Craig's cup memories19 May 2022
The skipper and the manager were teammates when Hearts defeated Gretna to lift the Scottish Cup back in 2006. Sixteen years later, the two find themselves side by side again as the Jambos look to overcome Rangers at the national stadium on Saturday.
“It would be very special. I think he’d be the first person to win it as a manager and a player. For me, to win two Scottish Cups as a player – I don’t think there’s that many people who have been able to do that," he told the media in his cup final preview.
“It would be fantastic for both of us, but we know that it’s a difficult task. We’re going to prepare and give it our best shot this week. He was always a couple of years older than me; he won the Youth Cup before I arrived at Hearts. Robbie was always a hard-working player, he’d never say too much in the dressing room, a bit like myself really.
“You could tell that his work ethic and the way he thought about the game was well suited to management. He’s done a tremendous job to stabilise Hearts and push the standards of this club forward again. He’s gotten us back to where we should be, and he’s done it so quickly.
“We’re not finished yet. We want to keep pushing the standards well into next season. Personally, it’s been good. Made some good saves across the season and have kept up good form for quite a while now."
An influential figure at the heart of the events of the 2006 final, Craig was just a supporter when Hearts faced Rangers at Celtic Park in 1998 in the cup.
The memories live on inside Craig, who wants to make some of his own with the class of 2022.
“I went to all three of Hearts' finals between 1998 and 2012. I actually missed both the goals in 98’ because I was taking part in the penalty shootout at half time. I was late in getting to my seat for Cameron’s penalty because they were showing us where to go for the half time entertainment," he explained.
“I was still getting changed back into my clothes when Stephane Adam scored in the second half! I was able to see full time though and be there for the celebrations afterwards. The post match parade was crazy. It was a normal bus and the players smashed the sky light to poke their heads out!
"Jose Quitongo nearly fell off the top of the bus outside Tynecastle. For everybody, it was such a release of emotion. We've got a real good group of boys here now, and we'll all be supporting each other when we take to the pitch on Saturday."