One of the more unusual items gifted to Hearts over the years is a small taxidermied puffin courtesy of Icelandic outfit IBV Vestmannaeyjer.
The 1999/2000 UEFA Cup draw couldn’t have been much kinder for Jim Jefferies’ men. Back in those days, Scottish teams were considerably less wary about facing sides from supposedly weaker leagues than they are today, and Hearts were expected to dispose of their Nordic cousins with consummate ease.
On August 10 a hardy travelling contingent of around 150 Jambos made the trip to the national stadium in Reykjavik to witness Hearts notch up a sure and steady 2-0 away win. The home side rarely looked as if they were capable of threatening Antti Niemi’s goal as both Scott Severin and Darren Jackson hit the back of the net. It was Jackson’s second goal of his career in Iceland, his first coming ten years earlier when playing for Dundee United in a 3-1 win over Hafnarfjardar. The forward quipped that his success rate must be “something about the Icelandic air”.
Two Thursdays later, a second string Hearts were brimful of confidence for the visit of IBV to Tynecastle. Their swagger was well-justified, too, as goals from Gary McSwegan, Robert Tomaschek and teenager Kris O’Neil contributed to a 5-0 aggregate victory. Despite playing much of the return leg in second gear, the Jam Tarts more than merited their place in the first round proper. A crowd of 8,720 was blamed on the ticket price of £12 for non-season ticket holders.
Hearts progressed to the next round of the UEFA Cup only to be defeated by German cracks VFB Stuttgart. In the second leg, which is generally considered to be one of the greatest and most memorable atmospheres at Tynecastle in recent years, Hearts came within a whisker of causing a historic upset, but a 1-0 away loss and a 3-2 home win saw them bow out of the competition on the away goals rule.
While the part-timers from Iceland failed to make much of a mark in either or their ties versus Hearts, they will be remembered for their unique addition to the Hearts club museum.