OPINION: May 19 allows Hearts fans to revel in nostalgia
As Hearts fans appeal, plead and pray for the current season to end, remembering brighter days on the field takes on greater precedent.
Nostalgia becomes a comforting companion. And for Jambos there is no memory more comforting than that momentous day five years ago today. May 19, 2012 will forever be the day in Gorgie. The day an indelible mark was made in the club’s history.
The biggest fixture in the Edinburgh derby’s history took place at Hampden Park between two relatively middling teams as the Capital decamped to Glasgow for the afternoon. Hibs fans will want to forget the names Matt Doherty, Pa Kujabi, Tom Soares, Craig Thomson ... for the maroon and white support, Danny Grainger, Darren Barr, Ian Black – players who would never be near discussion around the club’s greatest – will forever be legends in EH11.
As fans sit at their desks and reminisce, tears of unbridled joy welling up as they remember Rudi Skacel’s double or Ryan McGowan’s diving header from a couple of millimetres, it will be feel like yesterday. Yet, those five years have been a tour de force of endurance. The club has celebrated, worried, suffered, endured and most importantly survived.
Even as Marius Zaliukas hoisted the famous trophy high into the Glasgow sky, and thousands in the stadium, in Gorgie and around the world felt as if they were floating, off the field the club was only heading in one direction. The cup was Vladimir Romanov’s last stand.
The hopes, dreams and ambitions when the Russian-born businessman first arrived had long left. Under Paulo Sergio the team had a mediocre season, finishing fifth in the league, below Motherwell and Dundee United. The football was largely uninspiring and the Jambos went into the cup final on the back of a 5-0 defeat to Celtic.
But all was forgotten on May 19. It was the only match that mattered.
High points would be few and far between in the coming seasons. A draw at Anfield and handful of derby wins. They were interspersed with a disheartening defeat to St Mirren in the League Cup final and an embarrassing semi-final defeat in the same competition the following year to Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Easter Road.
However, the real action was happening away from the pitch. The future of the club was in jeopardy, on field issues were of secondary importance. The key players were weren’t on the pitch but off it: BDO administrators.
BDO were tasked with the convoluted process of foraging their way through red tape, dealing with UBIG, the Lithuanian company which owned a substantial stake in the club and who were a major creditor. Matters became more complicated considering UBIG were also facing financial difficulty.
As conspicuous as Vladimir Romanov was on arrival he was just as inconspicuous when it came to getting out of dodge. As for Roman Romanov the mystery continues.
The club were plummeting towards the second tier, the first they’d play outside the top-flight since 1983. But 2013-2014 was a paradox; while it was demoralising for fans seeing the club struggle through, weighed down by a transfer embargo and a 15-point deduction, it was equally uplifting to witness a club, fanbase and community come together.
With BDO working tirelessly, Foundation of Hearts embodied Sir George McCrae to rally all disparate groups and individuals together, to move in the one direction, to protect the history and future of a historic club.
Just over two years after the biggest day in the club’s on field history, June 11, 2014 was perhaps the biggest off the field as it was announced the club had exited administration. With the vital presence of businesswoman Ann Budge, who agreed to a deal with creditors to buy the club, Heart of Midlothian could begin to rebuild.
With Craig Levein and Robbie Neilson in tow, rebuild the club did. Progress and improvements were made. The top tier was reached after one season, a return to European football the following year.
Since then there has been a stagnation and a regression, but May 19 is the day fans can forget about the current on-filed ills and remember the pinnacle of their Hearts supporting career.
Would fans have taken the last five years for those five goals, that performance, that game, that result? Most definitely.
They reached the highs, they suffered the lows and have risen again to the upper echelons of the Scottish game in a more robust position than before, eager to create more memories like that day in May.