Old brigade prove they are still hale and hearty Hibs have no answer to the three men for all seasons from Tynecastle
30 Sep 1996
BETWEEN them they have been involved in more derbies than Frankie Dettori, but Hearts' trio of seasoned performers, Gary Mackay, Davie McPherson and John Robertson, look a long way short of seeking their pension giros.
Each one of them was simply terrific in a capital confrontation that, at long last, provided a memorable afternoon of excitement, goals, and enough fine play to satisfy the more sophisticated tastes.
It was all done at the non-stop manic pace which seems to be a prerequisite of such occasions, but the three old-timers coped without much bother.
Mackay, who is 32, McPherson, who is the same age, and Robertson, who will be 32 on Wednesday, were surrounded by much younger men, but it was their talent and experience in different departments of the side which laid the foundation of a victory the club needed to avoid being sucked into the lower regions of the table.
Mackay, working in the centre of midfield, was the rock upon which Hibs foundered.
Exerting enormous energy and drive, he took charge of that area in the first half, and never lost it.
Gary has never played for any other senior side, having been a Hearts fan as man and boy.
Since 1980, he has been on the Tynecastle books but can have have played fewer better games for his favourite football team.
McPherson has become renowned as the most famous ping-pong ball in a game of transfers between Hearts and Rangers.
No man has shrugged aside criticism with greater determination at each ground, and when he is the main central defender in a back four, as he was on Saturday, he is not only at his most comfortable, but his most effective.
Robertson spent a brief period away from Tynecastle at Newcastle, but for the vast majority of his career, he has been the No.1 front man for Hearts.
He still is.
Unquestionably, John is a goalscorer in the Willie Bauld and Jimmy Wardhaugh class.
On Saturday he collected his 250th Hearts goal, a phenomenal record when you considered he has played in an era of supposedly sophisticated defensive systems and predominantly negative tactics.
Hearts, therefore, with a star in defence, another in midfield and a third in the front line, were formidable opponents for Hibs.
Unfortunately, the Easter Road team's own defence were not much of a help to their cause either, and the back five - if we include goalkeeper Jim Leighton - will not wish to watch the TV pictures of the three goals conceded in a 21-minute first-half spell that settled the points.
Manager Alex Miller acknowledged the poverty of defending.
"Our defending was abysmal in the first half," he said, "and it just won't do." The Hibs leader has been under severe pressure in recent weeks, but there was only a handful of folk outside protesting this time, and there were no chants by Hibs fans during the match, other than the boos directed at the right people - the players.
If he has £1m reputedly given to him for spending on players, Miller's priority has to be a dominant central defender and a midfield leader of quality, neither of which will be easy to find for that kind of money.
No one will be more aware than Miller that a new face or two in the dressing room is required and, although Ray Wilkins gave the odd reminder of his exquiste talent, even the most gifted 40-year-old would find it impossible to cope with the premier-division pace.
When he ends up being warned for a couple for scything tackles, maybe Ray himself would agree that this is is not the place for him any more.
Hearts manager Jim Jefferies, naturally, was thrilled at his side's showing which he described with the typical manager's reticence as "fantastic" in the first half and "great" in the second period.
He was entitled to his hyperbole.
They played some good stuff, despite the ferocity of the tempo, and when Colin Cameron put them in front after a fine pass from Robertson in 19 minutes, they settled to a fine performance.
The second goal, which Leighton will want to forget, when the alert Cameron nipped in to rob the keeper as he attempted to tame a low ball with his feet, made it all the more difficult for Hibs and the third, scored by Robertson with a calmly taken shot from inside the penalty area, left them seeking consolation.
They managed a little of that with a penalty taken by Darren Jackson, and played with a great deal of resolve after the break, but there never was any serious prospect of them staging a successful comeback.
Cameron, bought from Raith Rovers near the end of last season, wore a cheery face as he left Easter Road after his capital derby debut, perhaps unaware that Robertson scored a double when he made his first appearance for Hearts in their 3-2 win in 1983.
That double on Saturday gave Cameron his fifth goal since he joined Hearts.
Only 245 to go, Colin.
Next league match: Hibs: Rangers (h).
Hearts: Raith Rovers (a).
Taken from the Herald