Marshall: Mackay was heartbeat of best-ever team

Hearts players Dave Mackay, Jimmy Murray, Willie Bauld and Ian Crawford with the 1958 League Cup
Hearts players Dave Mackay, Jimmy Murray, Willie Bauld and Ian Crawford with the 1958 League Cup
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Gordon Marshall spent many an evening clinking champagne glasses with Dave Mackay. Success was par for the course when you played in Hearts’ greatest ever team.

The goalkeeper and captain celebrated league and cup successes together in the late 1950s, memories Marshall will forever cherish.

Mackay passed away in Nottingham on Monday evening at the age of 80 and leaves the legacy of possibly the greatest footballer ever to don a maroon shirt. He captained the club he supported and won the Scottish League championship, a Scottish Cup and two League Cups before joining Tottenham Hotspur in 1959. His name stands alongside those of legendary Tynecastle figures like Tommy and Bobby Walker, John Cumming and John Robertson.

Marshall, now 75, joined Hearts aged 17 in 1956 as the club’s most iconic team was reaching its pinnacle. He recalls playing beside heroes like Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh in a team driven by the commanding Mackay.

“I remember the day Davie was sold to Spurs. Johnny Harvey [Hearts trainer] came in and said: ‘They’ve just sold Davie for £30,000.’ He looked devastated,” said Marshall, whose son, also Gordon, was a goalkeeper with Falkirk, Celtic, Kilmarnock and Motherwell. “The rest of us felt the same because our team was built around Davie. He was the driving force of that side.

“He was a great competitor in everything he did. He trained the exact same way he played – very hard but very fair. He was like that every day. Of course there was that great photograph of Davie with Billy Bremner, but he was never a dirty player. He didn’t have that in him.

“You used to see him hammering himself in training every day at Hearts. If we had a night out, you could guarantee if you went to Tynecastle the next day, Davie would be in. He would be working himself hard. If he’d had a couple of beers, he was hammering himself to get them out of his system and improve his fitness.

“I remember walking into the gym one day and he was working his socks off, battering a ball off all four walls, working on his game. Others like Alfie Conn would be the jokers but Davie was a great leader. I think he proved that at Tottenham.”

Mackay was tempted by the chance of a return to Hearts aged 34 as his decorated spell at White Hart Lane was ending. However, another British football icon, Brian Clough, had different ideas. He decided the tenacious Scot would make an influential figure in his Derby County team. Having won the league championship, three FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup with Spurs, Mackay then helped Derby win the old second division in 1969. He would later lead them to the first division title as manager in 1975.

“He won everything up here with Hearts and then went down to England and became a legend,” continued Marshall. “Just when we thought he was coming back to Hearts, Cloughie saw something in him and took him to Derby. He made him sweeper. Well, as a goalie, you could play behind Davie all day. He was class.

“I was just a young boy when I joined Hearts and I remember walking into the dressing-room with all these star names. ‘I’m playing with Willie Bauld, Alfie Conn, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Dave Mackay,’ I’m saying to myself. I felt like the little kid in amongst them all but they were all great with me.

“Davie had such a presence about him, he was right up there with the likes of Duncan Edwards of Manchester United. That’s the biggest compliment I could pay anyone. Davie was like a Scottish equivalent of Duncan Edwards.”