As a youngster at Hearts, Jonny Stewart used to look up to Darren Barr and Ryan Stevenson. On Saturday, he hopes to inflict a shock William Hill Scottish Cup defeat on the Dumbarton duo.
Bonnyrigg Rose skipper Stewart learned his trade at Hearts’ Riccarton base and made two appearances for the first team before spells at Brechin City and East Fife. This weekend, he’ll lead his side out at New Dundas Park as they attempt to down Ladbrokes Championship side The Sons in the third round. The enormity of the task is not lost on Stewart as Bonnyrigg bid to reach the fourth round for the first time, bookies pricing them up as big as 11/1 to beat Dumbarton.
“We’re obviously massive underdogs with Dumbarton being a good few leagues above us, but you never know. If we play how we can play and they have a bit of an off day, there might be a chance of an upset,” said the 26-year-old.
“We’re going into it with nothing to lose. We’ve just got to try and play our own game – get the ball down, pass it about and work hard, and you never know what the result could be. You’ve seen big upsets in cups like that before.”
Saturday’s cup tie is a trip into the unknown for the Championship’s second-bottom club. An away trip to a Junior club, who will have the backing of a large home support right on top of them, is one Stephen Aitken’s side would surely have hoped to avoid. Being at home makes a massive difference,” continued Stewart. “There should be a good support there. I think the whole of the town is talking about it and having them behind us will give us a wee advantage.
“We are a wee bit of an unknown to them. I don’t think they’ll know too much about us and it will be a ground that they’ve never come to before so hopefully they turn up at Bonnyrigg and don’t fancy it. There’s not a big stand or that down at New Dundas Park.
“I know we’ve got new changing rooms but they might be used to slightly better facilities.”
Boyhood Hearts fan Stewart trained regularly with Barr and Stevenson as part of the first team after making his debut at Celtic Park in 2009.
He doubts the duo will remember him, however, given the amount of players training at Riccarton during the Vladimir Romanov years.
He said: “I was at Hearts when they [Darren Barr and Ryan Stevenson] were both there. They are both good guys. Stevo was definitely a character anyway.
“They are quality players who have obviously played at the highest level, both representing Scotland as well, so we’ll have to be on our game to keep them quiet.
“I was training with the first team pretty much every day, so I got to train with them and it was a good experience.
“They were good players and good professionals, so being a young boy I looked up to them. They might not remember me considering there were 65-70 players there, but I’ve had a couple of nights out with them and things like that, so they might remember me . . . they might not.”
Stewart’s last season with the Tynecastle club was season 2011/12, although he wasn’t at Hampden for 5-1 Scottish Cup final win over Hibs. Instead, he was in Magaluf for fellow Riccarton graduate Jason Thomson’s stag do, where he cheered his former team-mates on from a local bar.
“I’ve been a Hearts fan all my life. I was there in 1998 and 2006, but for 2012 I was at Jason Thomson’s stag do in Magaluf,” said Stewart.
“That was the season I was leaving Hearts. It was the end of my contract so I wasn’t involved in the squad [for the final] or anything like that. Jason had booked his stag do, so I couldn’t miss that.
“The majority of the boys there were Hearts fans so we found a wee pub on the Saturday afternoon that had it on the big screen outside – it was a good occasion, it was a good day.
“One of my mates actually had a wee bet on Barr to score the first goal, so I was a wee bit disappointed I never did that!”
Barr may be part of Tynecastle folklore after his Hampden opener, but few die-hard Hearts fans would begrudge Stewart’s Rose a dream cup victory this weekend.