Gary Mackay: Why this Hearts squad can be legends at Hampden
Nothing has surprised me about the build-up to the cup final because football players are human beings.
Hearts had done their work in the league and done everything asked of them after gaining promotion from the Championship. The European spot was guaranteed with a number of games left. So it was no surprise that there hasn’t been the same high energy and desire as there had been previously.
Human nature is that, when you have a cup final coming up, the priority is to make sure you get there fit to play.
We’ve had one or two wee injuries and we all hope Liam Boyce will be fit after going off early on Saturday. We have a strong enough squad to deal with that and I think the Hearts management will have the players fully focused on the final now.
To play in a spectacle like this is brilliant for any footballer. Rangers have played extra time in a massive European final but I’m not sure that will have much impact on Saturday. There is a trophy on the line and they will be just as ready as Hearts.
Our club has come on quite a journey, led by a board of directors who refused to make a rash decision last March when we suffered a terrible exit from the Scottish Cup. Now we are in the final because they kept faith with Robbie Neilson and his staff.
This is the payback. The players also have a chance to pay themselves back for the massive effort they have put in this season. The opportunity to play in Europe is fantastic but winning a trophy is something different. Many of them have never done that.
To become Scottish Cup winners on the last day of the season, on top of qualifying for Europe, would be a massive achievement. It would be in keeping with the efforts of the squad throughout this campaign.
This would give them added fulfilment after finishing third in the Premiership. We all have our opinions on what the gameplan should be but I prefer to leave that to the management team.
Robbie and his coaches deserve huge applause for what they have done this year and I think we should all have faith in them. Whether their plan works or not on the day, who knows? They need to decide how they want to go about the game. They’ve got it right more often than not this season.
One major goal has been achieved but now the management and players can all become legends. That’s a tag which probably really only belongs to Craig Gordon from the current squad at this moment in time. They would be remembered for years to come if they win the Scottish Cup this weekend.
They aren’t short of experience of Hampden having played four semi-finals and two finals there since 2019. The experience of winning is what you want them to carry into Saturday’s game. I won semi-finals at Hampden but never a final. This can make it a truly memorable season.