Ex-Hibs keeper Nick Colgan on derbies and his Jamie Walker bet
Nick Colgan isn't so much bothered about natural order but having his bank balance restored, the former Hibs goalkeeper having lost a bet with ex-Hearts winger Jamie Walker following the last Edinburgh derby.
Okay, it was only a tenner, but as someone who enjoyed the upper-hand on such occasions during his time at Easter Road, Colgan, now a coach with Wigan Athletic, admitted it hurt handing the cash over to Walker, who joined the English League One outfit in January.
Colgan lost just three times in 14 clashes with the Jambos, a record which has left him as puzzled as every Hibs fan as to the claim by Hearts boss Craig Levein that his side’s first win in ten against their Capital rivals had “restored the natural order of things”.
“I know Hearts had that long unbeaten run in derbies,” said Colgan, “But it wasn’t as if that was in recent years. I’d imagine it was relief more than anything having not won in the previous nine and with Hibs having knocked them out of the Scottish Cup in each of the previous two years.
“You certainly feel the pressure when derbies come round and you haven’t won for a while. When it starts getting to four or five it builds up and when it’s nine without a win you don’t want it going into double figures.
“So that win got the monkey off their backs, although Hibs will undoubtedly be looking to make sure it’s no more than that come Friday. It wasn’t as if Hearts ran away with the last game. I had a £10 bet with Jamie and paid out, although I was arguing with him that if that was a goal so, then, was the one Hibs didn’t get the previous time at Tynecastle.”
Although Colgan contends the Premiership is the priority for both sides, Hibs currently enjoying a vice-like grip on fourth place and seeking to reel in Aberdeen while Hearts hope to chase down their city rivals while holding a resurgent Kilmarnock at bay, he admits there’s nothing better than enjoying the bragging rights a derby day win brings.
He said: “When you’ve won, you enjoy it but then have to look to the next game against whoever you are playing. But when the next one comes round if you are on a bit of a winning run then you are determined to keep it going and if you haven’t enjoyed a victory for a couple or so then you want to bring that to an end as quickly as possible.
“Derbies under the lights with a full-house as Friday night will be always have that little something more to them. I’m sure this one will be as competitive as ever. Craig Levein is very structured in the way he plays, whereas Hibs seem to play with that little bit of freedom under Neil Lennon.”
Hibs certainly did that in Colgan’s day, racking up a run of impressive wins with the 6-2 hammering dished out to the Jambos being one that those in green-and-white talk of with almost the same reverence as the 7-0 New Year’s Day victory of 1973 at Tynecastle.
For Colgan, though, his most enjoyable win was the 3-0 “Millenium Derby” win in Gorgie when Dirk Lehmann put Hibs ahead before Franck Sauzee doubled their lead, leaving a very young Kenny Miller to wrap up the win.
There were other memorable moments – Sauzee losing his front teeth as he rose to power home a header in a 3-1 win and Ecuadorian internationalist Ulises de la Cruz scoring his only two goals for Hibs to clinch another derby victory – but for Colgan, it was his first clash with Hearts which will forever live with him.
Colgan said: “The 6-2 game is the one everyone wants to talk to you about, but my favourite was the Millenium Derby. We probably went in as big underdogs, Hearts had some great players, their wage bill outstripped ours.
“We were a hard-working side – our back four was Derek Collins, John Hughes, Sean Dennis and Tom Smith – but to win that game so convincingly means I look back on it very fondly.
“Dirk had already scored when a corner was cleared from their penalty area and if there was one guy you wanted it to drop for it was big Franck.
“I was right behind it and had a great view. It was Antti Niemi’s first game for Hearts, but Franck caught it superbly 25 yards out and drilled it into the bottom corner before turning to race the length of the pitch towards the Hibs fans behind me.
“I remember having one save to make late on, using my legs to get the ball over the bar then Yogi celebrating the clean sheet as much as the win.”
A 3-0 win at Easter Road was offset by a 2-1 defeat in Gorgie on the final day of that season, but then came October 22, 2000, a hat-trick from Mixu Paatelainen and goals from David Zitelli, John O’Neil and Russell Latapy leaving Hearts reeling.
Andy Kirk had put Jim Jefferies’ side ahead but, as Colgan pointed out, goals change games, Paatelainen scoring two in as many minutes to change the entire complexion of the match.
Colgan recalled: “Hearts had started pretty well but from being 1-0 down for a large portion of the first half we found ourselves 2-1 up with the momentum of the game having totally changed. David got the third, Mixu the fourth, John the fifth and then Russell that stunning sixth one.
“It was a memorable night, not least wondering how a guy of Mixu’s size could do those back flips.”
Naturally there were disappointments, a late Steven Pressley penalty and an even later winner from Phil Stamp, but for Colgan – who sat on the bench as Tony Caig shipped five to the Jambos in the “Mark de Vries derby” – the craziest of all was the 4-4 draw at Tynecastle when Hibs, having led 4-2 going into injury time, were pegged back by a Graham Weir double.
Colgan said: “I’ve never played in a game like it, I’ve never seen a game like it since. Even when Hearts pulled it back to 4-3 you are thinking, ‘smash it into the corner up the other end, put it out of play and wait for the ref to blow his whistle’.
“But that’s what can happen in derbies, all sense of rationale can go out the window. People do things they’d never dream of doing, had probably never done before or since just at a time when all you need to do is keep the head and win the game.”