Drew Busby scores against Kilmarnock in the Cup in January 1975
Drew Busby scores against Kilmarnock in the Cup in January 1975

Hearts Centenary Season

The club's Centenary Season (1974-1975) was eagerly awaited, as it was also the final campaign under the Scottish League's long-standing, two-division system. A ten-club Premier Division was to commence the following year and Hearts' main priority was to secure a place. Although the team eventually did so, finishing eighth in the old 18-club Division One, there were times when qualification looked anything but certain.

The season began with the Centenary Challenge Match against Tottenham Hotspur where 13,326 supporters enjoyed an entertaining 1-1 draw. Hearts then reached the last eight in the League Cup for the first time since 1962. In the Qualifying Section, the team finished ahead of Aberdeen, Morton, and Dunfermline Athletic, and looked set to make further progress against Division Two club Falkirk in the Quarter Finals. However, after a 0-0 draw at Tynecastle, the  Bairns won the Second Leg by 1-0 at Brockville where on a bad night for Hearts, centre-half, John Gallacher, suffered a broken ankle.

During September, the maroons also crashed out of the Texaco Cup against Oldham Athletic. Hearts confidently expected to overcome a 1-0 defeat in the First Leg at Boundary Park, but at Tynecastle, the English Second Division side defended stoutly and secured a 1-1 draw.

The fans were becoming restless, because there had been a poor start to the League programme, with two draws and two defeats from the first four fixtures. Hearts then lost 4-1 to both Partick Thistle and Aberdeen in successive weeks, and this led to the departure of manager Bobby Seith. Coach John Hagart became caretaker-manager and his first game in charge, on 12 October, ended with a 5-0 hammering away to Dundee United. As a result, Hearts were bottom of Division One with only two points.

The club unsuccessfully tried to lure Jim McLean, the Dundee United manager, but in the meantime, John Hagart stabilised the team and engineered a mini-revival. Accordingly, in early November, the 36-year old coach was appointed manager. The former Berwick Rangers and Luton Town player had a hugely positive attitude that motivated players, and on 9 November Hearts moved off the bottom of the League with a 2-1 win over Dumbarton. He also valued experience and built a formidable defence around his senior players, adding the redoubtable Cardiff City defender Don Murray.

Results certainly improved and apart from a lapse at Arbroath, the team was undefeated in 18 League games from 19 October 1974 and steadily moved up the table. The fans also rallied round the bid for a top ten place and an enthusiastic home crowd of 37,500 watched the 0-0 draw against Hibs on New Year's Day. On 1 March, Hearts splendid run came to an end against Rangers, who went on to win the Championship after almost a decade of Celtic dominance. The maroons then took eight points from the final eight games, with Premier Division football being assured on 19 April, after Drew Busby scored twice in a 4-1 home win over Motherwell.

The Scottish Cup was still a huge attraction and a crowd of 21,054 cheered a 2-0 win over Kilmarnock in the Third Round at Tynecastle, with Busby again scoring twice. The team then defeated Queen of the South at Dumfries by 2-0 and earned a Quarter Final tie against Dundee at home. This attracted 27,315 spectators and Tommy Murray scored Hearts' goal in a 1-1 draw. Despite a fighting performance, the maroons lost the Replay 3-2.

Sadly, the East of Scotland Shield, was still struggling for survival and there had been no competition in 1973-74. However, it was back in 1974-75 and Hearts defeated Meadowbank Thistle in the Semi-Final, before claiming the old trophy with a 2-1 victory over Hibs.

Hearts now had to gear up to the increased demands of the Premier Division where rewards were great, but two from ten clubs faced relegation.

Willie Gibson scores against Rangers in November 1975
Willie Gibson scores against Rangers in November 1975

The Premier Era

In 1975-76 chairman Bobby Parker, manager John Hagart, and captain Don Murray, led the club into a new era for Scottish football. Hearts would eventually finish fifth in the Premier Division, but went all the way to the Scottish Cup Final, where they succumbed to Rangers treble-winning side, under the former Tynecastle assistant manager Jock Wallace.

The season commenced with a hard League Cup Section involving Celtic, Aberdeen and Dumbarton. Despite winning four of the six matches, Hearts failed to qualify, as Celtic managed one more, the maroons 2-0 reverse at Dumbarton making the difference. At this time, the team was also knocked out of the Anglo-Scottish Cup, a competition that had replaced the Texaco Cup. After beating Queen of the South, Hearts were eliminated by a Fulham side, led by the great Bobby Moore. Hearts lost 3-2 in London and with a late penalty, and Fulham secured a 2-2 draw at Tynecastle.

In the Premier Division, each side met four times and Hearts' first game was at Easter Road, where a Joe Harper goal brought a 1-0 win for Hibs. The following week, the first home match was also lost, with Rangers winning 2-0. In the third Premier game, away to Dundee, Hearts' form improved and a goal from Drew Busby (from a penalty kick) and two more from Donald Park, led to a splendid 3-2 victory. This lifted morale and only two of the next fifteen Championship matches were lost, both against Celtic. During this fine run, the maroons defeated the eventual Champions Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox. In another eventful game, Hibs scrambled a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle, but Pat Stanton's equaliser in what seemed like the tenth minute of stoppage time, came from a suspiciously offside position.

In November, the club was second in the Premier Division and just after Christmas, the team was only four points off the top position. However, 1976 brought a real downturn and as only one victory was recorded in the first ten matches of the year, Hearts flirted with relegation. This prompted the club to pay £20,000 for Dunfermline Athletic striker Graham Shaw. Nevertheless, with only four games left, the maroons were only one point ahead of ninth placed Dundee. Narrow wins over Ayr United and St Johnstone relieved the pressure and then after a draw with St Johnstone and a 1-0 victory over Celtic, the team secured fifth position. However, John Hagart's side was only three points better than Dundee FC, who was relegated with St Johnstone, and this should have served as a warning.

Hearts did make progress in the Scottish Cup, but it took Replays against three First Division clubs to reach the Final. Clyde was first and after a 2-2 draw at Tynecastle, the maroons gained a 1-0 victory at Shawfield. This was followed by a comfortable 3-0 win over Stirling Albion, but then Hearts travelled to Montrose where a last minute equaliser brought relief to travelling fans in the 8,200 crowd. In the Replay, Montrose took a 2-0 lead, but Hearts scrambled a draw and a third match attracted 10,047 to Muirton Park in Perth. The Edinburgh men finally won 2-1 after extra time, with Ralph Callachan scoring the winner.

In the Semi-Final at Hampden, Dumbarton held Hearts to a 0-0 draw, but the maroons won the Replay 3-0. By that time, the club was safe in the Premier Division and could concentrate on defeating Rangers in the Final. Sadly stalwarts Don Murray and Dave Clunie missed the big day through injury.

A crowd of 85,354 packed Hampden and Edinburgh fans were shocked when Derek Johnstone scored with a header after only 41 seconds. The result was never in doubt when Alex MacDonald made it 2-0 for Rangers. In the second half, Johnstone scored again and Hearts eventually went down 3-1 with Graham Shaw hitting a consolation goal. One benefit was that the club was back in Europe, as Rangers also won the Championship.

The Scottish Cup Final team was: Jim Cruickshank; Jim Brown (captain) and Sandy Burrell; Jim Jefferies, John Gallacher and Roy Kay; Ralph Callachan, Drew Busby, Graham Shaw, Willie Gibson and Bobby Prentice. Kenny Aird and Donald Park came on as substitutes.

The campaign then finished with a gruelling tour, matches being played in Norway; New Zealand; Australia; and Mauritius. Alan Anderson later announced his retiral and another great servant Donald Ford was released. In addition, John Cumming retired as trainer in June 1976.

A bit of Hearts pressure on the Hamburg defence in November 1976
A bit of Hearts pressure on the Hamburg defence in November 1976

Hearts Go Down

With Hearts in Europe for the first time in a decade, 1976-77 started full of promise, but ended in disgrace with the club being relegated for the first time in its history. Despite reaching the previous season's Cup Final, the team had briefly become involved in the relegation issue and few lessons had been learned, with only one significant recruit, Brian Wilson, a goalkeeper from Arbroath. However, John Hagart did strengthen his management group bringing in the former Dunfermline Athletic star Bert Paton as coach.

The campaign actually started well and the team won its League Cup Section against Partick Thistle, Dundee, and Motherwell, with qualification being assured after a powerful 4-1 victory at Fir Park. Falkirk was again the Quarter-Final opponents and progress was almost guaranteed by a 4-1 victory in the First Leg at Tynecastle. The return game was lost 4-3.

In the Semi-Final, the maroons travelled to Hampden to meet Celtic and on a wet October night, only 21,706 fans attended. Jim Brown scored for Hearts near the interval, but an equaliser was conceded just before the break. In 72 minutes, Kenny Dalglish won a soft penalty which he scored to win the match 2-1. Defeat in the League Cup was quickly followed by elimination from the European Cup Winners Cup and Hearts' season began to unravel.

In the First Round of the Cup Winners Cup, the Tynecastle team faced 1.FC Lokomotive Leipzig from East Germany and the First Leg was lost 2-0 in the massive Zentralstadion, where the home side even missed a penalty. However, the return game was memorable, with Hearts producing a stunning performance to win 5-1, thanks to goals from Roy Kay, Willie Gibson (2), Jim Brown, and Drew Busby. This brought jubilation among the crowd of 17,247 but an excited pitch invasion at the end, cost Hearts a fine of 1,000 Swiss Francs and a warning from UEFA.

Hearts then met Hamburger Sport-Verein and in the First Leg at the Volkspark-stadion, the 500 Hearts fans were not too unhappy at the 4-2 reverse. However, this was false optimism, because Manfred Kaltz and Felix Magath inspired the West German side to an impressive 4-1 victory at Tynecastle before a crowd of 24,230.

Defeat in Europe and in the League Cup, disheartened the players and much worse was to follow. The League campaign had already started poorly and it had taken ten games before a win was recorded, 2-1 against Aberdeen at Tynecastle. As a result, Hearts stood sixth at the end of the year, and by the end of January 1977, the maroons had recorded only four wins from 20 games and were in the relegation battle. Hearts then had a resounding 4-0 home win over Kilmarnock on 5 February, but within a week star midfielder Ralph Callachan went to Newcastle United for £90,000. This was a body blow, as a lack of creative quality was evident.

Hearts could not win any of the next 12 League games, despite signing Malcolm Robertson from Ayr United, and consequently at the end of the season the club lost the prestigious honour of playing at the top level since the formation of the Scottish League in 1890. The most critical match came on 6 April with the visit of relegation rivals Ayr United but Robertson was sent off against his old club and Hearts crashed 2-1. Although the Tynecastle men lost only one of the final six fixtures, it was too late and Ayr held their nerve to remain in the safety of eighth position. No-one connected with the club could believe that Hearts could actually be relegated, but they finished three points behind and dropped into the First Division. The team had scored 49 goals in 36 games, but the defence was no longer reliable and conceded 66.

Progressing to the Scottish Cup Semi-Finals clearly failed to inspire the players. In the Third Round, Dumbarton forced a draw at Tynecastle, but in the Replay, an extra time winner from Willie Gibson took the maroons through to meet Clydebank. In this match Drew Busby scored the only goal before 13,618 fans at Tynecastle. Then in the Quarter Finals East Fife stole a 0-0 draw in Gorgie, but in the Replay, Hearts went through after an exciting 3-2 victory, with John Gallacher scoring a late winner. The Semi-Final paired Hearts and Rangers at Hampden and a crowd of only 23,652 saw the Tynecastle men go down rather easily 2-0.

After the numbing experience of relegation, and under pressure from the directors, John Hagart resigned. In early May 1977, he was replaced by the 50-year old former Hibernian winger Willie Ormond who had gone on to manage St Johnstone and Scotland. Restoring the club's fortunes was a hugely demanding task, because faced with a massive loss of income in the First Division, there had to be a clear out of 14 players, including Jim Cruickshank, Dave Clunie, Roy Kay and Kenny Aird.

On a positive note, the club bought for only £10,000 the city's right to acquire Tynecastle for £5,000, should football cease to be played there. Hearts now had a real property asset that might help to raise funds with which to restructure the club.

The East of Scotland Shield had again fallen behind and during the season, Hearts won the 1975-76 Final with an 8-0 demolition of Meadowbank Thistle.

Cammy Fraser storms the Montrose defence in March 1978
Cammy Fraser storms the Montrose defence in March 1978

The Maroons Bounce Back

In 1977-78, the club faced its first season at a lower level and there was some concern about the reaction of the supporters. However, at the end of the day, the Tynecastle crowd remained remarkably loyal and the average home gate in the First Division was 10,084.

Willie Ormond's first task was to settle a potentially disruptive pay dispute, but he did so and the backbone of his team became Eamonn Bannon, Drew Busby, Cammy Fraser, Jim Jefferies, Willie Gibson and Donald Park. In addition, Ray Dunlop took over in goal from Jim Cruickshank and Walter Kidd made his breakthrough. The club also paid £10,000 for Montrose centre-half Dave McNicoll.

Hearts' first game in a lower division ended in a 2-2 draw at Dumbarton where Jim Cruickshank played for the home team and it was evident that the Edinburgh side would be a big scalp for smaller clubs. The initial home game was against Dundee the following week, when 12,006 fans saw a 2-1 win for the maroons. By this time, the League Cup was under way, now on a knock-out basis over two legs.

Hearts eliminated Stenhousemuir and Morton to earn a place in the Quarter Finals against Dundee United. At Tannadice, the team went down 3-1 but won the return leg 2-0 to set up a penalty shoot-out that Hearts won 4-3. The Semi-Final was delayed until March 1978 and enthusiasm for the League Cup was now on the wane, only 18,840 watching the maroons lose 2-0 to Celtic at Hampden.

Back in the First Divsion, the team was unbeaten in the first eight matches and entered a promotion race with Morton and Dundee. The run ended at home against Hamilton Academical and this kicked-off a difficult spell, with Hearts losing four out of seven League games. One of the defeats was at home to Kilmarnock, during which Jim Brown suffered a broken leg. Willie Ormond's men recovered and on 19 November, a 1-0 victory against St.Johnstone at Muirton Park started another excellent run that saw Hearts undefeated until the end of the season, a total of 23 matches. This included a brilliant 7-0 win at Arbroath, where Drew Busby and Willie Gibson both scored hat-tricks and earned two crates of sponsor's whisky. On 7 January, Hearts also took part in a thrilling 2-2 draw against Dundee at Tynecastle, a match that attracted a First Division record gate of 19,722.

During March, the Tynecastle team won 1-0 away to Morton, but the Greenock side was also consistent and went on to pip Hearts for the First Division Championship on goal difference. Dropped points against Montrose actually forced Hearts to contest the second promotion position with Dundee, right up to the final day. The maroons had to win the last game at Arbroath to secure an immediate return to the Premier Division and 7,000 Tynecastle fans swelled the Gayfield crowd to 8,389. Eamonn Bannon was the star of the team and it was fitting that he should score the only goal of the game with a header. Dundee beat Morton and would have gone up if Hearts had faltered.

The team's performance in the Scottish Cup was undistinguished, although there was a decent 3-2 victory, away to Airdrieonians, in the Third Round. Hearts then travelled to Dumbarton and must have been affected by a bonus dispute, during which Willie Ormond criticized the players for a lack of professionalism. Hearts scrambled a 1-1 draw thanks to a late penalty, but the maroons could not raise their game for the Replay and Dumbarton won 1-0 at Tynecastle.

In the East of Scotland Shield, Hearts lost to Hibs in the 1976-77 Final.

The fans favourite: Drew Busby
Fans favourite Drew Busby

No Survival

Hearts return to the Premier Division in 1978-79 was a disaster and it was clear after the opening fixture produced a 4-1 home defeat from Aberdeen that the squad would struggle to survive.

At the outset, Frank Liddell of Alloa Athletic joined the squad and Hearts prepared for the new season by taking part in the Tennent Caledonian Cup, against Rangers, Southampton, and West Bromwich Albion. Unfortunately, a reasonable show in this competition was not maintained, and after nine League matches, the maroons had recorded only one win (1-0 at Motherwell). This disappointing run included a controversial 1-1 draw against Hibernian on 28 August when the Leith men equalized in injury time, but only after Jim Jefferies and Donald Park had been sent off. This sparked some crowd trouble and a pitch invasion, which resulted in the club pushing forward its plans for crowd segregation and perimeter fences. These were in place for the next home game against Morton.

This poor start in the League was accompanied by exit from two Cup competitions, the League Cup and the Anglo-Scottish Cup. Partick Thistle took Hearts out of the latter tournament and Morton inflicted a humiliating 7-2 aggregate defeat in the League Cup.

The signs were not good and did not improve after Donald Park was exchanged for John Craig and Denis McQuade of Partick Thistle. Near the end of October, Derek O'Connor was also recruited from St Johnstone for £30,000 and he scored after 50 seconds of his debut in the 2-1 win at Aberdeen. This was followed by a 2-0 home victory over Celtic and a 2-1 win at Easter Road. Three successive victories actually took Hearts to sixth place in the Premier Division, but hope of a revival was shattered in the next fixture, with Partick Thistle recording a 1-0 win in Gorgie.

The players' confidence was fragile and the defeat from Thistle was the first of twelve games during which only two wins were achieved. The club was hanging on, but all hope of Premier survival probably vanished on 26 January 1979, when mounting financial pressure forced the directors to transfer Eamonn Bannon to Chelsea for £215,000. He was the creative force of the team and as the supporters were unaware of the club's cash flow situation, they were devastated. Accordingly, with the next League game being a 2-1 home defeat from St Mirren, there were calls for the directors' resignation.

At the start of 1979, Alex Rennie joined the club as coach after Bert Paton had resigned. Hearts also tried to stem the tide on the field with the recruitment of the former international goalkeeper Thomson Allan from Dundee. At the end of February, he played in a splendid 3-2 victory over Rangers at Tynecastle. Then at the start of April, two successive victories over Dundee United and Motherwell sparked hopes of a relegation reprieve, with Hearts ninth in the table, just two points behind Partick Thistle. However, on 11 April, the Jags won 2-0 at Tynecastle with Donald Park scoring the decisive goal and the yo-yo string was being wound.

Confidence drained away after this shattering reverse and the maroons lost all of the remaining nine League fixtures, scoring just two goals in the process. Ten successive defeats was the club's worst ever sequence in League football, and Hearts crashed back into the First Division. As a result, the final home game of the season against Morton, attracted only 2,400 spectators as Hearts went down with the back markers, Motherwell. The biggest problem had been goal scoring with only 39 in 36 games.

The Scottish Cup brought some relief as Hearts won 2-0 in the Third Round away to Raith Rovers. In the next round, after a stormy contest, Morton held Hearts to a 1-1 draw at Tynecastle. The maroons won by the only goal of the Replay in Greenock to set up a Quarter Final game against Hibs at Easter Road. In a rough contest both on and off the field, Hearts went out of the Cup after a 2-1 defeat. In a season of turmoil, the team even lost to Meadowbank Thistle in the Semi-Final of the East of Scotland Shield for 1977-78.

At the end of the campaign manager Willie Ormond, came under pressure and he decided to instigate a major rebuilding programme, starting with the departure of eleven players.

There was a real need for fresh capital and The Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs was pressing for a change in the club's constitution, essentially to allow shares to be offered to the public. Some positive moves then happened behind the scenes and at the Annual General Meeting when Archie Martin and Iain Watt were both decisively voted on to the board of directors. The wind of change was blowing and this was a very significant development.

Archie Martin introduced real and positive change at Tynecastle
Archie Martin introduced real and positive change at Tynecastle

First Division Champions

The board faced a daunting task to help the manager turn round the fortunes of the club in 1979-80. Season ticket sales had fallen dramatically and it was clear that after a second relegation, the supporters were now disillusioned. In fact, by the end of the season, the average home gate for League matches had fallen to the lowest level since the Second World War, only 5,741.

On the playing side, at the start of the season Willie Ormond was absent through illness for several weeks and the major signings were Bobby Robinson who came from Dundee United, Jim Denny from Rangers, and later Crawford Boyd from Queen of the South. The squad looked strong enough for the First Division and indeed, the team made a fine start, winning the first five matches.

Early in September, things took a turn for the worst, after Hearts had crashed out of the League Cup against Ayr United. The maroons seemed to have done the hard work by drawing 2-2 in the First Leg at Somerset Park, but United silenced the fans with a 1-0 victory in the return game at Tynecastle. A week later, Raith Rovers inflicted Hearts' first League defeat of the season and only eight points were then taken from the next eight matches. This situation was not helped by yet another bonus dispute that saw the whole first team squad demand transfers.

A compromise was reached and Hearts put together an undefeated run of 16 League matches that started on 3 November with a 0-0 draw at Shielfield Park in Berwick. However, the team had won only half of the fixtures and the supporters expected more dynamic performances in the First Division. As a result, crowds of over 6,000 had become very rare at Tynecastle and matters came to a head on 5 January after Hearts drew 3-3 at home to Clydebank after throwing away a 3-0 lead. The crowd of 5,172 expressed its displeasure and a few days later Willie Ormond was dismissed.

Coach, Alex Rennie became caretaker manager and his team had a fortunate escape in the Third Round of the Scottish Cup. The maroons were struggling to pull back a 1-0 deficit away to Alloa Athletic, but fog caused the game to be abandoned and when it was replayed, a solitary goal took Hearts through to meet Stirling Albion. This was the first match under the management of the former Newcastle United and Scotland defender Bobby Moncur who had come from Carlisle United. Stirling Albion was defeated 2-0 but in the next round, Hearts travelled to face Rangers and the gulf between the First and the Premier Divisions was clearly underlined by a 6-1 defeat.

After this humbling experience, Moncur signed Archie White from Oxford United and as the season moved into April Hearts had gathered enough points to make promotion almost certain, although Airdrieonians led the title race and Ayr United was chasing the maroons. On 5 April, the Tynecastle men won 1-0 at Airdrie and both the Lanarkshire side and Ayr United, then failed to take advantage of Hearts dropping five points from the next five games.

Hearts then won 3-0 at Muirton Park against St Johnstone and this set up a title decider against Airdrieonians at Tynecastle on the final day of the season. The home crowd of 13,299 was the best of the campaign and they celebrated when a late header from Frank Liddell brought a 1-0 victory and the First Division Championship. The mean Tynecastle defence took the club back to the Premier Division, conceding only 39 goals in 39 Games.

Bobby Moncur took stock of his playing squad and eleven men left Tynecastle. Significantly, the manager then brought in Tony Ford, a former Bristol City player, as his assistant.

Towards the end of the season, the new chairman Archie Martin announced a major reorganisation of the club's capital structure, a move that would pave the way for significant change. The original 5,000 shares of £1 each were subdivided into 50,000 at 10p each and an additional 100,000 shares of 10p were sold at £1 each. Although the club had ambitious plans for a full redevelopment of Tynecastle, most of the £100,000 raised had to be spent on essential work to comply with the Safety of Sports Ground Act 1975. Some 3,000 seats were installed under the covered enclosure on the distillery side and Tynecastle's capacity was reduced to 27,169.

Bobby Moncur became Hearts manager in February 1980
Bobby Moncur became Hearts' manager in February 1980

Simply the Worst

Bobby Moncur was able to recruit some new faces in preparation for Hearts' return to the Premier Division, the most important of whom, turned out to be the Rangers' veteran, Alex MacDonald. As the season progressed, the Tynecastle manager had to further enhance his squad that, right from the start, struggled in the top ten. He brought in Alex Hamill, Peter Shields and Gary Liddell, although the crowd was more impressed by youngsters Davie Bowman and Gary Mackay.

Despite the apparent strengthening of the squad, the players had failed to blend and 1980-81 was probably the club's worst ever League campaign with only six victories in 36 games, the fewest since 1900-01 when only 20 matches were played. A dismal 27 goals were scored and in addition, Hearts finished bottom of the League for the first time.

The season commenced with Airdrieonians eliminating the maroons from the Anglo-Scottish Cup and then Hearts lost the first two League games that should have been winnable, against Partick Thistle and Airdrieonians. The team then beat St Mirren and Kilmarnock, but this was a temporary respite and Hearts failed to win any of the next 11 Premier games. The depressing sequence ended on 6 December when 5,183 Tynecastle fans saw a 2-0 result against Kilmarnock.

The League Cup also brought little cheer, although in the Second Round, Montrose was eliminated following victories in both legs. Hearts then faced First Division Ayr United who produced a shock 3-2 win in the First Leg at Tynecastle and then won by 4-0 at Somerset Park. The term crisis was now being used and Hearts even lost the East of Scotland Shield Final for 1978-79 to First Division, Hibs.

After Kilmarnock was beaten in December, Hearts went another ten League matches without a victory, with the team's most depressing result coming on New Year's Day at Tynecastle. Hearts led Airdrieonians 2-0 with only 18 minutes left, but incredibly lost 3-2. This allowed the Lanarkshire team to open a five point gap at the bottom of the table and left Hearts and Kilmarnock in serious relegation trouble. Only 8,086 fans watched that match and home gates began to plummet.

The Scottish Cup brought no relief and although the maroons forced a 0-0 draw away to Morton in the Third Round, the Greenock club easily won the Replay at Tynecastle by 3-1.

After a surprise 2-1 win over Rangers on 14 March, Hearts won only two of the final nine League fixtures and also suffered the club's worst Premier defeat, losing 6-0 against Celtic at Parkhead. Bobby Moncur had already decided to place his faith in young players, but unfortunately, these young men would have to develop their talents in a lower level, as bottom place in the Premier Division was assured after the 4-0 defeat at Ibrox on the final day of the campaign.

The club was relegated for the third time in five seasons and consequently, income collapsed with the last two home games producing gates of 1,866 versus Kilmarnock and 2,649 versus St Mirren. If Bobby Moncur was to restore Hearts' playing fortunes, fresh capital was urgently required and in April 1981, the club announced a further change in the Articles of Association that would allow individuals to hold more than 1,000 shares. A new issue of 350,000 shares with a value of 10p each would now be offered to the public at £1 per share and this might possibly attract a major investor.

Edinburgh businessman Kenny Waugh made an early move for control of the club and he was eventually prepared to buy all the new shares for £350,000. However, this offer was matched by another city businessman Wallace Mercer who put up £265,000 and had the support of a consortium of shareholders, who wished to ensure that the club would not be controlled by one individual. The directors then voted 3-2 to accept the offer of Pentland Securities Limited (Mr Mercer's company) and the independent consortium. Wallace Mercer subsequently became the driving force of the club and a man who would profoundly change Hearts' image.

It shocked the supporters when Archie Martin was immediately voted off the board and then Bobby Moncur quickly announced his resignation.

All change at Tynecastle in 1980
All change at Tynecastle

No Quick Return

The club was unsuccessful in attracting Jim McLean or Jock Wallace and therefore Tony Ford was promoted to the position of manager, with Walter Borthwick as his assistant. Although his period in charge would be brief, Ford made some astute signings, most notably Roddy MacDonald from Celtic for a club record of £55,000 and Henry Smith from Leeds United.

The new season commenced with the League Cup where Qualifying Sections had been re-introduced. Not surprisingly, Hearts failed to progress from a group that included Airdrieonians, Aberdeen, and Kilmarnock.

Unfortunately, Hearts made a stuttering start in the League, but after three games, action was taken and the club recruited Willie Pettigrew and Derek Addison from Dundee United for £160,000. However, although points were steadily accumulated, Hearts did not dominate as expected in the First Division. The maroons' fortunes then took a turn for the worst at the end of October when East Stirlingshire grabbed a 1-0 victory at Tynecastle. The team won only one of the next six League fixtures and in December, when Queens Park stole a draw at Tynecastle, only 3,971 watched the game and were distinctly unhappy.

Walter Kidd in action at East End Park in August 1981
Walter Kidd in action at East End Park in 1981

Something had to give and four days later Tony Ford was dismissed. Hearts were only two points adrift of second place and Ford defended his position, stating that too much was expected too soon. However, the board was unhappy at the quality of performances and the poor attendances, despite spending nearly £300,000. The astute and experienced Alex MacDonald took over as player-coach, and he faced a hard task in leading the club to promotion.

Bad weather led to a shut-down for almost two months and when Hearts returned to League action on 30 January, the team went down 3-0 at home to Motherwell. This left the maroons sixth in the League, 11 points off the pace and five behind Clydebank who were in the second promotion place. During the bad weather, a lack of income also resulted in the club not paying the balance of the Pettigrew/Addison fee to Dundee United and this soon caused problems.

By this time, the Scottish Cup had commenced and the maroons came through a Third Round tie away to East Stirlingshire, winning 4-1. This earned a home game against Forfar Athletic on 13 February and Hearts went down by the only goal. This was one of the worst results in the club's history, as Hearts had never lost to a lower level team at home in the Scottish Cup. Despite this, the directors' made a very shrewd move in confirming Alex MacDonald as player-manager.

Results immediately improved and the team won 12 of the next 15 League matches. Sadly, big crowds had not yet returned to Tynecastle and only 2,397 turned up to watch John Robertson make his first team debut, alongside his brother Chris, in a 4-1 victory over Queen of the South. During this fine run, several players were also picking up cautions and this would eventually hit hard.

With three games left against Dumbarton, Kilmarnock and Motherwell, three points were required for promotion, but the pressure was on, due to injuries and the inevitable suspensions. Against Dumbarton, the team was leading 2-1 at half time, but the 4,861 fans were then stunned when the maroons collapsed in the second period and lost four goals without reply.

Hearts now faced the other two promotion challengers and at Rugby Park the maroons were without four first team players through suspension, but forced a 0-0 draw. However, Gerry McCoy was sent off and this compounded the problems for the final match of the season at home to Motherwell, where a victory was required if the club was to go back to the Premier Division. A crowd of 14,709 came to lend support to a weak Hearts side, but the maroons went down 1-0 and Motherwell and Kilmarnock were promoted.

Hearts did win the East of Scotland Shield for 1981-82, beating Meadowbank Thistle by 5-0 in the Final.

Having made a substantial investment in new players over the season, failure to gain promotion to the Premier Division was a hugely damaging blow for the club. The board of directors, that now included Pilmar Smith and Douglas Park following the resignation of Iain Watt and Bob Haig, had to wrestle with some very difficult financial challenges.

Manager Alex MacDonald released a large number of fringe players and turned his full attention to the development of the club's own youngsters. The reserve team was scrapped in favour of an U18 side, but the astute Glaswegian was still able to bring on players such as Gary Mackay, Davie Bowman, and John Robertson.

The Safety of Sports Gound Act 1975 led to many parts of the stadium becoming off-limits
The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 led to parts of Tynecastle becoming off limits

The Tide Turns

Hearts had lost over £300,000 during the financial year and was £500,000 in the red. As a result, at the start of season 1982-83, the club was forced to sell Derek Addison to St Johnstone in order to reduce a much publicised debt to Dundee United and Celtic. However, failure to fully clear the outstanding sums led to an SFA ban on purchasing players.

Strenuous efforts were being made to improve the club's financial position and the car company, Alexander's of Edinburgh, became Hearts' first shirt sponsors. The most significant move, however, was the recruitment of Rangers' former international defender Sandy Jardine as player and assistant manager.

Football action commenced with a defeat at Motherwell in a League Cup Section that also involved Forfar Athletic and Clyde. Hearts quickly recovered to win all the other sectional matches, including a devastating 7-1 victory over Clyde at Shawfield, where Willie Pettigrew scored four goals. In the Quarter Finals Hearts eliminated Premier Division St Mirren, after a 1-1 draw at Paisley and a 2-1 win at Tynecastle. The former Rangers and Scotland winger, Willie Johnston, had now joined the club from Vancouver Whitecaps to lend experience to a very young squad.

Hearts then met Rangers over two games in the Semi-Finals and around 5,000 Tynecastle fans travelled to Ibrox for the First Leg. The maroons fought well, but went down 2-0. A crowd of 18,993 watched the return match which Hearts lost 2-1. Wallace Mercer had certainly introduced a dynamic approach to the running of the club and at the Rangers game, a competition was run that offered a house as the star prize!

The initial First Division match resulted in a 2-1 win over Queens Park at Hampden before a disappointing crowd of 1,871. Only Raith Rovers managed to beat Hearts during the next eleven fixtures and already, the Tynecastle men looked favourites for promotion, although they were second in the table, as a result of several draws. After losing a stormy home match 4-2 against Airdrieonians on 6 November, Hearts bounced back to win 3-0 at Clydebank and then the team put together another fine run of nine unbeaten games. During this spell, Hearts beat the main promotion rivals, St Johnstone, at Tynecastle on New Year's Day before a healthy crowd of 14,454.

Derek O'Connor looks pleased to help Hearts clinch promotion in May 1983 at Dumbarton
Derek O'Connnor scores as Hearts clinch promotion

Hearts were therefore in confident mood when the Scottish Cup took the maroons to Queen of the South in the Third Round. After a 1-1 draw, a crowd of 6,472 watched the Replay and in another rough encounter, Hearts went through with the only goal, scored by Derek O'Connor. In the Fourth Round, East Fife was beaten 2-1 at Tynecastle on a Sunday, before Hearts made a controversial exit at Celtic Park in the Quarter Finals. The team went down 4-1, but the score flattered the home side as Hearts had Peter Shields carried off with a broken leg after a foul, and Willie Johnston was also sent off for an offence that no Edinburgh fan could fathom.

Back in the League, Hearts made steady progress with John Robertson becoming a prolific marksman. He netted a hat-trick at Hampden in a 3-0 win over Queens Park and then another treble as Partick Thistle was defeated 4-0 at Tynecastle. Nevertheless, as most sides were motivated against Hearts, there were a few slip-ups that stopped the team from totally dominating the First Division. Alex MacDonald's men also had a poor disciplinary record and even the manager was sent off in a 4-2 defeat away to Raith Rovers.

Hearts lost away to St Johnstone on 9 April and both clubs had 47 points with five matches left. Clydebank was third with 44 points and Partick Thistle was also involved in the promotion battle. Hearts drew the next three games and the team needed a strong finish which thankfully, the players produced. Promotion was clinched after the penultimate fixture at Boghead Park in Dumbarton. The maroons won 4-0 with great celebrations being sparked off by goals from John Robertson (2), Derek O'Connor, and Gary Mackay. The final match of the season brought Hamilton Academical to Tynecastle and although Hearts won 2-0, St Johnstone did not falter and took the First Division Championship by one point.

Significantly, only 17 players were used in the First Division, four of whom were ever present: Henry Smith, Sandy Jardine, Roddy MacDonald and Davie Bowman.

The one and only Wallace Mercer
The one and only Wallace Mercer

Hearts' Pride Restored

Although there were reservations about Hearts' ability to survive in the Premier Division, the players punched well above their weight and in 1983-84, the club enjoyed its best season to date in the top ten. Indeed, the team performed so well, that Hearts qualified for a place in the UEFA Cup after finishing a creditable fifth.

The club was still banned from buying players and again had to work in the free transfer market where Alex MacDonald secured solid experience in Donald Park and also Jimmy Bone, whose craft was to have a significant influence on the development of young John Robertson.

Hearts in June 1983
Hearts in 1983

The League campaign started brilliantly with five straight wins, three away from home. The two Tynecastle victories were significant with Rangers being dispatched 3-1 and the other being a sizzling 3-2 win over Hibs. In the latter match, John Robertson scored twice and Jimmy Bone hit the winner to delight most of the 19,186 crowd. Although the run then came to an end with a 2-0 home defeat from Aberdeen, the team had laid the foundations for a successful season.

League results were mixed until the turn of the year, but the supporters recognised the squad's exciting potential and crowds were at long last returning to support the team. In addition, Alex MacDonald was finally able to invest some cash and he signed the very promising Cowdenbeath defender Craig Levein. Hearts were now looking Premier class and the manager richly deserved his new three year contract. At the end of the season, MacDonald also received a testimonial match against Rangers which attracted 17,853 fans to Tynecastle and Kevin Keegan appeared in a maroon shirt.

Hearts did have a lean spell towards the end of 1983 with only one win in nine games and this took the maroons close to the relegation zone. New Year brought a 1-1 draw with Hibs in torrential rain, but the 23,499 crowd did produce record receipts for Tynecastle. There was also a couple of bad reverses at Dens Park and Celtic Park, before Hearts improved in early March. Only one of the last eleven League matches was lost and this took the maroons into contention for a UEFA Cup spot. This was duly achieved on 5 May when Hearts and Celtic drew 1-1 at Tynecastle.

That season, the League Cup commenced with a two-leg Preliminary Round and Hearts just overcame Cowdenbeath, winning on penalties after drawing 1-1 on aggregate. However, the club recognised a star player and a few weeks later, Craig Levein moved to Hearts from Central Park. The League Cup then reverted to a long drawn out Section, with the maroons joining Rangers, St Mirren, and Clydebank. In the first four fixtures, Hearts lost home and away to Rangers and could only draw with St Mirren and Clydebank. The team was effectively out of the competition.

A famous guest!
Kevin Keegan plays a one-off game for Hearts

In the Scottish Cup, Hearts defeated Partick Thistle 2-0 at home in the Third Round. A huge support then swelled the Tannadice crowd to 14,371 for the Fourth Round tie against Dundee United. However, in a rough and tough match, Jimmy Bone was sent off and the team crashed 2-1 with the winning goal coming in 86 minutes.

In the East of Scotland Shield, Hearts lost twice to Berwick Rangers in the Semi Final of the 1982-83 competition and also in the Semi Final for 1983-84. Time was running out for this old competition.

The season ended with John Robertson the top scorer, having netted 20 competitive goals, 15 in the Premier League. Average home gates in the League were up to 11,914 and the club made a profit for the first time in a decade. The supporters now looked to the future with renewed confidence.

The Scottish Football League First Division: 1979-80
The East of Scotland Shield: 1974-75; 1975-76; and 1981-82

David Bowman; Jim Brown; Dave Clunie; Derek O'Connor; Donald Park; and Bobby Prentice

Jim Cruickshank

Eamonn Bannon

Written by historian David Speed with archivist Alex Knight

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