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1979 derby hero Rae will never give up on Hibs
So three decades have now passed since Hibs last won in the competition against their rivals. Three decades since that quarter-final in which George Stewart and Gordon Rae got the goals in the home team's 2-1 win, in which Derek O'Connor was Hearts' sole scorer.
It was the first of three Edinburgh derbies that month. A week later, on 17 March, again at Easter Road, the teams drew 1-1. Then, on 28 March, Hibs went to Tynecastle and won 2-1 in what would be the last derby for four years as the clubs were in different divisions.
But, while memories of those two league matches have faded until they are now seen as little more than minor staging posts in the history of the fixture, that quarter-final is still fondly recalled by Hibs fans and former players alike as the last time to date that they got the better of Hearts in the senior cup competition. Looking back on the match this week, Rae, now 50, recalled that there was an element of opportunism about his strike, as he had begun the game in a man-marking role.
"Drew Busby always caused us problems," the former Hibs captain explained. "In those days I was young and fit, so I was delegated the job of looking after Drew, box to box and match him all the way.
"In the first half I did that, basically matched him, and in the second half they took him off. Was that him injured or was I doing my job that well? I prefer the second explanation, but I don't know what happened.
"Anyway, they took him off, and (Hibs manager] Eddie Turnbull told me to push on a wee bit. I was playing at inside-right, and when we got the ball I just got forward a bit.
"Geordie Stewart scored the first goal from a corner, and I'm sure my goal was from a set piece as well. It came across, I was at the edge of the box, it dropped nicely, and I hit it – left-foot volley, orange ball, top corner."
That made it 2-0 to Hibs, and although O'Connor got one back for the visitors, it was not enough. Hibs had won, and it would be 15 years before Hearts, in the person of Wayne Foster, would be able to get their own back in the cup.
In the late 1970s Hibs were in a better state of health than their rivals, who were on their way to being relegated at the end of season 1978-79. Hibs would meet a similar fate not too long after, but, as Rae remembered, at the time of that cup tie they still regarded themselves as a power in the land.
"In those days Hibs were a big club, and we used to get a Silver Fox coach to training. It would take all the boys stripped in our gear to Hunters Hall, drop us off, and then come back for us and take us back to Easter Road.
"Tom Hart was in charge, and nothing was too good for Hibs in those days. Hibs really, really were a big club then.
"Obviously we never won the league or the cup, but I'm sure Tom Hart would have given everything to have been successful and bring a trophy home. The whole board along with Eddie Turnbull were trying their hardest.
"It was just unfortunate that the team was just going over the hill a bit after the great team with the likes of Pat Stanton, Jimmy O'Rourke and Arthur Duncan. I had just joined at the very end of that, when John Brownlie and John Blackley were still with the club, so the club was going through a change-over from the really good team."
But, in common with his team-mates, far from being aware that his club were in decline, Rae believed that beating Hearts in the last eight then coming so close to winning the cup itself was just a foretaste of the success which would follow. Hibs went on to defeat Aberdeen in the semi-final, with Rae scoring their first goal in another 2-1 win, and so they were through to the final against Rangers.
They drew 0-0 with the Ibrox club in the final on 12 May and played out another goalless draw four days later. It was not until 28 May that the second replay took place, and this time Rangers prevailed, winning 3-2.
So the final ended in disappointment for Rae, and it had also begun the same way, three whole games earlier. Despite having been a regular in the starting line-up, he had begun the first match on the bench.
"The first game I was gutted, because although I had the No7 jersey I was actually a sub," he remembered. "Bobby Hutchinson started instead of me, and I came on for him in the second half, then I started the other two matches – wearing that same jersey.
"The first game we were really close to winning. Really close.
"We had a couple of chances, and Colin Campbell was almost brought down but tried to stay up so he would have a chance to score. We all slaughter him, still wind him up about that: 'You should have gone down and we would have won the bloody cup,' we tell him. We would have scored from the penalty, that's for sure.
"The second game was really tight as well, and then in the third match they beat us 3-2 after extra-time and Arthur Duncan scored that fateful own goal. So it was really close to going to a fourth game.
"After the third game of the final I remember Eddie Turnbull came to the back of the bus and said 'You've got to use this as a spur'. He was actually telling us to think about the future, and we went away thinking there would be more days like that.
"We just thought it was going to happen. And I can remember the next year, sitting watching Rangers play Celtic in the cup final that ended in a riot, and thinking 'We should have been in that cup final'.
"That was your attitude, thinking you should get there every year. It's only now, when you're long finished, that you realise if you get to a final you should really enjoy it and take it all while you can.
"When you're younger – it's naivety probably, but a good attitude – you think you're going to get to big games like that every year. But obviously what you have to do is try your hardest to win them, because you might never get to another one."
But Rae and his team-mates never did, and Hibs have reached only one cup final since – in 2001, when they lost 3-0 to Celtic. Since then their chances of winning the Scottish Cup have been the subject of mounting derision in recent seasons, but, while there may be a widespread presumption now that they are fated never to win it again, that 1902 will remain their last victory, Rae sees things differently.
"It was mentioned once at the time that we hadn't won the cup for ages, but that was it. It didn't come up every year then like it does now – I think that really only started after Hearts won it when they beat Rangers in 1998. It's not an easy competition to win, but it will happen for Hibs. You have to take your chances.
"Looking at it this season, Rangers and Celtic will be expecting to win it, and nearly every other team in the Premier League will be thinking they have a real chance of winning it. Falkirk and Kilmarnock have proved it can be done."
After coaching at Linlithgow Rose, among other teams, Rae is now out of football and planning a major change. He has sold his cleaning business, his wife is in the process of doing the same with her hairdressing concern, and the couple's house in Bonnyrigg is also on the market.
A new life in Corfu awaits, and he is adamant that the move will be a permanent one. Even so, you suspect that he might just be tempted back to the country when – or rather, as he believes, if – Hibs get to the cup final again.
"It's going to happen sooner or later," he insisted. "Hibs are going to win it. They're one of the top teams, so every year they enter it they've got a chance."
Foster and Hartley's days as heroes
20 February, 1994. Fourth round: Hibs 1, Hearts 2
John Robertson opened the scoring inside three minutes before Hibs levelled just before half-time through a Keith Wright header .
With Hibs pressing for a winner and Hearts seemingly holding on for a replay, Clark took off Robertson and replaced him with Wayne Foster. The Englishman etched his name in Hearts folklore when he raced on to a long ball in the 86th minute, outpaced Steven Tweed and Dave Beaumont and fired past Jim Leighton. That win stretched Hearts' unbeaten derby run to 21 games, but Hibs ended the sequence on 6 May, winning 3-1 at Easter Road.
Hibs: Leighton, Miller, Beaumont, Farrell, Tweed, Lennon, McAllister, Hamilton, Wright, Jackson (Evans), O'Neill.
Hearts: Smith, McLaren, McKinlay, Levein, Berry, Millar, Colquhoun, Mackay, Robertson (Foster), Johnston, Leitch.
2 April, 2006. Semi-final Hibs 0 Hearts 4
Hartley opened the scoring in the first half, added a second by squeezing a free-kick past the bewildered Zibi Malkowski in 59 minutes. Edgaras Jankauskas then capitalised on another Malkowski blunder to make it 3-0 and Hartley completed the rout from the penalty-spot. Ivan Sproule and Gary Smith were both red carded on a dismal day for Hibs.
Hibernian: Malkowski, Whittaker, G Smith, Caldwell, Murphy, Sproule, Hogg, Thomson, Glass (Konte 62), Fletcher (McCluskey 82), Benjelloun (Konde 70).
Hearts: Gordon, Neilson, Pressley (Fyssas 45), Webster, Goncalves (Mikoliunas 69), Cesnauskis, Aguiar, Hartley, Skacel, Elliot (Pospisil 82), Jankauskas.
Taken from the Scotsman
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