Interview: Graham Shaw on his love of Hearts, Scottish Cup battles with Rangers and his relegation warning to the current Gorgie crop

Ahead of this evening’s tie of the round at Tynecastle,
Graham Shaw would be perfectly entitled to respond: “Don’t talk to me about hapless Hearts having to square up to rampant Rangers in the Scottish Cup. I did that three times.”

Graham Shaw, now 68, lives near Tynecastle, is a Hearts season-ticket holder and will be at the club's Scottish Cup quarter-final against Rangers this weekend. Picture: Ian Georgeson

In 1976 the Jam Tarts, as they were nicknamed in Shaw’s day, flirted with relegation before the Hampden final of the competition against Treble-chasing Gers. Eleven months later brought a rematch in the semi-finals and that season Hearts would tumble out of the top flight for the first time in their history. Then in 1980 the sides were paired in the quarter-finals when Rangers were the trophy holders and the boys in maroon had gotten all too used to life in the lower league.

The three games ended in sad defeat, the last of them 6-1 which was a career-worst for Shaw, who was the scorer of Hearts’ consolation in the ’76 final. But I for one do want to speak to him. I think he might have some good stories and am not put off by the fact he is a mild-mannered fellow who before and after football worked in a bank. Right enough, the yarns are funny and raucous.

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Let’s start with raucous and the time Hearts almost forfeited a cup clash at Dumbarton when the players threatened to strike. “The directors had decided to stop paying out a bonus when ties ended in a draw,” he says of the 1978 Boghead insurgence. “We were in a hotel, having just finished our pre-match lunch. There was a vote: we weren’t going to play. I didn’t agree – a draw was the job only part-done – but had to abide by the decision. The directors backed down but [manager] Willie Ormond was raging.”

Graham Shaw scores for Hearts past Rangers keeper Peter McCloy in the 1976 Scottish Cup final. Picture: SNS

Indeed he was. “As professional footballers they let the club and the fans down,” he fumed. “Had they refused to play, we would have had to concede the tie.” Hearts were second-tier but wee Willie, such was his ire, would have been prepared to sacrifice promotion as well by fielding reserves until the end of the season. The match was indeed drawn so what happened in the replay? “Oh we lost, which didn’t exactly boost our case!”

From raucous we move on to funny and the world tour undertaken by Hearts right after the ’76 final with Shaw, a striker who later drifted back into the midfield, rooming as usual with Bobby Prentice, the clown-genius of the Gorgie left-wing who passed away last year. “What a guy Bobby was – and what a tour that was. Southampton, who’d just won the FA Cup, then Bergen to play [Tynie’s favourite Norwegian] Roald Jensen’s hometown team Brann. From there it was on to Denmark, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius – incredible. But Bobby turned up at Edinburgh Airport with only a small Adidas holdall for the whole four weeks. ‘What have you got in there, Bobby?’ said us lot with our big suitcases. ‘My yellow Brazil T-shirt and these breeks – I’ll be fine’, he said – and he was. He washed the T-shirt in the bath every night and hung it on the balcony to dry but then it disappeared, sending him into a panic. To this day Jim Brown denies hiding it.

“Before too long Bobby’s trousers were a joke – completely crumpled. Our physio,
Andy Stevenson, had a solution: ‘Flatten them under your bed like we did in the Army and they’ll soon have a nice crease’.’‘Really?’ said Bobby. ‘That’s brilliant’. The trousers were scrunched up in a ball and he tossed them under the mattress like that. He thought this was some kind of magic trick.”

You want funny-raucous? Shaw can supply that too. In Bangkok on the epic trek the players anticipated the usual excursion to notable buildings, on this occasion probably a temple or two. “We were taken to a strip-club! At the door table-tennis bats were handed out because we were VIPs but we had no idea why. Then up on the stage this lovely lady started firing ping-pong balls from… well, I’m sure you can guess which part of her anatomy she used. But we weren’t sat near enough to the stage and never got to use the bats.”

Graham Shaw, right, with Hearts team-mates Frank Liddell, left, and Jim Jefferies during a training session at Tynecastle in July 1979. Picture: Scotsman Publications

You’d struggle for a better metaphor for Hearts in the second half of the 1970s. The team reached a cup final just as they gained entry to the strip-joint but the experience was anticlimactic. The Scotsman’s match reports from two of those games against Rangers describe how a lack of pace in the team was a fatal flaw. “The ping-pong balls never reached us,” Shaw adds. “A bunch of Australian tourists hogged the best seats all night.”

But you’d also struggle to convince Shaw that Tynecastle at that time – the yo-yo era of three relegations – was a gloomy place to be. Hearts, you see, were his club. The club of his father, Roy, in charge of the bus which sent the Bank of Scotland to all the remote corners of the country, who witnessed the Terrible Trio – “And how many times did he remind me of that!” Shaw’s club despite growing up in Edinburgh’s Piershill where everyone else supported Hibernian. And still his club now, living close to Tynecastle, a season-ticket holder, and heading there 
later today with hope, as you always should when it’s the cup.

We meet for a coffee in a shopping mall, Shaw being a classic case of footballers looking much smaller in their civvies, and I almost miss him, though this undoubtedly has something to do with the fact his soft-rock balladeer bouffant has long gone, along with the Magnum P.I. moustache. Mind you, he’s not as short as ex-teammate Donald Park who arrives at a nearby table. The old Jambos embrace and when Shaw, 68, returns he says: “Donald was sold and he shouldn’t have been. Then he scored a goal for Partick Thistle which helped put us down the second time.”

Shaw was 19, working in the Piershill branch of the old man’s bank, serving Hibbies, and thinking his chance of becoming a footballer had gone when an ex-pro colleague suggested he try Musselburgh Juniors. “I wasn’t sure, thought that would have been an admission of failure, but gave it a go. Remember that punch-up between Norman Hunter and Franny Lee? It was a bit like that, only worse, but I managed to score enough goals for Dunfermline to notice me.”

In the Pars’ changing room Jim Leishman tried to make the new boy feel at home: “So let’s give a big East End Park welcome to Graham – no we’ll ca’ ye Tattie – Shaw.” Consternation from the newbie. “Did Leish mean I played like a tattie? He explained that a shaw was the stalk of a potato. I felt better after that. But then, from the back of the room, someone shouted: ‘He’s from Edinburgh. That’ll mean he’s a poof!’ ”

Though Shaw enjoyed his time in Fife, team-mates knew his true allegiances. “After every game the first thing I did was check the Hearts score.” Playing against his favourites, having idolised Donald Ford and Alan Anderson from the terraces, was strange but exciting. Imagine how he felt then when the summons came from 
Tynecastle.

“I thought it was a wind-up. [Manager] John Hagart sat me down and told me about the club’s aims and ambitions but I didn’t take in a word, not even when he said how much I’d be earning. I just wanted him to show me where to sign.” His first-ever senior goal for Dunfermline had come against Dundee and as a £20,000 recruit he got off the mark for his new club against the same opposition. Goals against Dundee, indeed, became something of a Shaw fetish.

New team, new handle: “At Hearts I got called Shuggie.” A Jambo fansite recently explored the origins of the nickname with one supporter concluding: “I think it was just sh**e imagination from us at the time.” Nevertheless it found its way on to a lapel badge: “Nae bother at a’ tae Shuggie Shaw.” Every completist collector of maroon ephemera should have one of those, I say. “I wonder where mine is,” he says. “After hanging up my boots I started playing golf with guys like [ex-Hearts teammate] Eamonn Bannon and [former Meadowbank Thistle manager] Terry Christie. There was a tradition on our outings of the loser having to wear this multi-coloured Mongolian cloak and for a while my badge was attached to it. But then the honour fell to [Christie’s assistant] Lawrie Glasson. ‘I’m not wearing that’, he said, ‘I’m an MBE’. The ritual ended after that.” Funny folk, golfers. “Too true,” he says.

Shaw also has tousy tales from Arbroath where he rounded off his career and where, if the Red Lichties were playing downwind at Gayfield, the centre-backs would be instructed to shoot from their own half. “Sometimes goalies had to save their own kick-outs. The ball would loop backwards and they’d have to rush back and tip it over the bar.” But everything comes back to Tynecastle for him, a place well capable of whipping up its own storms: against managers (Ormond suffered because of his Hibee associations), against the board (for selling Bannon and Ralph Callachan at critical junctures) and against underperforming players.

“The Hearts fans were very demanding, same as they are now,” he says.

“Shuggie Shuggie Shuggie, Shaw Shaw Shaw!” became a chant although he knows there were times when it was hollered with heavy irony. Shaw did, though, do as much as anyone to keep the club Hampden-bound in ’76 and avoid the embarrassment of defeat by Montrose, a thrice-played ding-dong in which the Gable Endies always led, only for our man to drag Hearts back from the brink. And he also played his part in one of Tynie’s greatest nights: Jam Tarts 5, Lokomotiv Leipzig 1. “I started on the bench and, the way I like to tell it, we were down in the tie until I appeared. Nowadays you’d say I provided two assists.”

Shaw, married to Brenda, reflects on those Rangers tussles some more. In ’76, he says, the plan had been to keep the final tight from the start. So what did Hearts do? Lose a goal before three o’clock, Derek Johnstone’s 42-second opener after the referee had begun the game early being a pub-quiz favourite.

“After my goal I hit the bar with a header but it was too little too late. The following year we held out for longer but not long enough. The third game was the first where I was apprehensive, and with good reason as it turned out. We just caved in.”

Rangers, he adds, had good players 
and effective psychology, part of the 
“character” which manager Jock Wallace often espoused. “They tried to intimidate you and often it worked. Alex MacDonald was niggly. Tommy McLean was niggly 
and if you ever got one over on him he’d call up Tam Forsyth to properly sort you 
out. Tam was a master: he’d start up this constant yapping telling you you were crap. He’d say: ‘Our centre-forward’s screwing your wife’. He’d dig you in the ribs. I found that stuff funny but some guys would get upset.”

So can the current Hearts do the upsetting and ruin the best chance of silverware for Steven Gerrard’s team? “Anything can happy in the cup,” he says. “I see a lot of similarities with Hearts now and the team back then. There was a bit of complacency about the league position and folk said we were too good to go down: we weren’t. The same thing could happen again. But I think they can avoid relegation and in this tie they can put their troubles away for 90 minutes and give Rangers a fright.”

If they do it would be cause for all Jambos doing something spontaneously daft, like wearing a Shuggie Shaw badge.

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