INSTANTLY, almost seamlessly, Craig Beattie has become a Hearts hero. He galloped round the track at Hampden Park yesterday in a fit of delirium after his penalty secured the first Hearts-Hibs Scottish Cup final in 116 years.
Two months into his Tynecastle career, he is a supporters’ idol and loving every second of it.
Events during the Scottish Cup semi-final against former club Celtic reaffirmed to Beattie that he made the correct choice coming to Hearts. He had other options but felt he could best rejuvenate his career in Gorgie. It’s proven to be a sound decision, something Beattie might have pondered whilst running bare-chested around the National Stadium in the wake of his match-winning penalty.
“It’s been great so far. Everything has happened so fast,” he told the Evening News. “I was prepared and ready for that. I was up and ready to go when I arrived and I told the manager that. I told him what I could offer him and I’m just glad that I’m backing my words up.
“I’ve gone on Twitter and said a few things. I’m not really into all the social media stuff to be perfectly honest. But I thought I’d give it a little bash and everything has been positive. The fans have been great and I’m just glad I’m repaying their faith because they’re a right good bunch.”
His appearance for the second half of the semi-final justified his signing alone. He created Rudi Skacel’s opening goal and then confidently dispatched the penalty beyond Fraser Forster just three minutes after Gary Hooper’s 87th-minute equaliser. Beattie now has a cup final awaiting and is relishing the opportunity.
“I’ve won four cup finals. I can’t remember having many disappointments,” he said with a grin. “I played and scored in the last Edinburgh derby. I grew up right in the midst of the Old Firm rivalry so I don’t need to be told how big a derby game is.
“I’ve been asked who is going to be favourites going into the final and my response is who were the favourites yesterday? Whether we come in as favourites or Hibs do, it just goes out the window. When you’ve got big personalities and big characters like we do, I think favourites and form doesn’t matter. It’s about who turns up on the day and who can cope with the occasion. I feel we can.”
Before then, Hearts have five important league fixtures to negotiate in an effort to climb the SPL table and secure European qualification. The prospect of reaching the Europa League qualifying rounds by winning the Scottish Cup is a useful back-up, but Beattie has no intention of resting on laurels between now and May 19.
“I jumped in an ice bath as soon as I got back into the dressing room yesterday. I was just thinking: ‘I need to get myself ready for Rangers next week.’ The focus for us now is pushing as high up the league as we can, and for me to get another game and maybe even another goal. I’m honestly not looking any further than that.”
Anyone who is will incur the wrath of Paulo Sergio. “It won’t be difficult to focus on league games because that’s how the manager works. He’s all about the next game,” explained Beattie. “When I came up to Hearts and sat down with the manager, I outlined what I wanted to do for him. I looked a little bit ahead and was explaining where I wanted to help the club finish at the end of the season. He said to me: ‘No, I only want three points this weekend’. I think he was right.
“I was talking about getting Hearts higher up the league, where I think they should be. He said all he wanted me to do was sign and help get three points at the weekend. That’s how the man works. I’ve no doubt there will be a few drums being beaten in and around Edinburgh and in the media, but certainly not by us.”