'Am a goalie!' - Ex-Hearts ace reveals baffling times under Vladimir Romanov and Eduard Malofeev
Jamie MacDonald had waited more than three years for his Hearts debut after first appearing on the bench for the first-team in a competitive match.
When it arrived against Rangers at Ibrox in August 2008, the goalkeeper found out a matter of hours before kick-off and from an unlikely source.
Greek midfielder Christos Karipidis was the one to break the news to MacDonald in an episode which involved Steve Banks and a baffling claim of espionage, epitomising the unpredictable nature of Hearts under the ownership of Vladimir Romanov.
“I was on the bus at Riccarton waiting to go to a Holiday Inn in Glasgow for a pre-match [meal],” the Raith Rovers goalkeeper told Hearts podcast Scarves Around the Funnel.
“Steve Banks was meant to play and that morning of the game, we were running 10-15 minutes late, there was no Banksy on the bus.
"Csaba [Laszlo] was manager at the time. Christos Karipidis comes up to me on the bus and says ‘you’re playing today, Banksy’s not playing’.
“Marian Kello had just signed from Kaunas that week. He had been training with the young boys in the morning and the next thing you see him running from the training pitch to get changed and come on the bus to be on the bench.
“The fallout of that was Romanov binned Banksy off.
"I think because Banks was going through his coaching badges at the time and was still friendly with Jim Stewart who was Hearts goalie coach at one time.
"He had gone to Rangers and because Banksy was in contact with him he pretty much binned him because there was a feeling that he was a spy for Rangers.
"That’s how my debut went.”
‘Am a goalie!’
Despite a successful loan spell at Queen of the South, MacDonald was well versed in the tumultuous nature of Hearts.
In fact, he could have made his debut two years previous against Rangers when Eduard Malofeev was in charge.
The circumstances would have been even more baffling than his actual debut, potentially replacing Craig Gordon with ten minutes to go at Tynecastle.
MacDonald admitted he “absolute s***" himself when the Belarussian football legend told him to warm-up, unhappy with how Gordon conceded a goal to Nacho Novo.
“I was on the bench and the next thing Eduard Malofeev turns round and starts in screaming to me in Russian," he said.
"His wee interpreter is next to him saying ‘go warm up, go warm up’. I’m panicking and also shouting ‘Am a goalie!’.
"We’ve just gone 1-0 down to Rangers with ten minutes to go, I think we only had one sub left and he’s screaming at me to go warm-up.
"It’s around the time of the Riccarton Three era as I’m pretty sure I was sitting next to big Elvis [Steven Pressley] on the bench.
"I have to go out and warm-up but I’m not sure I went behind the goal where Craig was. It was surreal.
"At that point I hadn’t played a first-team football game either. It was just a strange thing.
"He obviously didn't take kindly to the goal going in and thought Craig should have done better.”