As Paul Hartley’s 28th minute opener found the net, Calum Elliot wheeled off in pursuit of his team-mate. On his way past the unfortunate Hibs goalkeeper Zibby Malkowski, who was on his knees in the box, the young Hearts striker roared in jubilation.
“I don’t remember that,” he says - but footage of the Tynecastle side’s 2006 Scottosh Cup semi-final battering of their capital rivals shows that in that moment, Elliot is a picture of unconfined joy. “It’s funny, because I don’t think you ever totally enjoy those games, not when you are just one goal ahead. You are still too busy thinking you don’t want to get beat. There is so much at stake and, especially coming from Edinburgh there is no escaping the intense scrutiny that comes with those games.
“But the first goal in derbies are usually crucial and that goal wasn’t that long before half-time and it set us up nicely for the second half. Then the manager spoke to us at half time and that gave us the confidence to go back out there and get the job done.”
Steven Pressley did not re-emerge after sustaining a head knock just before the break but such was the calibre of that Hearts squad, the Gorgie side were able to send out European Championship winner Takis Fyssas as a more than able replacement. Three more goals - two from Hartley to complete his hat-trick and one for Edgaras Jankauskas - completed the rout.
“There has, obviously, been the cup final since but at that time it was one of the biggest derbies there had been in years. Playing a derby, at a full Hampden, in a semi final, made it so significant. The result was convincing in the end.”
There was supposed to be another memorable Hampden showdown taking place today as the Edinburgh foes faced up in this season’s Scottish Cup semi final. The coronavirus lockdown has foiled those plans.
But having moved into management with Tynecastle FC, in the East of Scotland league, Elliot is happy to dredge up old memories to fill the void.
“The thing I remember most from the game wasn’t the celebrations afterwards, it was that even during the warm up the Hearts end was full and, with the players and the leaders we had in that team, we all kind of knew we were going to win that game. There was a real confidence in the group that we would get the result that we needed to take us through to the final.”
Elliot was replaced by Roman Bednar with eight minutes remaining. By then the scoreline was 3-0 and Hibs had been reduced to 10 men. Within six minutes the Leith side were down to nine men and Hartley had converted a penalty.
“That was when I could relax and enjoy the atmosphere. I don’t always remember a lot about most of the games I’ve played in and I was still kind of young back then but that game is one that does stick in my mind.”
Just 19 at the time, and a contender for the Player’s Young Player of the Year that season, Elliot’s was guided by the experienced professionals around him. Their post-match response was eye-opening as they chose not to indulge in wild celebration on their return to Edinburgh.
“After the game, everyone was delighted, but we were still competing to finish second. I think Celtic had just gotten away from us by that point in terms of winning the league but it was a close battle between us and Rangers to finish second, which we eventually did. And that group didn’t really see it as success to win a semi-final. They wanted to win the Scottish Cup.”
They eventually did, having started every game on way to the finale, and got onto the scoresheet, against Aberdeen in the fourth round, Elliot wasn’t part of it; dropped from the matchday squad for the head to head with Gretna.
“I was really disappointed. I had been involved all the way to the final but there was some politics. I had played in the Youth Cup final on the Wednesday and still trained with the squad on the Thursday but on the Saturday I wasn’t even on the bench. You don’t enjoy it the same way when you are not involved. Even although you played in all the other rounds, you don’t feel part of it.
“The next day was the open top bus parade but I was due to meet up with the Scotland U-19s. I could have travelled on the Monday but I just wanted to move on and get back to playing football. Maybe that’s the one regret, that I didn’t stay for the parade.”
The European Championships were a pick-me-up. Having ousted a France side featuring Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri, they made it to the final, where they gave Spain’s Gerard Pique and Juan Mata a fright before eventually succumbing to the greater technical ability.
“I didn’t get to play in the Scottish Cup final but at least the Euros allowed me to finish the season strongly.”