JAMIE MacDonald and Jamie Langfield will be at opposite ends of Pittodrie this afternoon, but the antagonism will last no longer than the final whistle.
Aberdeen goalkeeper Langfield is to auction off his gloves after the match in aid of the charity Bare All 4 Brain Tumours, and his Hearts counterpart believes he is an inspiration both for his charitable work and for the way he fought back from a brain seizure.
“Myself and Jamie have the same glove sponsor, so I know him through that, as well as playing against him,” MacDonald said. “I interact with him a lot more now because of the sponsorship.
“I have great admiration for him and what he’s gone through, which was unbelievable. He’s a credit to the profession, because it’s something you can’t imagine happening to yourself.”
After the brain seizure in May 2011, Langfield needed two operations before eventually being given the all clear last November. The gloves he is wearing today also saw action against Motherwell and Kilmarnock, and will be signed by the keeper after the Hearts match.
“It must have been a very scary part of his life, for him and his family,” MacDonald continued. “To come back and play at the same level is incredible. You wouldn’t know it had happened to him, because it hasn’t fazed him.
“He’s an inspiration, really. And he’s raising awareness for a brain charity he works with. I hope the gloves he’s auctioning off are clean, because it will mean the ball has gone straight past him.
“Seriously, it’s a big thing for Jamie and I hope it does raise awareness. He’s a fit guy playing professional football and something like that happens. It can happen to anyone.
“And he’s proven that you can come back from it. He’ll inspire others who have suffered a brain tumour. And he’s not come back at a lower level – he’s back in the Aberdeen team, in the SPL.”
Four points ahead of Hearts in ninth, Aberdeen still have a chance to finish in the top six, and would therefore appear to have more to play for today. But MacDonald insisted that, after losing the League Cup final a fortnight ago, he and his team-mates are desperate to end the season with a good run of results.
“We can make a load of excuses. It’s been a difficult season with a lot of changes, but we’re Hearts. We see ourselves as the third force in Scottish football so we should still be up there challenging.
“We’re all very disappointed with where we are this season. We’re tenth in the league and have lost a cup final. We should be in the top six every season, no matter what.
“Now, we’ve got seven games left and we want to win every one of them to finish ‘best of the rest’. It will give us a springboard for next season. Aberdeen will feel the same. They’ll think they’re the third force with their great history and they haven’t done so well in recent years either. They still have a chance of top six and European places so it’ll be a difficult game for us on Saturday.
“It’s been a long wait after the cup final. But on a personal level, it was good to have a few days off over the international break. It was nice to go away and spend some time with the family, to get away from football.
“On a professional level, you can’t get over it until the next game. Hopefully we can get it out of our system by winning at the weekend and feeling good again, because it was a disappointing day for the club.
“The goals at Hampden were preventable in a game which we dominated most of. We switched off for a short period and, fair play to St Mirren, they took their chances. But that’s cup football. There were a few occasions on our Scottish Cup run last year where we thought ‘how have we won that’?”
Today’s match is Gary Locke’s first league fixture since being named as Hearts’ permanent manager on a deal which runs to the end of next season.
“It’s nice to have a bit of clarity now with Lockie in charge,” MacDonald added. “We’re not asking ‘Who’s going to be the gaffer at the start of next season?’, which is usually the case. It was a popular decision all round. The players like him and the training is kept upbeat. We enjoy it. Even from the fans’ point of view, they all appreciate the decision as well.”