It is a shame that Hearts supporters and Celtic supporters do not like each other. Anyone who has ever been in the company of Hearts supporters whenever Celtic are mentioned will know exactly what I mean. Even in the politest of Edinburgh households where everything is all charming and middle class, the very word “Celtic” can be guaranteed to bring a coldness, a venom, an anger and indeed a lasting bitterness that is actually difficult to fathom.
Celtic fans, for their part, often refer to Hearts as the “wee H**s”. Yet what else can they be called when their fans (or at least the less well educated of them) sing offensive, sectarian songs which have little enough place in Govan and Larkhall, let alone Gorgie and Dalry in a city, which for all its faults, has no great tradition of sectarianism – at least not since the days of Mary Queen of Scots and John Knox! (When supporters of Dundee jumped on the same bandwagon, it became even more ludicrous!) And we know that it is all about Hibs as well, but possibly it is more about Albert Kidd and Willie Wallace.
Enough has been said and written about Albert Kidd and 1986, but the hatred possibly started when Willie Wallace joined Celtic from Hearts in December 1966, and six months later won the European Cup with his new team. This inspired Stein signing has to be seen in the context of the 1960s, in particular the day of April 24 1965 when Celtic and Hearts effectively changed places. Celtic won the Scottish Cup that day, and Hearts blew the Scottish League by losing 0-2 to Kilmarnock. Almost overnight, Celtic became the main challengers to Rangers (and of course overcame that challenge!) and Hearts started the slippery slope to mediocrity, relegation and (almost) liquidation. The sale of Willie Wallace was a clear indication of this process, and by the late 1970s, Hearts were experiencing their first of several relegations.
And yet, it wasn’t always like that. Hearts were the main challengers to Celtic in the 1890s, winning the League in 1895 and 1897, and they won the Scottish Cup in 1891, 1896, 1901 and 1906. They beat Celtic (narrowly) in the 1901 Scottish Cup final, but their defeat by Willie Maley’s great side in the 1907 final plunged Hearts into a trophy famine that lasted almost 50 years. Rightly are they proud of their team which enlisted en masse for the 1914-18 slaughter, and they have tried hard to argue (unconvincingly) that Celtic stole the League Championship of 1915 from them by “war dodging”. It simply does not hold water. Hearts’ players were still available that season, and they simply cracked under pressure.
Between the wars, they always had good players – Alec Massie, Tommy Walker, Barney Battles junior for example, but never a great team, and it was only in the 1950s, that Hearts rose again. Arguably, Hearts missed a trick by not joining forces with Scottish Rugby when Murrayfield (just over the railway) was built in 1925. It could have been a relationship that was beneficial to both parties, and Hearts could have been able to expand, and might even have become the “establishment” team of Scotland, instead of allowing the sectarian bigots of Glasgow to assume that mantle. As it was, Hearts festered in mediocrity at Tynecastle with a huge but frustrated support.
In the 1950s, however, under Tommy Walker, and with great players like Dave MacKay, Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh, Alec Young and Alfie Conn senior, Hearts won the Scottish League in 1958 and 1960, the Scottish League Cup in 1954/55, 1958/59, 1959/60 and 1962/63, with their greatest triumph over Celtic being the Scottish Cup final of 1956 when they won 3-1. Many questions were asked about that game as far as Celtic were concerned – not least a virtually unbelievable team selection – but no-one could argue that Hearts didn’t deserve to win.
But then of course we had 1959 when Hearts might have won the League at Parkhead on the last day of the season. Celtic had played rubbish all season, were nowhere near winning anything, but then suddenly turned it on that last day of the season and beat Hearts 2-1. It was a great result – but there was only one problem. The win over Hearts meant that the League title went elsewhere – to Ibrox in fact. Rangers had lost to Aberdeen that day, but won the League thanks to Celtic beating Hearts! We did not know whether to laugh or cry!
Celtic and Hearts supporters never really liked each other – they were two large teams with a big fan base, and there was a little of the Glasgow v Edinburgh rivalry as well – but it has only been in the past 50 or 60 years that the sectarian edge has become evident. And that is a great shame.
And so to 2022. If Hearts beat us on Saturday, they will be very happy indeed. We can expect little sympathy. After all, leaving aside 1986, we also beat them in the Scottish Cup finals of 2019 and 2020 (remember them? Odsonne Edouard in 2019, and the penalties in 2020?) and is now ten years ago in 2012 that they last won anything. About time they won the Scottish Cup again, is it not? I think I will support them this year for the Scottish Cup. The Jambos for the Cup! Who have they got in the Final?
Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio! Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.
His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is 70, a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.