Stephen Kingsley's finest Hearts moment sparks excitement for a 'special' future at Tynecastle

“Kingsley gets it back from Boyce….OH MY GOODNESS ME!” Liam McLeod's BBC Scotland commentary captured the euphoria of many Hearts followers who have since replayed Stephen Kingsley's Scottish Cup semi-final goal over and over.

Friday, 6th May 2022, 7:00 am

Perhaps even the man himself has hit 'rewind' a few times. It was just one of those moments: The feed into Liam Boyce and the bounce pass were neat and tidy. Kingsley's subsequent raking left-footed curler into the top corner of Hibs' net broke all boundaries of what is expected from a left-back. Although this is no ordinary left-back, to be fair.

Two Edinburgh derby goals in a week is a microcosm of a defender with a potent scoring threat. Set-pieces like the one at Hampden Park are Kingsley’s speciality but he also scores bullet headers. Occasionally, he settles for an average goal.

Seven times in total this season he has found the net, although there is no debating his finest strike. The swerving effort high beyond Matt Macey prompted some Hibs fans to head for the exits with only 21 minutes of the semi-final played. At the opposite end, Kingsley’s hero status was cemented.

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His goal proved to be the winner as Hearts reached a third Scottish Cup final in four years and secured a historic European group place for next season. He hasn’t played since due to a hip injury.

After a full week’s training at Riccarton, he is eager to return to the starting line-up against Celtic tomorrow. The intervening period offered plenty time to review video of that goal.

“Because of the size of the moment, who it was against and what it meant for the club, it was a huge goal,” said the player in an exclusive Evening News interview. “It’s definitely my biggest moment in a Hearts shirt. The only thing that might rival it on a personal basis was when I scored two on my league debut for the club against Dundee.

“That had a massive effect on me because I was without a club for a few months and I’d worked my socks off to come in here and get off to a good start. The goal in the semi, because of what it meant to the club and the fans, is definitely my biggest moment so far.

“Ellis Simms scored a great goal first, then I got the second and we were disappointed not to keep the two-goal advantage for long. It was a great day. I was delighted to get a goal but it meant so much to the club.”

It also generated even more worship from supporters who already idolised him. “Watching Stephen Kingsley, putting on a show,” is a line frequently heard at Hearts matches these days.

It is slightly uncommon for fans to cherish a defender to such a degree that they devote songs to him. That probably underlines Kingsley’s impact in Edinburgh. Adam Eckersley and Lee Wallace were standout Hearts left-backs in their day but Kingsley probably usurps them in terms of popularity.

He isn’t quite at Takis Fyssas levels yet but would anyone bet against him reaching those heights if the prosperity continues?

Stephen Kingsley celebrates after scoring against Hibs.

“It’s been amazing,” he said on the player-fan relationship. “Right from the first day I signed, the welcome was absolutely brilliant. I have a great relationship with the fans and obviously goals do help that.

“The team has done brilliantly and it’s a really exciting place to be with a great atmosphere. I love the relationship I have with the fans and I’m really relishing it.”

They will welcome him back into the starting line-up if selected tomorrow. “I trained at the tail-end of last week and fully this week so I’m looking forward to Saturday. My hip was a wee bit overloaded in both the Hibs games and it flared up in the semi-final. I’m experienced with it now and I know I just need a week or ten days to reset things.”

With nothing left to play for in the league, Hearts encounter dead rubbers in their final three games away to Celtic and Motherwell, then at home to Rangers.

“Sometimes a team can drop into that mindset of ‘we’ve got nothing to play for’,” said Kingsley. “I don’t think we can do that for two reasons – the quality of opposition and the cup final to come. We can’t take our foot off the gas. We are on an unbeaten run and want to keep the momentum going.”

The match should lack nothing in intensity given each opponent is still chasing one prize or another. Then it’s the cup final against Rangers and, pretty soon, one of UEFA’s anthems will be blaring through the Tynecastle PA system.

“When I signed for Hearts, these are the things I really looked forward to,” explained Kingsley. “The club have done well in the Scottish Cup recently and I was relishing those big occasions.

“Probably the biggest one of all is Europe. It was a project I knew wasn’t going to happen overnight but in my second season we’ve secured a European spot. It’s something I haven’t done in my career so far.

“I did have it in the back of my mind when I came here. A big goal was to experience European football. It’s such an exciting place to be just now. I hope we can end this season with a bang, look forward to those European ties and make it special.”

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