Wallace Mercer dies

WALLACE Mercer, former chairman of Heart of Midlothian Football Club, died today aged 59.

Mr Mercer passed away at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, after what a family statement describes as "a short and courageous battle aganst cancer".

The family also thanked the medical and nursing staff for their care throughout Mr Mercer's illness.

Mercer was one of the most colourful figures in the Scottish game and will be greatly missed by Hearts supporters, who saw the team enjoying some of their most exciting football moments under his stewardship. Mercer took over as chairman in 1981 and his time in charge included the near-run season of 1986, where Hearts failed to win the championship on the last day of the season despite a thrilling run of form.

In 1990, Mercer became involved in controversy when it was announced that he planned a merger between Hearts and city rivals Hibernian. Large-scale protests soon led to the idea being scrapped although he himself saw a merger of the two sides as the only way to challenge the might of the Old Firm in Scottish football.

After leaving the world of football, Mercer became semi-retired and moved to France, but he still maintained a strong interest in Hearts. He was made Honorary Life President of the club and recently expressed his approval of the "Romanov revolution", seeing it as a golden opportunity to finally see his beloved Jambos win the championship that eluded them under his reign.

Hearts' current acting chief executive, Roman Romanov, said "Our deepest sympathies go out to Wallace's family. I had the pleasure of his company on a number of occasions and found him to be a true gentlemen.

"He was a great Hearts man who will always be in the hearts and minds of all directors, players and fans. He worked tirelessly to make Hearts a great club and dedicated so much of his time and energy in doing so.

"We are all deeply saddened by this loss, however he will always remain part of Hearts family."

Mr Mercer is survived by his wife, Anne, daughter Helen, son Iain, and by two grand-children.