Ex-Hearts manager John Hagart dies at 72

JOHN Hagart, the former Hearts and Falkirk manager, has died at the age of 72 after a long illness.

• John Hagart was Hearts manager from October 1974 to April 1977 before taking on the role of Scotland assistant manager, working with

players like Bruce Rioch

A popular and respected figure throughout Scottish football, Hagart's coaching career also saw him work in a wide variety of roles for Rangers, Motherwell and Scotland.

A native of Edinburgh, Hagart is probably best remembered for his spell in charge of Hearts from October 1974 to April 1977. During a financially restrictive period for the club, he led them to a Scottish Cup final and one of their most famous European victories before seeing his tenure end with the disappointment of relegation for the first time in their history.

A joiner by trade, Hagart was, by his own admission, a journeyman footballer. In an 1984 interview, he said: "I was never a great player but I tried hard and learned a lot." Those were values he put to good use when he moved into coaching.

After graduating through the juvenile and junior ranks, Hagart signed for Luton Town in 1959. A committed and industrious wing-half, he was unable to make a first-team breakthrough at the Kenilworth Road club but furthered his footballing education nonetheless on the training ground alongside the likes of Allan Brown and Billy Bingham.

He returned to Scotland two years later to join Berwick Rangers but a knee injury restricted his appearances for the Borderers. Hagart finished his playing career back in the juniors with Armadale Thistle before finding his true vocation as a coach.

His first managerial position saw him lead Newtongrange Star to the 1971 Junior Cup final which they lost 2-1 to Cambuslang Rangers at Hampden. By now one of the leading lights at the SFA coaching courses in Largs, Hagart was also put in charge of the Scottish amateur international squad.

It was in 1972 that Hagart got his big break in the senior game when he was appointed to the coaching staff at Hearts by manager Bobby Seith. When Seith left in October 1974, Hagart took charge of a squad struggling to secure the top-ten finish required in the final season of the old First Division championship to claim a place in the first Premier Division.

He engineered a revival which saw Hearts earn their spot in the new-look top flight and the 1975-76 campaign saw his team record a fifth-place finish and what was only the club's second Scottish Cup final appearance in 20 years. Hearts were defeated 3-1 by a treble-winning Rangers side at Hampden but had done enough to qualify for Europe for the first time in 11 years.

The 1976-77 Cup-Winners' Cup campaign was brief but unforgettable for Hearts supporters. In the first round, Hagart's side were paired with East German side Lokomotiv Leipzig and lost the first leg 2-0 away. The return fixture at Tynecastle retains a special place in the club's folklore as Hearts produced a barnstorming display to win 5-1 and progress.

In Hagart's 100th match in charge of Hearts, Roy Kay and Willie Gibson wiped out Leipzig's advantage within the opening half hour before an away goal just before half-time put the visitors back in control. But, inspired by winger Bobby Prentice, Hearts scored three times in the closing 16 minutes through Jim Brown, Drew Busby and Gibson. Hearts could not repeat those heroics in the second round where they were outclassed by a Hamburg side orchestrated by the brilliant Felix Magath. Hagart did lead Hearts to the semi-finals of both the League Cup and Scottish Cup that season, losing to Celtic and Rangers respectively, but it ended with a calamitous run of one win in their last 14 games which saw them relegated.

Hagart resigned but returned to football the following season as part of the backroom team at Motherwell under Willie McLean and then Roger Hynd. He was also appointed assistant manager of Scotland by Ally MacLeod, helping him lead the country to the ill-fated 1978 World Cup finals. Hagart returned to front-line management at Falkirk the following year and won the Second Division title with them in 1980.

He left Falkirk in 1982 when they could no longer afford a full-time manager and the following year joined Rangers as reserve team coach under manager Jock Wallace. Hagart led the Ibrox club's youngsters to the reserve league title at the first attempt and played a key role in the development of players such as Ian Durrant, Derek Ferguson, Robert Fleck and Billy Davies.

After leaving Rangers along with Wallace when Graeme Souness was appointed manager in 1986, Hagart returned to his trade as a joiner.