London Hearts Supporters Club

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4 of 032 Andrew Driver 23 L SPL A

John Cumming
Long-serving player for Heart of Midlothian

* Ewan Murray
* The Guardian, Tuesday 16 December 2008

Even taking into account that the Old Firm's dominance of Scottish football was nowhere near as forceful five decades ago as it is today, John Cumming's level of decoration as a Heart of Midlothian player is striking. Cumming, who has died aged 78, began and ended his life in Carluke, just south of Glasgow. Yet it was in Edinburgh that he was revered; 612 appearances, 58 goals and a medal list which is the most impressive in Hearts' history afforded him legendary status.

Seven major honours, three as captain - two League championships, four League cups and a Scottish cup - secured between 1954 and 1962 were the rewards for Cumming's talent and character. He retired from playing in 1967 as Hearts' record appearance holder, a record which has since been, and surely will only be, broken by four players.

Cumming had been signed on provisional forms by the then manager of Hearts, Dave McLean, while turning out for Carluke Rovers, a junior outfit. At that time, Cumming was a pit worker before signing fully for Hearts in January 1950. Quickly dubbed the "Iron Man", Cumming reverted between a wing-half and a more defensive, left-back position. There was no questioning his versatility: Cumming even appeared as a goalkeeper for one reserve match.

Hearts' League cup victory of 1954 was their first trophy win in 48 years and the trigger for the most successful period in the club's history. While Willie Bauld, Jimmy Wardhaugh and Alfie Conn gained recognition for their goalscoring exploits, Cumming and Dave Mackay, who later moved to Tottenham Hotspur, were the duo who made that team tick. "He never had a bad game. It was either a fairly good game or an excellent game," said Mackay of his former team-mate.

It was perhaps the 1956 Scottish cup final that secured Cumming's Hearts immortality. Voted man of the match as the Edinburgh men defeated Celtic 3-1 at Hampden Park, Cumming played with blood streaming from a head wound after a clash with Willie Fernie. Such was his commitment, which never regressed into temper; Cumming was never booked in a competitive match for Hearts.

The Hearts team which cantered to the championship in 1958, scoring 132 goals while conceding just 29 from 34 games, is recognised as one of the best in Scottish football history. Cumming, again, was at the epicentre, just as he was later that year as his side lifted the league cup, a feat replicated in 1959.

In 1960, the championship trophy returned to Tynecastle, the last time it has been housed there. A remarkable trophy run ended with the League cup win over Kilmarnock in 1962. Cumming had been the only man to play a part in each of the seven triumphs in nine seasons and made 20 appearances for Scotland in the process. He was a trainer at Hearts for a decade after ending his playing days, and later returned to work in the steel industry, but Edinburgh was never far from his thoughts. Cumming was a regular at Hearts games until illness confined him to a nursing home.

Cumming is survived by his wife, Jean, daughter Jean and son James, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

• John Cumming, footballer, born 17 March 1930; died 6 December 2008

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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