Hearts’ Zdenek Zlamal aiming to add to Czech cup triumph

When Zdenek Zlamal won the Czech Cup he recalls there was an enjoyable bus journey but it was nothing like the open-top bus parade he can expect if Hearts steer their Scottish Cup ambitions beyond tomorrow night’s quarter-final against Partick Thistle and go on to win the trophy.

Hearts' Zdenek Zlamal hopes to follow up Czech cup success with the Scottish Cup trophy. Pic: SNS/Roddy Scott

The Gorgie goalkeeper was victorious with Sigma Olomouc in 2012 and still treasures the memories, but after speaking with fans and fellow players at Hearts, the summer signing knows that he can expect even more if he could repeat the national cup success on Scottish soil.

“It was huge celebrations when I won for Olomouc,” said the man who was deposed from the team in December and has only just won back his starting berth. “We played the final in Plzen which is far away and when we came back on the bus it took us four hours and there was huge celebrations. We beat Sparta Prague, which is one of the biggest clubs in Czech Republic. We had more than a couple of beers, maybe many more! But that was the art of celebrating. After, when we arrived back, seeing the fans was lovely as well because that was the first trophy for the club and it was, for the fans and the club, really important. It was one of the best moments in my career.”

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Having won the cup five times prior to 1998, Hearts’ win over Rangers that season was not a virgin victory but for a generation who had grown up without seeing their team lift silverware, it was a new experience and around 200,000 lined the streets of the capital as the team paraded the cup the next day. When they won in 2006 and then bettered Hibs 5-1 in 2012, the open-top bus charted its way through a sea of well over 100,000 fans.

“I won the cup in Czech Republic so the cup already has good memories for me but now I hope we can be successful here. I know that here it is massive,” said Zlamal. “In Czech the league is more important than the cup. But here I feel the cup is more important! I don’t know. But I know it is special.”

In 2006 and in 2012, fellow Czech international Rudi Skacel helped cement his place in the hearts of the Tynecastle support, while his countrymen Michal Pospisil and Roman Bednar also featured against Gretna, the former netting the
 decisive spot-kick in the shoot-out.

Now Zlamal has the chance to edge closer to immortality, if Hearts can go all the way this season. In typical style they are taking it one game at a time, though, with Championship strugglers Partick Thistle the first of three obstacles they would need to clear.

“I remember when Rudi Skacel won the Scottish Cup and they are good memories, and for everybody here it is also very important. We all know that our next game is huge.”

The prize on offer should help lift them after the disappointment of losing to Celtic in midweek, while the performance that night will serve as a reminder of just how good they can play when they all hit the levels they set themselves earlier in the season.

If they can reach those standards again at Firhilland in the remaining rounds, then Zlamal sees no reason why they can’t win the competition and end a season that promised so much before faltering badly midway through, on a high.

“Why not? Anything can happen and we have to believe,” he said. “From the beginning of season we had a really nice period but then there was a lot of injuries but now the performances are getting better and better and hopefully we can be successful in the future.

“We know that [Partick Thistle] are in the second league in Scotland but for them this is a huge match and they will do their best so we have to focus 100 per cent and be ready. I don’t think anyone will make the mistake of not having the right mentality. We are all professionals and everybody will be ready for this game.”