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Jimmy Bone: Belief is key for League Cup final

Ex-St Mirren assistant Jimmy Bone recalls 'grown men crying' in '87. Picture: SNS

Ex-St Mirren assistant Jimmy Bone recalls 'grown men crying' in '87. Picture: SNS

  • by ALAN PATTULLO
 

JIMMY Bone recalls being “brainwashed” before he played a significant part in one of Scottish football’s greatest shocks, when Partick Thistle scored four times against Celtic to lift the League Cup in 1971.

Aged only 22, Bone became ever more certain that Thistle would triumph against the odds. Manager Davie McParland embarked on a week-long campaign in order to ensure the players were all on-message, even if the rest of the nation was not quite so willing to entertain the notion of Thistle winning. Famously, Frank Bough assured viewers of Grandstand that he would need to get clarification of the half-time score that had been flashed on their screens – Partick Thistle 4 Celtic 0.

Whatever happens on Sunday, when two of Bone’s former sides meet in the final of the same competition, it will not be treated as quite the same kind of shock. Bone admits that it is hard to predict the outcome even given his intimate knowledge of both clubs.

Hearts and St Mirren are currently separated by only a single point in the bottom half of the Scottish Premier League, with only Dundee below them. It is hard to gain too much direction from their league form, although Bone believes that two successive clean sheets is something in Hearts’ favour. He also points to the Tynecastle club’s more impressive cup record, while he reckons some tension could creep into St Mirren’s play as they seek to win this particular trophy for the first time in their history. But then, Hearts are a much-changed outfit to even their most recent cup success, at Hampden in May. Their team is flooded with inexperienced players, which is how he classed himself 42 years ago.

Bone reflects on his own experience of a final with Thistle. “What I would say to the young Hearts boys coming into this game: don’t have any fear. The build-up has a lot to do with it.

“Davie McParland [the Thistle manager] more or less brainwashed us. Davie just kept telling us that we would beat them because we are going to play this way, and that it will happen. We took that into the game and had a really good start, and it rolled on. We actually went into the game thinking we would win. And that is really important.”

There was a key-ring produced by Partick Thistle that celebrated Arthur Montford’s commentary when Bone scored the fourth goal, eight minutes before the interval: “And Bone walks it into the net!” the commentator exclaimed. Bone went on to play in England, and then, indeed, for Celtic briefly, before stints with St Mirren and Hearts.

By the time he reached Tynecastle in the twilight of his career, it was the other way round to what it is now. He joined such fellow veterans as Alex MacDonald, Sandy Jardine and Willie Johnston at Tynecastle as Hearts, buttressed by experience, held their own in the Premier Division in 1983-84 in their first season following promotion after two seasons in the First Division.

“It was fantastic playing for Hearts,” he recalls. Although from Bridge of Allan, Bone followed the club. “It was a big thing for me. My mum’s family were all Hearts supporter.

“I remember Wallace Mercer had a bonus system that took in four-game blocks. You got a bonus for every win, but if you got a certain amount of points every four games there was extra. I don’t think Wallace thought he’d have to pay out. Then we went 11 games unbeaten at the start of the season and he had his head in his hands. He was saying: ‘what have I done?’ Money was tight then, too.”

Bone returned to Love Street as assistant manager and saw St Mirren lift the Scottish Cup, against Dundee United in 1987. “We did an open-topped bus tour,” he recalls. “The streets of Paisley were jam-packed. Then we got to the old Love Street ground and there were grown men crying their eyes out.”

He imagines there will be much the same scenes again should St Mirren break their League Cup duck this weekend. Bone reached a second successive Scottish Cup final in 1988, as a member of Dundee United’s backroom staff. With reference to how St Mirren might respond to their loss at Hampden to a nine-man Rangers side in 2010’s final, this defeat, United’s fifth Scottish Cup final defeat on the trot, proved to him how previous disappointments can prey on a team’s mindset.

“There are defining moments in games, when the push comes to a shove,” he says. “Wee Jim McLean’s Dundee United team always used to hit the barrier. In 1988 we were 1-0 up after Kevin Gallacher scored and we were cruising against Celtic. Then all of a sudden a fear and tension crept in and Macca [Frank McAvennie] scored twice at the end.

“When it comes to big games, things like the mental side of it comes into play. The psyche of the players is the important thing. And possibly Hearts have that edge. They have won 5-4 on spot kicks twice and were out-played for long spells against Inverness in the semi-final.

“You need a rub of the green and Hearts’ run has been like that. They have been very fortunate but you make your own luck.”

 

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