Hearts 21st century XI - The central midfielders revealed

Two cup winners and two poster boys from two of the most successful eras in Hearts' recent history have deservedly made their way into the best XI.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 12:42 pm
Paul Hartley (left) and Colin Cameron celebrate important goals for Hearts

Colin Cameron

Cameron was a star from the beginning. Joining in March 1996, he was a significant boost to Hearts' chances of getting into Europe at the end of last season as his quality on the ball and goalscoring touch lifted Jim Jefferies' side, only for them to miss out to Aberdeen on goal difference.

He would continue to excel over a five-year period where he established himself as one of the premier midfielders in the country. He was also one of the deadliest penalty takers in the club's history, including showing nerves of steel to fire Hearts in front less than two minutes into the 1998 Scottish Cup final.

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The Jambos would win the match 2-1, ending 36 years without a major trophy and forever cementing Cameron's place in the club's history.

Cameron's importance to the team was underlined the following season as Jefferies' men flirted with relegation without the injured star. A pelvic problem was finally resolved after it was discovered the issue required dental work, allowing Cameron to return to the side and, along with new signing Darren Jackson, help them survive.

Following two more strong seasons he moved to Wolves in August 2001 for a fee of £1.75m. Already a regular in the Scotland squad, he would go on to win 28 caps for his country.

Paul Hartley

Hartley did not enjoy such a rip-roaring start to his Tynecastle career. The former Hibs flop was infamously booed upon his unveiling at half-time during a match in 2003 after agreeing a pre-contract to join from St Johnstone.

His form wasn't at its best either, mainly down to manager Craig Levein initially using him as a right winger, a position he'd played before but not the one in which he excelled at McDiarmid Park.

Once he was moved into central midfielder his career really took off. He played 38 times his first season and proved himself to be the ultimate box-to-box midfielder as his pace and stamina enabled him to tear up and down the field for 90 minutes.

The only thing missing was a regular goal touch, but that came the following campaign as his tally jumped from three goals to 15. He also marked himself as being another ice-cold penalty taker, regularly dispatching them with ease.

Hartley's career at Tynecastle almost came to a close in 2005. Celtic had offered £300,000 for the player, who understandably was eager to move to his boyhood heroes. Hearts turned it down and Hartley turned in a transfer request. The player would later remark that his special bond with the Hearts crowd was sealed when they chanted his name the first match after the request was handed in.

There was to be one more twist in the tale. The arrival of Vladimir Romanov as the club's owner and an influx of summer signings convinced Hartley to remain in Gorgie and sign a new deal. Though the club didn't follow up on their early season promise - thanks largely to the departure of manager George Burley following a bust-up with Romanov - they would win the Scottish Cup and qualify for the Champions League.

Hartley played a huge role in both. His penalty in the penultimate match against Aberdeen - one of 17 goals that season - clinched the maroon side's place as runners-up to champions Celtic. And while Hartley was foolishly sent off in the Scottish Cup final against Gretna, a game Hearts won on penalties, they may never have made it there in the first place without his epic hat-trick in the 4-0 semi-final victory against Hibs.

His exit came the following season. After the 'Riccarton Three' episode, Hartley was sold in the January transfer window. He finally got his move to Celtic, though Hearts made over three times the initial offer with the player going for £1.1 million. Despite his destination and the rancour between the two sets of supporters, he left with the best wishes of the fans.