Scoring the winning goal at Ibrox underpins Osman Sow’s Hearts legacy.
A proposed loan return to Tynecastle Park collapsed in August, denying the giant Swedish striker the chance of another chapter at a club he still cherishes. That strike against Rangers in 2014 therefore remains as prominent a memory as any from Sow’s time in maroon.
Now with MK Dons, he will be watching closely on Sunday to see how Hearts fare away to Rangers. They hold a five-point lead atop the Ladbrokes Premiership and are eight ahead of their weekend opponents, but trips to Glasgow are notoriously hazardous. They have not won at Ibrox since that stoppage-time winner on Sow’s league debut.
“Hopefully I am remembered for that goal,” he tells the Evening News. “I don’t think about it every day but sometimes you get reminded of it and it’s a good memory for me. I remember Rangers scored an equaliser to make it 1-1 and there were only seconds left. I can’t remember how Sam [Nicholson] got the ball but he was dribbling forward and the he played a pass to slide me in. I just went for it and scored.”
The celebration was rather tame. Both clubs were in Scotland’s second tier at the time so perhaps Sow didn’t truly realise the magnitude of what he had just done.
“Not really because I was tired. It was the 90th minute in the first game of the season,” he laugh. “It was important, though, and I knew that much. The goal made the newspapers in Sweden so I got messages from back home. It was a good feeling.”
Goals like that one, plus screamers against Celtic and Motherwell, made Sow an iconic figure in Gorgie until a £1.1million transfer to China in February 2016. It was no surprise that excitement reached fever-pitch when news of his possible return to Hearts emerged a few weeks ago. However, it was quickly doused when he headed back to MK Dons after a medical.
Summer knee surgery had not yet totally healed and Hearts decided to look elsewhere for a new forward having sold Kyle Lafferty to Rangers. A few days later, Craig Wighton arrived from Dundee.
Asked if he was disappointed at the outcome, Sow is philosophical. “It’s football. One day it’s like this, the next day it’s another thing. You just need to be happy, enjoy the ride and work hard, really,” he says.
“At the time, I was really hoping the move would go through. I don’t know exactly what happened or the details of why it didn’t go through.
“When I went up to Edinburgh, I saw the improvement in the club since I was there. I saw the new stand at Tynecastle. It’s massive and it’s a great credit to the people who have made this possible. It’s amazing. The fans are a part of that, and credit to Craig Levein as well.
“Even Heriot-Watt has totally changed. Everything was really positive.”
He would have no hesitation in rejoining Hearts if the opportunity arose again. “Playing at Tynecastle is an amazing feeling. I can’t predict the future but I would definitely be open to playing for Hearts again one day,” he says.
“Now I’m focused on MK and looking forward to just getting back playing football regularly. That’s my first aim before anything.”
He has managed only two substitute appearances so far this season and is frustrated at not being able to help the challenge for promotion from England’s League Two.
Manager Paul Tisdale, who replaced Robbie Neilson earlier this year, is eager to have a fully-fit Sow to call upon. It was Neilson who brought Sow back to Britain after spells in China and the United Arab Emirates. He then lost his job at MK Dons whilst the player has been battling to reach his peak physical condition.
“The most difficult part for me here at MK Dons has been my own body,” he admits, candidly. “I had surgery on my knee in the summer and before that I had some unfortunate injuries last year. I collided with a keeper and got injured so there have been ups and downs. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now and I’m feeling more positive.
“I have recovered from the surgery now. At the moment, I just have a little niggle in my groin. It’s nothing major. I’m doing some gym work and I’ll be back training with the boys in a week or so.
“Things are looking quite good at MK just now, we just need to turn our draws into wins. We have a strong squad and I believe we can do more than we are doing at the moment.”
Performing to the maximum is also a pertinent issue up the road in Edinburgh. Hearts’ scintillating start to the 2018/19 campaign sees them heading to Rangers on the back of a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
Manager Craig Levein has assembled a squad strong in depth and is keeping faith with a settled starting line-up. It is little wonder Sow would have signed that loan agreement in a minute. For now at least, he must look on from afar with his own sense of quiet satisfaction.
“Hearts are doing really well. I’m happy for the club, the fans and all the people paying into the Foundation of Hearts,” he says.
“It’s great to see the team doing well and I wish them all the best. I keep in touch with Arnaud [Djoum] and one or two others. I wish Gogsy [kit man], Craig and everyone good luck.”
Polite, courteous and positive. Hearts have changed beyond all recognition since their last victory at Ibrox, but Osman Sow is exactly the same as always.