Hearts’ Olly Lee hopes family fortunes improve against Celtic

Olly Lee is proud of his footballing father Rob but is desperate to avoid a family trait of being beaten in cup finals.

Olly Lee celebrates the Scottish Cup semi-final win over Inverness. Picture: Getty

The Hearts midfielder was just a boy when he watched Newcastle United lose successive FA Cup finals in the late 1990s. His dad was captain for the first one, when a Kenny Dalglish-managed Newcastle lost 2-0 to the double-winning Arsenal.

A year later, with Ruud Gullit
in charge and Alan Shearer
installed as skipper, Newcastle had the misfortune to encounter another team bidding to complete a double in Manchester United. Alex Ferguson’s side won 2-0 and then went on to secure a treble by beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League final four days later.

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Hearts must overcome a similarly motivated set of opponents in Celtic at next month’s Scottish Cup final at Hampden. It’s almost certain Neil Lennon’s side will be looking to complete a treble treble so Lee and his team-mates will need to be at their very best to deny them this remarkable achievement.

The midfielder’s father, now a pundit, will be watching from the Hampden main stand and Lee is hoping he can halt a depressing trend. “I have seen him lose twice in the FA Cup final so hopefully I can go one better,” he said. “It would mean the world to me, it would be brilliant to do that.

“I think I was at both [finals],” he added. “I can remember the second one better. They were unfortunate occasions for the old man and he doesn’t have fond memories. Hopefully I can have better ones.”

Perhaps wisely, given his own record, his father has not yet sought to offer any advice. Newcastle could not conjure up a goal in either final appearance at Wembley despite having the likes of Shearer and John Barnes, who appeared as a substitute in 1998, to call upon. Duncan Ferguson came on at half-time the following year but there was still no joy in front of goal.

“When it comes to the finals, he says they didn’t quite turn up on the day,” said Lee. “Hopefully that won’t happen to us and we will turn up and put in a great performance.

“I am 27-years-old now and while I might not have played in games as big as this, I know my game and what I can bring to the team,” he added. “It is just play the game, play your natural game and we will be all right.”

Hearts fans were concerned their side had let the significance of the occasion get the better of them in Saturday’s semi-final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. A poor first-half saw Craig Levein’s side booed off by their supporters in the crowd.

Lee set the tone for a better second-half performance from his side when letting fly from 25 yards shortly after the interval. Inverness keeper Mark Ridgers did well to tip the ball over but the effort served as a statement of intent from Hearts after a listless first half. They went on to score three times without reply, with Lee playing a part in each goal.

“Personally, the first half wasn’t my greatest half of football,” he said. “I really wanted to come out and grab the game by the scruff of the neck. I had a good shot, the keeper pulled off a good save and thankfully for me we went on to get the win.

“I was desperate to score,” he added. “If you can’t get a goal, you want to be involved in all three and I am pleased with how it went.”

Lee relished his first taste of Hampden Park having missed out on an earlier opportunity to play there when Hearts’ Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic in October was switched to BT Murrayfield. He is already taking ticket orders for the final.

Such excitement is further vindication of his decision to leave Luton Town and come to Scotland last summer.

“It means everything and the reason that I came up here,” he said. “I said I wanted to play in big games. We have had two semi-finals now and we have a final to come. With all respect, I wouldn’t have had games like this down south. I am so excited for the end of May.

“I think there will be a full bus load come up for the final. It will be a great occasion for everyone and it is one we are really looking forward to.”