First Team

In Focus: Betfred Cup opponents

29th May 2019

Now that Hearts have learned who they will face in the group stages of the 2019/20 Betfred Cup, let's take a closer look at our upcoming opponents...

Who are they?

Winners of five major trophies and memorable runners-up in the 1986/87 UEFA Cup, Dundee United don’t need much of an introduction.

Legendary manager Jim McLean brought the Terrors to the forefront of Scottish football in the 1980s, when they and Aberdeen broke the Glasgow stranglehold, winning the Premier Division title, two League Cups, reaching the semi finals of the 1983/84 European Cup and losing 2-1 on aggregate to IFK Goteborg in the UEFA Cup Final.

A Scottish Cup was added to the trophy cabinet in 1994 after success over Rangers but United were relegated the following year. Promoted back up at the first time of asking, the club languished in the lower regions of the top tier until Craig Levein was appointed manager in 2006.

With a renewed youth system and squad overhaul, United starting qualifying for Europe and landed another Scottish Cup in 2010 – under the tutelage of Peter Houston.

Then came another slump that culminated in relegation in 2016. To date, Dundee United have remained in the Championship since, despite two Play-Off Final appearances.


Have we met before?

Oh yes, many times. 198 to be exact, and, historically, games between the two sides have been pretty close. Hearts have 78 wins to Dundee United’s 69, while 51 matches have ended in draws.

The last time the two sides met was back in February 2016 at Tannadice. Guy Demel put the hosts in front just before half time, not long after Jordan McGhee was sent off for a second yellow. Jamie Walker got the Jambos back on level terms three minutes after the restart, but Paul Paton struck the winner two minutes from time. 

The last League Cup meeting was in October 2012. A 1-1 draw, thanks to Callum Paterson and Johnny Russell goals, took the Tannadice quarter-final to extra time and then penalties, from which John McGlynn’s Hearts side emerged victorious, 5-4. The Jambos would go on to lose that season’s final to St Mirren.


How did they get on this season?

They got agonisingly close to making it back to the top flight, but fell at the final hurdle. An indifferent start to the season saw United replace one former Hearts manager with another; Robbie Neilson came in for the departing Csaba Laszlo. A second-place finish was secured, as was a Play-Off semi-final victory over John Robertson’s Inverness CT, but despite two Final draws with St Mirren, the Tannadice men had a penalty shootout horror show last Sunday, missing all four kicks from the spot as the Buddies secured their Premiership status.


What’s on the cards for 2019/20?

Promotion. This will be Dundee United’s fourth consecutive season in the Championship and the target will be to get back into the top flight.

United’s new American owner has promised to back Neilson in the transfer market and he’s already secured the signature of former Jambos right-back Liam Smith on a pre-contract and on-loan Mark Reynolds has committed his future to the club.

Tam Scobbie, Fraser Fyvie, Aidan Nesbitt, William Edjenguele, Lewis Toshney, Morgaro Gomis and Billy King have all departed while it remains to be seen if frontman Pavol Safranko – who hit 15 goals – will return after his loan deal from Danish side Aalborg BK ended.


Hearts links?

How long have you got? Hearts manager Craig Levein is a former Dundee United gaffer, and Robbie Neilson – current United head coach – cut his managerial teeth in the Gorgie hotseat between 2014 and 2016.

Neilson’s goalkeeping coach, Neil Alexander, was the man between the Tynecastle sticks during that same period while United’s Development Squad assistant manager and club scout – and legendary figure – Dave Bowman made his professional debut at Hearts in 1980, where he spent four years before moving to Coventry City.

In the Hearts dugout, first-team coach Jon Daly won the Scottish Cup at Tannadice, goalkeeping coach Paul Gallacher was at United for seven years while U18s coach John Rankin enjoyed a five-year spell there between 2011 and 2016.

To the playing squad; the Tangerines’ Osman Sow used to lead the line at Tynecastle, while incoming full back Liam Smith is a product of the Hearts youth system.




Who are they?

Founded 135 years ago this year, Stenhousemuir have spent the majority of their history in the lower leagues of Scottish professional football. 

Big results haven’t been uncommon, though. Stenny famously defeated then-UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup holders Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox in a 1972/73 League Cup match, and in 1994/95 made it to the Scottish Cup quarter-finals, defeating St Johnstone and Aberdeen along the way.

The Warriors lifted silverware in ’96, beating Dundee United on penalties to win the Challenge Cup (now Irn-Bru Cup).


Have we met before?

Fleetingly. 14 pairings sees Hearts victorious on eight occasions, Stenny winning three and three ending in a draw.

Hearts travelled to Ochilview for a League Cup 2nd Round match five years ago. Gary Oliver and Kevin McHattie goals were enough to secure safe passage to the next round, though the hosts did pull one back through Kieran Miller.


How did they get on this season?

Not well. Having been promoted to League One the season before, the Warriors languished in bottom spot for much of the season. Manager Brown Ferguson was replaced by striker Colin McMenamin, and although the great escape seemed on when they climbed to 9th in the final weeks – thus qualifying for the Play-Offs – a 4-1 aggregate defeat to Annan Athletic confirmed a return to League Two.


What’s on the cards for 2019/20?

Promotion will be the name of the game. Stenhousemuir have yo-yoed between Leagues One and Two over the past few seasons and McMenamin will want to get them back up at the first time of asking, just as they did in 2017/18.

Rebuilding has already begun, with left-back Harvey Swann coming in from Cowdenbeath and – on the opposite flank - Chris O’Neil joining from Airdieonians.

Lewis McMann, Alan Reid, Ruaridh Donaldson, Mark Ferry, Sean Dickson, Greg Hurst, Nikki Paterson and Robbie Sinclair have all left the club, with a further four players returning to their parent clubs after their loan deals expired.


Hearts links?

Not many. Midfielder Conner Duthie was at Hearts as a youth before he departed for Hibs in 2014




Who are they?

The first club in Scotland to win the League Cup three times, East Fife have enjoyed more than their fair share of silverware.

Lifting the trophy in 1948, 1950 and 1954, they also won the Scottish Cup in 1938 – a trophy haul that makes them Fife’s most successful football club in terms of major honours won.

The Fifers have spent all their seasons outside of the top flight since the early 1970s. Success came in in 2007/08 when they won the Third Division (now League Two) title.

They’ve delivered a few League Cup shocks in recent years, defeating then-top flight Dunfermline in 2011 and beating Aberdeen on penalties in the next round.


Have we met before?

We have indeed. 56 meetings have seen Hearts win 32, lose 15 and draw 9.

The last competitive meeting was in fact in the League Cup in July 2017. A Kyle Lafferty double and Christophe Berra’s header saw the Jambos run out comfortable 3-0 winners at Tynecastle.

East Fife’s last win over Hearts came back in 1977; Quinton Young and Ken Mackie scored a 2-0 First Division win at Bayview.


How did they get on this season?

Not too far away from the Play-offs, East Fife finished 7th in League Two. Five points away from fourth place but also nine points from safety, Darren Young’s side were in the promotion hunt for most of the season but fell away in the final few weeks of the campaign.


What’s on the cards for 2019/20?

A Play-Off spot. East Fife occupied third and then fourth in the League Two table for 26 games before dropping out of the promotion places in week 33.

The Fifers have secured the signatures of experienced duo Chris Higgins and Stewart Murdoch for next season, as well as goalkeeper Jordan Hart who joins from Queens Park and Ryan Wallace, a purchase from Arbroath. Also joining is Danny Denholm from Arbroath and Lewis Hunter from the University of Stirling.

Outgoings include Jonny Court, Chris Kane, Scott Linton and Daniel Terry.


Hearts links?

The aforementioned Chris Kane came through the youth ranks at Hearts, while Jambos striker Rory Currie spent this season on loan at Bayview, where he scored six goals.




Who are they?

Another of Scottish football’s long-running clubs, Cowdenbeath have been plying their trade for 138 years.

Though a major honour has eluded the Blue Brazil during this time, they have won the First Division three times, the Second Division once and the Third Division on one occasion.

Cowdenbeath haven’t made a top flight appearance since 1970/71 but a new era was heralded with the arrival of Craig Levein to Central Park in 1997. With standards improved, another Hearts man – Gary Kirk – took them up to the Second Division in 2001 and they missed out on the Third Division title through goal difference.

Mixu Paatelainaan led them to the Third Division title in in 2006 and they ascended up to the Championship, before relegation in 2015 and spiraled down to League Two, where they remain to this day.


Have we met before?

Exactly 51 times. 33 wins can be attributed to Hearts, seven to Cowdenbeath and 11 ending in draws.

The most recent meeting between the two sides was in last season’s Betfred Cup when Steven MacLean, Uche Ikpeazu, Peter Haring, Steven Naismith and Michael Smith eased the Jambos to a 5-0 Tynecastle win.

Cowdenbeath’s record loss? 10-0 at Tynecastle in 2015.


How did they get on this season?

Rooted in mid table. 23 points from the Play-Offs and 24 points from safety, the Blue Brazil finished their League Two campaign in sixth. A welcome return to normality, however, as the season before they finished bottom of the table and survived a Play-Off scare to beat Cove Rangers 3-2.


What’s on the cards for 2019/20?

A promotion push. Though Cowdenbeath were never really in any real danger of being dragged into a relegation fight this season, they’ll be looking the other way come the next campaign. History has proven them more than capable of rising through the leagues and it wasn’t that long ago they were facing off against Hearts in the Championship.

Skipper Kyle Miller has committed to another season at Central Park, along with Jamie Pyper, Jamie Todd, David Cox and former Hearts duo Fraser Mullen and Robbie Buchanan.


Hearts links?

Craig Levein started out his managerial career at Cowdenbeath back in 1997, first team coach Liam Fox took over the reins in 2016 while Gary Locke guided them to safety in 2017.

Assistant Manager Austin MacPhee also enjoyed two years as an assistant coach at Cowdenbeath from 2008 to 2010.

Fraser Mullen and Robbie Buchanan are both products of the Hearts youth system but left in 2013 and 2017 respectively.