Hearts: How the class of 2022 compare to the 2012 Scottish Cup winning team
The current Hearts team is better than the team which triumphed in 2012. It may not be a popular opinion at this moment in time because the guys from a decade ago are heroes and this lot just lost to Rangers reserves, but it's quite obvious looking at the two sides.
At goalkeeper you've got Craig Gordon or Jamie MacDonald. The latter was an underrated Hearts stopper and really demonstrated his abilities in the two seasons which followed the 2012 win as many of the experienced players departed and the team struggled at the wrong end of the table. However, Jamie, you're a lovely bloke, but you're not Craig Gordon. There's nothing else that needs to be said. He's maybe the greatest Hearts keeper to ever live.
Next up is the back four, assuming it will be a back four on Saturday (it's easier for the sake of this argument). Ryan McGowan, Andy Webster, Marius Zaliukas and Danny Grainger up against Craig Halkett, John Souttar, Stephen Kingsley and... Michael Smith? Nathaniel Atkinson? We can be generous and give 2012 the win here as Ryan McGowan was a solid, athletic right-back who had a handy penchant of scoring against Hibs from one centimetre out.
With all due respect to Grainger, him against Kingsley isn't much of a contest. As for the centre-half battles: Andy Webster at his peak in 2005/06 is better than any other player mentioned. Webster six years later was still a very good centre-back, but not on Halkett's level this season. And while it may be blasphemous to say this as Big Zal (may he rest in peace) is a Hearts legend and Souttar is leaving for Hearts’ opponents after Saturday’s game, but the current Scotland international was a more consistent, more reliable, more rounded defender.
In the deeper midfield positions we've got Ian Black and Darren Barr going up against Peter Haring and... let's say Andy Halliday based on current form. Barr only really moved into that role for the latter half of the 2011/12 campaign, which kind of mirrors Haring in a defender-turned-midfielder mould, but while Barr was good, Haring can truly dominate games in the centre.
Black is an interesting one because, at other points of his career you wouldn't argue too strongly for him to be included, but he was excellent for Hearts as that season drew to a close. Paulo Sergio saw something in the midfielder and did his utmost to bring it out of him, and succeeded. Black was the man-of-the-match in the final, which is quite something which you consider the heroics of another team-mate.
Speaking of Rudi Skacel, he'll be our third inductee from the 2012 side. Liam Boyce – who'll likely operate in a deeper role, like Skacel, this weekend – is a multi-faceted attacker who can score, create and link effectively with others. He doesn't, however, possess the lethal left-foot on the Czech hero, which enabled him to be a terrifying threat for the opposition any time he picked up the ball from within 25 yards.
On the right wing, Suso may not have played much the cup final season due to injury, though he showed enough that campaign and the one which preceded it (again, hampered by injury) to show that his early days at Tynecastle were just him settling in and he was a very good wide man. Not only could he create and score, he also worked his backside off and belied the stereotypes of his position by always getting stuck in. Hearts don't really have a natural right-sided option which matches his level of consistency in the current team.
On the left we’ve got Barrie McKay against Andrew Driver. Similar to Webster v Halkett, this is a tougher one if we're talking about peak Driver. He did have an impressive 2012 final despite being far from a guaranteed starter prior to the match, though he didn't have anywhere near the overall impact on his side as McKay has had on Robbie Neilson's men this campaign. The man is a creative genius.
That just leaves us with the striker. Stephen 'Sleeves' Elliott was a terrific grafter and will have you in stitches recounting stories from his time at the club, but let's instead opt for the power and goal threat of Ellis Simms.
Tallying up the final scores, that's a 7-4 win for the current team over 2012.
Of course, this is (quite literally) just on paper. The 2012 team is – for now, and possibly forever – revered much higher than the current side. It's just the nature of football. You can have teams who play wonderful stuff, full of incredible talented players who wow the crowd every week with their skill. But they don't indelibly etch their name into the history of a club unless they actually win something.
Paulo Sergio's side were victorious in arguably the single biggest game in the club's history. It was a Scottish Cup final against Hibs. The first since the 1800s and the first at Hampden Park. Hibs hadn't won the cup in 112 years by that point. Defeat to them in that particular match was unthinkable. Not only did the 2012 team avoid that, they won with a kind of dominance which humiliated the opposition and means Hearts fans will likely forever have that trump card over their rivals.
The current team may not reach those levels of hero worship, but they'll have the chance to make themselves legends in their own way with a victory over Rangers. And if they want to challenge 2012 or the 1998 side for lasting affection then a last-minute winner wouldn’t hurt.