Remembering when John Robertson became Hearts' all-time record league goalscorer

It’s been exactly 25 years since a club legend made himself an official all-time record holder at Heart of Midlothian Football Club in what was otherwise a dead-rubber match in the Scottish Premier Division.

By Craig Fowler
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 12:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 1:05 pm

Jim Jefferies’ side entertained Rangers on May 10, 1997, in the final match of the campaign. Rangers had only just pipped Celtic to their ninth consecutive title, while Hearts were unable to move from fourth spot as the league drew to a close.

With neither club in action during the following week’s Scottish Cup final – played between Falkirk and Kilmarnock at Rangers’ Ibrox ground – there was only one real question going into the match: would John Robertson break Jimmy Wardhaugh’s record and become Hearts’ all-time league record goalscorer? The diminutive striker had equalled the record the previous home match with a late equaliser in a draw against Dunfermline and was out to end the season on an emotional high.

Robertson was the recipient of not one, not two but three trophy presentations before the match. First was a crystal football purchased by his wife’s family. The next was a vase awarded by Hearts, while Rangers themselves saw fit to mark the occasion with their own gift to the Tynecastle hero.

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John Robertson celebrating scoring the penalty which lifted him above Jimmy Wardhaugh as Hearts' all-time record league goalscorer. Picture: Julie Bull/TSPL

"It was a great start to the game and sort of really got me going with the hope that I could get the final goal against Rangers to break the record,” said Robertson in the Ace of Hearts documentary released later that year. “Obviously my chances were boosted when Walter Smith told me half the team were still recovering from their hangovers!”

All four goals wouldn’t come until a hectic seven-minute spell late in the contest. Colin Cameron put the hosts in front on 79 minutes with an emphatic finish before Derek McInnes almost immediately equalised up the other end.

It was then Robertson’s turn to take centre stage. He cleverly won a penalty from future Hearts defender Gordan Petric to set up a showdown from 12 yards with Andy Dibble, the well-travelled former Manchester City stopper who was signed as emergency cover for Andy Goram in March of that year.

"It was the moment everyone was waiting on,” said Robertson. “When I put the ball down on the spot I just decided I was going to hammer it down the middle. But then I heard Ian Durrant and Paul Gascoigne telling the goalie just to stand still, so that blew that route. I just decided to put my head down and hit it in the corner.

John Robertson being brought to the ground by Gordan Petric. Picture: Julie Bull/TSPL

"Everyone knew what it meant. It was relief first and then the satisfaction came as I thought ‘great, that’s it over and done with’.”

The best would be saved for last. Picking the ball up with his back to goal around 40 yards out, Robertson turned away from two Rangers defenders, charged to the edge of the box, sold both Joachim Björklund and Petric with dummies before firing beyond Dibble into the far corner as the roof came off Tynecastle once again.

"It’s funny as a striker who’s not scored in a couple of games. You get one and then you can’t miss. I just went on a bit of a mazy. I’m not sure anyone has seen John Robertson move so far with the ball.”

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