Colin Cameron: 1998 Scottish Cup final legend recalls the day Hearts beat Rangers to end 36 years of hurt

They say you should never change your mind when taking a penalty kick.

By Craig Fowler
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 7:00 pm

Well, if every player followed that piece of advice, Heart of Midlothian and their supporters may not have enjoyed one of the most important days in the club’s history when they defeated Rangers in the 1998 Scottish Cup final to end 36 years of trophy-free hurt.

“It was just before my run up that I started thinking to myself, Andy Goram being Andy Goram, he'll have watched previous penalties that I'd taken, so I just had a feeling he was going to go the way I would normally put it,” Colin Cameron, scorer of the spot-kick in the second minute at Celtic Park, told the Edinburgh Evening News. “At the last moment I just opened up my foot and put it the other way. It proved to be the right decision because he went were I'd normally put it. So he would’ve had a chance of saving it.”

Steve Fulton being fouled in the penalty area seconds into the iconic fixture fitted perfectly into the gameplan crafted by manager Jim Jefferies and assistant Billy Brown. Though Hearts would finish the campaign only five points behind their cup final opponents in second, having really pushed the Old Firm in the title race, they hadn’t beaten Rangers that season and lost comfortably in three of the four meetings.

Colin Cameron celebrates with his Hearts team-mates after tucking away his penalty in the 1998 Scottish Cup final. Picture: SNS

"We were a match for anybody in the league but against Celtic or Rangers we were just a wee bit short,” said Cameron. “The reason was we were blowing away teams, scoring goals freely, so we felt in games against Celtic and Rangers that we could go toe to toe. The gaffer and Billy learned their lesson from that and decided on changing how we would approach the final. We worked on just trying to hit them on the counter attack.

"I watched the game back about two or three years ago for the first time. It wasn't the best of games, but that ended up suiting us. Rangers had unbelievable players who would've cut us open if it was an open game. I never felt I really got into the game much. It was all about running. I'd said to Billy Brown that it was just as well I scored the penalty because otherwise they could've hooked me.”

Brian Laudrup hit the post and Gilles Rousset had to palm away a long-range free-kick from Lorenzo Amoruso, but otherwise the underdogs held Walter Smith’s men at bay. Then Stephane Adam struck. Latching on to a mistake by Amoruso, the Frenchman drove the ball underneath Goram for a 2-0 lead.

It would be required. Ally McCoist, who came on at half-time, pulled one back for Rangers with nine minutes remaining. Moments later the striker went down right on the edge of the box as referee Willie Young came charging in. Was it a penalty? Hearts fans thought so. Rangers fans thought so. Just about everyone inside Hampden thought so.

Colin Cameron slots home his penalty to give Hearts the lead with only two minutes on the clock. Picture: SNS

"No, I didn't think he was pointing for a penalty. I really didn't,” insists Cameron. “I could see from the way he pointed he was pointing for a free-kick. I know Fulty thought it was a penalty. He was about to drop on his knees because we were all in the same boat. We knew as a team we had to hang on to win the cup. It would have been too much to come back from, being 2-0 up and going into extra-time. I certainly had no more to give.”

Cameron was hampered by a stomach injury which had plagued him for the previous two months. It would keep him out for three-quarters of the following season until a French osteopathy (recommended by Rousset) solved it with an assist from a dentist, who fitted the attacking midfielder was a gum-shield to alleviate the issue. But that was almost a year away and in the dying embers of the final he was in a lot of pain. The final whistle was within sight. Just a few more minutes.

Mercifully, Young brought the match to a close. Thousands of Hearts fans rejoiced in sheer ecstasy as the long wait finally came to an end. The players embraced on the park before getting themselves changed and back on the team bus to Edinburgh to join the party.

"The celebrations were unforgettable… well, at least up until a point,” laughed Cameron. “Though it was put on hold in a sense on the bus as everyone was waiting on Fulty to do his urine test, which didn't help because we were already drinking so by the time we got back to Edinburgh we were well on our way.

Colin Cameron, right, with Neil McCann during the full-time celebrations. Picture: SNS

"As we reached Sighthill you could already see people lining up on the streets. The closer you got to Saughton there's more people and by the time you got to the start of Gorgie you couldn't see pavements. I don't know how long it took us that last mile, but probably about two champagne bottles worth! Big Jim Hamilton opened the skyline and got on top of the bus. I dunno how nobody fell off, not that it would have hurt us anyway. There were that many people they would've just caught us.

"The trophy parade was just about kicking on, refilling, topping up! But that was phenomenal. The number of fans that were there. It was crazy. It really was. There were 180,000 people to watch us, it's just mind-blowing.”

So what single piece of advice does a Hearts Scottish Cup winner and club legend have for the class of 2022 as they try to follow in his footsteps?

"Make sure that when you come off that pitch, regardless of what the result is, you couldn't have done any more,” he said. “Leave it on the pitch, that's what I'd say. You never know when you're going to have another opportunity, so don't have any regrets.”

Colin Cameron (far right), celebrates with (from left to right) Stefano Salvatori, David Weir, Steve Fulton, Jim Hamilton, Neil McCann and an obscured Dave McPherson. Picture: SNS

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