that weekend than in Paris after France won the World Cup a month later. It was crazy.
“We went to the City Chambers and drove through the streets to Tynecastle and I will never forget all the people cheering. I still have all the pictures from the newspapers and photos I took myself. I cherish them all.”
The relief was almost tangible given the years of cup final torture Hearts fans endured previously. David Weir sensed the meeting with Rangers was the chance to make history.
“Hearts were associated with not performing on the big occasion. You don’t like to be associated with that,” he recalls. “You want to be the team that overcomes it and takes that reputation away. It was great for us as a group of players to be the ones who did that by winning the Scottish Cup after so long. It was really satisfying.”
Weir represented Scotland at the World Cup the following month and would later reach a UEFA Cup final with Rangers. “I’ve had a great career. I couldn’t have bought any of it, but winning the cup with Hearts was a special day. It was my first major trophy. It’s always great to win things and Hearts weren’t a club associated with winning trophies. That’s being brutally honest. It was nice to get that monkey off the club’s back.
“I remember the relief when the game was over. Colin Cameron scored early, then we went 2-0 up, they pulled one back, then they almost got a penalty. [Brian] Laudrup had a free-kick right at the end and then there was that relief at the final whistle.
“We wanted to win so badly. At the time, Hearts didn’t have a great record in cup finals and hadn’t won the Scottish Cup for a long time. You saw the joy on Hearts fans’ faces at Celtic Park, then again back at Tynecastle that night. Everybody was out on the streets. It was the same again the following day along Princes Street and through Gorgie.
“We stayed in the Caledonian Hotel and it was just a great couple of days to end the season. They were really good times. The boys knew how to enjoy themselves and we were all relatively young at the time as well.”
Midfielder Cameron played the role of firestarter in the final with a penalty after only two minutes. The flames still burn brightly to this day. “I still get asked about it,” he says.
“So many people have come up to me and said: ‘You made me money scoring first in the 1998 final.’ I’ve certainly had a few drinks out of it. I have two daughters who are nine and ten. When people come up to me, they’re like: ‘Dad, what’s all that about? What’s going on?’ You try to explain to them but they’re into stage school, gymnastics and running.”
Cameron believes the 1998 Hearts team are perhaps even more revered than those who subsequently won the Scottish Cup in 2006 and 2012. “Once you finish playing, you’re often forgotten about. I think because there was such a big gap between Hearts’ previous Scottish Cup win and the 98 one, we get looked upon maybe a little more fondly. It had been such a long time,” he explains.
“It was a cup final and there were nerves, but I didn’t feel we were under pressure to win. We weren’t expected to win because it was a great Rangers team. The pressure was on them, not us. The boys were just so keen to get out on the park and get going.
“The pressure probably did increase after we scored. We had our noses in front but we still had 88 minutes to go. Our gameplan didn’t change. In previous games, we’d tried to go toe-to-toe with Rangers and Celtic and it didn’t work. This time we tried to sit back and hit on the break. Getting the early goal worked perfectly.”
It set the tone for a weekend of celebrations which, 20 years later, are just as memorable. “Being on top of that bus coming along Gorgie, you were within touching distance of people hanging out of windows,” says Cameron. “It was an amazing feeling that will live with me till the day I go.”
• The history boys
Gilles Rousset: Frenchman exorcised ghosts from the 1996 final, when Rangers’ 5-1 win over Hearts included a Brian Laudrup cross slipping through his legs.
Dave McPherson: Former Rangers player enjoying his second spell at Tynecastle. Solid at right-back throughout the 90 minutes.
David Weir: This was the first of many major honours in his career. The defender headed off to the World Cup with Scotland after the final.
Paul Ritchie: Youngster who also suffered in that 1996 final but was a more mature and reliable presence in central defence for Hearts two years later.
Gary Naysmith: Only 19 at the time and experiencing his first taste of major silverware. Would go on to have a top-level career in England and at international level with Scotland.
Thomas Flogel: The versatile Austrian filled a number of positions in maroon and performed a key role on the right side of a five-man midfield against Rangers.
Colin Cameron: Showed nerves of steel to score the opening goal from the penalty spot after only two minutes. Also scored from the spot earlier in the competition against Albion Rovers.
Stefano Salvatori: The finest day of the late Italian’s time with Hearts. Anchored midfield superbly and looked a class act against a star-studded Rangers team.
Steve Fulton: Deputy captain with Gary Locke injured. Worked like a trojan in addition to his technical ability and was a picture of delight at full-time.
Neil McCann: Winger had a quiet final having been asked to be disciplined on the left flank like Flogel on the right.
Stephane Adam: Two goals in the semi-final and the decisive one in the final. The French striker’s shot across Andy Goram and into the Rangers net remains one of the most cherished moments in Tynecastle history.
Grant Murray (sub): On the bench to provide defensive and midfield cover if needed but didn’t make it onto the pitch.
John Robertson (sub): Final involvement with Hearts as a player. Was stripped ready to go on in the dying seconds but the substitution wasn’t made.
Jim Hamilton (sub): Replaced the tired Adam with 12 minutes remaining to provide some fresh legs up front.