What Jim Jefferies told Gary Naysmith about 'the best left-back in the world' during Hearts' 1998 Scottish Cup semi-final win over Falkirk
Jim Jefferies watched one of the best goals he had ever see live 23 years ago this week en route to Hearts claiming the 1998 Scottish Cup – but it came against his side.
The Hearts manager rates former Hibs and Falkirk winger Kevin McAllister’s goal for the Bairns in the semi-final defeat to Hearts as one of the best ever – and recalls his pick-me-up words of encouragement to left-back Gary Naysmith who was led a merry dance by the winger known as ‘Crunchie’.
The best left-back in the world couldn’t have handled the Falkirk wide-man at Ibrox in 1998 he says, but Hearts fought back from his audacious chipped equaliser with five minutes to play and won through to the memorable final with Rangers thanks to late goals from Stephane Adam and Neil McCann.
"I said to Gary Naysmith at half-time, ‘look you’re having a tough time so you either do something about it in the second half or you’re out the team’,” Jefferies said.
"He came out the second half and did better, though actually Kevin McAllister scored one of the best goals I’ve ever seen as well. He took the ball and played it inside, in to feet and got it back and then chipped Gilles Rousset – a goalkeeper of 6’5” with a postage stamp chip.
"How can you chip a 6’5” goalkeeper? It’s one of the best goals I’ve ever seen.
“I said to Gary after the game, ‘the best left-back in the world would never have been able to handle Kevin McAllister in that game, so don’t feel bad’.
"He did play better but the best in the world would have had trouble with McAllister – that’s how we rated him on that day and he didn’t deserve to be on the losing side that day.”
Hearts won 3-1 and went on to defeat Rangers 2-1 in the final and lift the trophy for the first time in over 40 years.
Jefferies, and assistant Billy Brown, were speaking to The Crunchie Initiative, a Falkirk fans’ fundraising scheme aiming to re-name one of the stands at The Falkirk Stadium in the former Hibee and Chelsea winger’s honour after three stints at his hometown club – which Jefferies and Brown managed between 1990 and 1995 before moving to Tynecastle.