John Robertson: “The opportunities we missed at Hearts were huge” | Scottish Premiership


D.ens Park, May 3, 1986. The number of visitors was 19,567; Tens of thousands more have long recognized the importance of what happened. Albert Kidd’s goals – 83 minutes, 87 minutes – prevented Hearts from getting the point Celtic needed to win the title. The resulting images of maroon men crying on the terraces have never really gone away.

Understandably, there aren’t many reflections from Hearts players on the most painful athletic episodes. That will change with the upcoming release of John Robertson’s long-awaited and self-written autobiography. The league’s top scorer at 214 over two seasons, Robertson was the darling of Hearts support back then and is revered to this day. The figurehead carried the burden of what was happening in Dundee. Hearts lost the Scottish Cup final to Aberdeen a week later.

“It was the one section in the book that went on for a long time,” says Robertson. “It got to Dens and I wondered how to go about it. The hardest part was that emotional aspect of explaining how we all felt after this game. Had we played the league, I would have absolutely no doubt we would have beaten Aberdeen. ”In the Dundee dressing room, Robertson showed tears and silence, except for one teammate who had to throw up.

Desperation for Hearts fans after a 2-0 defeat in Dundee, the club contested the title in the Scottish Premier League in 1986. Photo: Bob Thomas Sports Photography / Getty Images

“Despite the revitalization of the club, we left a lot of opportunities out there. I’ve lost in 10 or 11 semi-finals and three cup finals. The opportunities that we as a team and I as an individual missed were huge. “

It wasn’t until 1998 when the Scottish Cup for Hearts, including Robertson, ended a trophy wait that went back to 1962. No club outside of the Old Firm has won the top division since 1985. “It will always be there,” says Robertson over a year later. “Like, to a lesser extent, in 1998. As of April, we’ve drew Motherwell at home, drew at home with St. Johnstone, lost to Hibs, lost to Rangers, drew to Aberdeen … We are only seven points behind Celtic completed. We just needed one strong start and we could have cracked the league. It was an opportunity; nowhere near as big as Dens, but still a chance. “

Hearts will strut towards Ibrox on Saturday, one point behind Rangers, holding the only unbeaten record in the Scottish Premiership. Robertson extensively praises Robbie Neilson and his class of 2021.

John Robertson wins the Scottish Cup in 1998 after Hearts beat Rangers in the final.
John Robertson wins the Scottish Cup in 1998 after Hearts beat Rangers in the final. Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell / Reuters

“You have unity, you can see that. There’s been a lot of improvement in this team because it’s got a lot of young guys. You can get better. They play with an arrogance, but that’s controlled, not on your face. They know they are a decent team that, when played well together, are as good as anyone else in the league. Hearts have nothing to fear going to Ibrox. “

Robertson, 57 and Sporting Director of Inverness Caledonian Thistle, remains one of the most knowledgeable and infectious characters in the Scottish game. It annoys him that his leadership role at Tynecastle ended in 2005, shortly before an entire season. The takeover of Vladimir Romanov meant a fresh start; Robertson was a high profile victim. “I will always be connected to Hearts. I got in as a manager and I still think I did a decent job under the circumstances. Right man, wrong time. It affected my career because people would look at that and say, ‘If Hearts gets rid of them, he must have a big mistake given his playing career there. If Hearts didn’t like him as a manager, why should we? ‘”

Robertson’s incredible memory of people and matches is evident in his book. As is known, a teenager Robertson was in the office of Hibs chairman Tom Hart and ready to sign before asking his brother Chris to review the terms. Hart – Robertson believed out of indifference to the Rangers Chris played for – refused to let the unsigned contract out of the room. The deal collapsed; Robertson scored 27 times for Maroon during the Edinburgh Derbies.

There was an earlier encounter with Brian Clough in Nottingham Forest. Clough already had a Scottish John Robertson used on the left as No. 11 and refused to have the student Robertson play in a lawsuit as No. 9 in the center-forward. He too had to wear 11 on the left.

In 1988, at the end of an unfortunate eight month stint in Newcastle, Ajax tried to lure Robertson. “If the call had come four hours earlier …” says Robertson. “I agreed and signed the deal to return to Hearts. If I had gone to Ajax, my career would have taken a completely different direction, successful or unsuccessful.

John Robertson is celebrating after scoring for the Hearts against the Rangers in December 1997.
John Robertson is celebrating after scoring for the Hearts against the Rangers in December 1997. Photo: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

“I would have liked to have done well for the Newcastle fans who treated me well. I still get letters from them. It just shouldn’t be; I have not done justice to myself. I was injured, needed hernia surgery, and when I got back on the team, I was far left in midfield four.

“Jim Smith came in and was told he had to sell players. Myself, John Hendrie, Dave Beasant, and Andy Thorn were put up for sale. John immediately went to Leeds and a bun fight between Scottish clubs began for me. Rangers came to £ 500,000, Hibs, Aberdeen and Dundee United came to £ 600,000. Rangers was very interesting, Graeme Souness was there, but they weren’t ready to increase their offer. When the chairman told me about the offers, it was Rangers from the three I wanted to speak to, but the offer was too low. Wallace [Mercer, the Hearts chairman] At some point it took a little more to get me back and align the stars. “

Robertson played in an era when Scottish strikers were feared. Among them were Ally McCoist, Mo Johnston, Steve Archibald, Frank McAvennie, and Eric Black. The recent widespread failure to produce productive goalscorers is blatant. “It’s math,” says Robertson. “If you play with two center strikers, you need two as a backup – think of the numbers from the U12 onwards.”

Robertson was the manager of Inverness when he was given compassionate leave in February. His return to work brought a new role that he delved into. Robertson remains upset with Scottish football’s handling of the pandemic as his Highland club faces geographic challenges.

John Robertson last October while serving as Inverness manager.  “I rammed myself into the ground, didn't sleep and took too much on myself,” he says.
John Robertson last October while serving as Inverness manager. “I rammed myself into the ground, didn’t sleep and took too much on myself,” he says. Photo: Malcolm Mackenzie / ProSports / Shutterstock

“I ran into the ground, didn’t sleep and took too much on myself. Three of the players’ wives were pregnant and I was worried about my own family down in Edinburgh. We lost my sister. It all built up and built up. As a manager, I felt responsible for protecting players, employees and their families. Everything was catching up and it was just too much – I had to take a step back.

“They banned the players from showering after the games. That’s fine for administrators based in Glasgow. The attitude I got was, ‘Well, it’s not our fault you’re sitting up there.’ They weren’t interested. We were out at Queen of the South on a Friday night and the players had to come home at 3am before they could shower. “

Now in great shape, Robertson closes his book at the end of his season. “There’s more to come,” he says with a big smile. “Robbo II.” You feel like he has unfinished business.

Robbo: My autobiography is edited by Black & White and released on October 28th

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