ONLY one name is big enough to bridge the 220 miles from Tynecastle to Goodison Park: Alex Young. Whenever Hearts and Everton meet, the Golden Vision comes alive as the man who eclipsed all others in both deep maroon and bright blue. He will be in Gorgie tomorrow to see his former teams meet in a pre-season friendly.
Sepia-tinted memories of Young in action should be cherished by those lucky enough to have them. Now 78, he was a free-scoring forward who spent five years at Hearts in the 1950s and eight at Everton in the 60s. Those were halcyon periods for both clubs. Young’s presence was no coincidence.
He helped Hearts win two Scottish league championships in 1958 and 1960, the Scottish Cup in 1956 and the League Cup in 1959. He didn’t play in their 1958 final win. At Everton, he was instrumental in the league title win of 1963 and the FA Cup final triumph three years later. It was in England that he earned the celestial nickname “The Golden Vision”, coined by legendary Tottenham Hotspur captain Danny Blanchflower.
“The view every Saturday that we have of a more perfect world, a world that has got a pattern and is finite. And that’s Alex – the Golden Vision,” said Blanchflower. English film director Ken Loach would later release a film with that very title which featured Young as himself. The Alex Young Suite at Goodison is “named after one of our most loved and respected legends”, say Everton.
For younger fans, an insight into Young’s standing can be taken from Hearts’ first Hall of Fame evening in 2006. Gary Mackay, himself a Tynecastle legend and the club’s record appearance holder, was genuinely honoured to be in Young’s company that night. Those attending Tynecastle tomorrow should feel likewise.
“It should be a good game. The young lads in the Hearts team are playing well and Everton will bring a good team up,” said Young. “This is an ideal game for me, I’ll really enjoy it. I’ll be remembering how good the two teams were when I played for them.” His memory isn’t as strong nowadays but he has more than enough trophies and medals as evidence of an outstanding career.
“I won a lot of trophies and medals but I keep hiding them away. I’ll pass them on to my children eventually. I’ve got loads of memories from Tynecastle and Goodison Park. I had a great time playing for both teams. Everton are a very big club and I really loved it down there. I loved Hearts as well. They were two brilliant clubs to play for. When I was at Tynecastle, we had a really strong team and we did really well. I was there a long time. I like Everton and I still do but I’m not going to choose one over another tomorrow. I hope it’s a draw. In fact, I’d like to wear two ties to the game.”
Young had to retire from football in his early 30s due to a knee problem and only graced four senior clubs – Hearts, Everton, Glentoran and Stockport County. Bizarrely for one so talented, he only represented Scotland eight times, but scored five goals.
“I played for Hearts for eight years and then on to Everton. We had a great team there,” said Young. “It was a big move for me. It was hard when I was injured for a while at first but when I started to play, it was great. It was great to be playing down in England and Everton were great to me, as were Hearts when I was there.
“My family loved it in Liverpool but I came back to Scotland eventually because I was struggling with an injury in my knee. I just couldn’t play the same. Before that was happened, I was flying. Football wasn’t the same then as it is now, of course. We only got paid a small amount, but players now are getting massive amounts. I think it’s gone a bit too far. You’ve got guys going from one team to another year after year.”
Hearts now have a stable squad with only a handful of new signings after last year’s title win. “I saw two or three games towards the end of last season and the team looked really good. I don’t get along to Tynecastle too often now, but I’m really excited about tomorrow.”
Alex Young will simply be the proudest man in Edinburgh tomorrow afternoon.