FORMER Heart of Midlothian captain Alan Anderson has revealed his deep disappointment at what he interpreted as a snub by the Tynecastle club’s upper hierarchy in recent times.
Although Anderson laid a wreath on behalf of the club at the annual ceremony in Contalmaison two years ago to remember those players who fell in the First World War, he is a recent exile from Tynecastle, where he says he got the impression he was no longer welcome at games.
Speaking to help promote this weekend’s Supporters Direct Scotland Fans’ Cup at East End Park between the administration-afflicted Dunfermline and Hearts, Anderson, who played over 500 times for Hearts between 1964 and 1976, expressed the hope that a change in regime can help former players like himself re-engage with the club, following Vladimir Romanov’s chaotic and financially cavalier reign.
Now 73, Anderson still lives in Edinburgh, where he was born, and where he returned after being signed by Hearts from Scunthorpe United for just £1500. It is felt among fans of a certain vintage to be among the best deals the club ever did.
“I am never at Tynecastle. Since it has been under new management all of us old guys have been given the push,” he said yesterday. “That was the club’s decision and has been the case for the last few years.
“When I retired I was doing a PR job in the supporters’ lounges, but after things changed we were pushed out. I used to love that, going in and talking to fans and having a beer or a coffee. It’s changed days now, though.
“No explanation was given and I never said anything about it. I played with the Hearts for a long time – 539 games for the first team. I am a Leither, but have always been a Hearts supporter. My side of the family are all Hearts fans, so it is really sad the way things have gone.
“The old players used to get invited, we would turn up at the game and be shown in, they knew who you were,” added Anderson, reflecting on a time when the club was, according to him, a friendlier place to be. “But then I got the message that I wasn’t welcome and it makes you a little bit bitter, which I really do not want to be because I have always been a supporter of this football club.
“If I was invited, of course I would go back if a change of ownership came along. It is a case of feeling wanted.
“Hearts always felt like a community club. There was a friendly buzz about the place, but I guess the club, the game and players have all changed. Good luck to them, the players certainly get a lot more money than I ever did.”
Asked to reflect on the two Scottish Cup successes that were achieved under Romanov, Anderson is pretty clear that they cannot make up for the club’s current financial plight. The centre-half has known disappointment on the football field, having been captain when Hearts were pipped on goal difference by Kilmarnock on the last day of the 1964-65 season. He was also in the side at Hampden when Hearts were defeated 3-1 by Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup final in 1968.
Roy Barry, who captained the East End Park side that afternoon, was present alongside Anderson yesterday to publicise this Saturday’s re-match. Compared to the 1960s, the straitened circumstances at both clubs are quite stark, and Anderson reflected on the cost of Romanov’s involvement.
“I don’t think this last eight years has been worth everything we have gone through,” he said. “It is really sad, the way the club has gone and I think they have lost support along the way as well, unfortunately.
“But you will always be a Hearts supporter deep down, if you have been one,” he added. “I would never change my allegiance, but it is a shame the way people at the top can drive people away – but that is their choice and nothing to do with the ordinary punter.”
It is perhaps a sign of the times that two Scottish football clubs who are currently in administration will fight it out for a trophy on Saturday – the inevitable joke doing the rounds yesterday was that the winners are permitted to melt it down.
It is, though, a cup that marks the dedication of two groups of rival supporters, whose efforts have gone a long way to preserve their historic clubs. Organisers expect fans from other clubs will want to attend the game, which kicks off at 2pm.
A bus load of Kilmarnock fans are planning to travel from Ayshire to lend their support – QTS, the cup sponsors, also sponsor the Rugby Park club. Paul Goodwin, head of Supporters Direct Scotland, is hopeful that both Pars United and Foundation of Hearts groups can benefit by as much as £4000 each.
Shona Robison, the Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport, was also at East End Park yesterday – and has bought a ticket for the match. “This is a novel way of bringing two clubs together who are in difficulties,” she said. “The role of fans going forward is critical if we are going to create a sustainable model for Scottish football.”
Roy Barry, who made over 100 appearances for Dunfermline in the 1960s before moving to Coventry City, applauded the efforts of both sets of supporters, with Pars United now named the preferred bidder in the battle to save the East End Park club.
“I think we are on the verge of something very big here,” he said. “It is great for the club, the supporters and the fans. Every man, women and dog has been putting in money.
“I was only here for three years, but it seems as though it was longer,” he added. “I played 94 games and I mix socially with guys who played 200 or 300 games – I am humbled by guys like that, they live and breathe Dunfermline.
“Weekends without Dunfermline can’t happen,” he added. “I can’t imagine weekends without them. I travel to all the games, even with the away supporters, and never miss a game barring emergencies. The whole town revolves around your local club. Can you imagine the loss people would be at if this place had gone?”