TYNECASTLE will bear witness to memorable scenes in the coming weeks, with Hearts expected to be crowned league champions. But today’s celebrations will be in honour of arguably the club’s greatest player.
As the Gorgie outfit look to a bright future, Hearts will poignantly reflect on their past this afternoon as they pay tribute to Dave Mackay, who died earlier this month at the age of 80.
Local hero Mackay realised a childhood dream of signing for Hearts as a 16-year-old, before captaining the club to Division One glory in 1958.
The left-half also enjoyed success in the Scottish Cup and twice in the League Cup before leaving for Tottenham in 1959.
In their first game since Mackay died, Hearts will hold a minute’s silence ahead of today’s home fixture with Dumbarton and are planning to commemorate Mackay’s life with a victory that will maintain at least a 17-point lead over Hibernian at the summit.
Head coach Robbie Neilson acknowledges that taking the Championship chequered flag would also be an apt tribute to the former Scotland international.
Neilson said: “I think it would be fitting if we win the league. It would be nice if he was here to see it, but he’s not going to be.
“I’m sure he would have come along. He was a huge Hearts fan. There are quotes in the dressing room from Dave that he said during the course of his career here.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a few times and he had a good personality, even in his late 70s.
“It was a sad day when he passed away.
“He has been a big part of the club so we would like to think we can put on a performance on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a sad day for everyone. Dave was a huge part of the club as a player, but also with the image he projected.”
Mackay’s quote that Neilson refers to reads: “For as long as I can remember, all I wanted in my life, nothing else, was to play for Hearts, which is my dream team.
“And to play for Scotland. I had no ambition for anything else. Always Hearts.”
The current Hearts side is full of players that are living their boyhood dream and Neilson hopes that they are inspired by what Mackay achieved in the game.
The Edinburgh-born player was also hailed as a legend at Tottenham and Derby after collecting silverware at both clubs.
Neilson, whose team are back in action today a fortnight after thrashing Cowdenbeath 10-0, added: “People grow up desperate to play for Hearts and some get the chance to do it. There are guys like Jamie Walker, Sam Nicholson and Adam King who have been Hearts fans all their lives.
“Hopefully they can have even a quarter of the impact Dave had down in England. It would be great for them.
“He went down to England and won titles at Tottenham and Derby and was a huge player.”
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