BY ALAN TEMPLE – Capital City Press
Scottish management legend Sir Alex Ferguson has thrown his weight behind Hearts’ hopes of mounting a shock title bid, insisting they are “serious challengers” to Celtic.
Ferguson is the last man to guide a non-Old Firm side to top-flight glory, winning the Premier League in 1985 during his storied spell in charge of Aberdeen.
While Hearts are a long way from emulating that feat, they have started this season in spectacular fashion, registering four consecutive league victories to climb to the summit of the SPFL Premiership.
Ferguson enjoys a fine relationship with the new Jambos hierarchy, describing owner Ann Budge as the club’s “guardian angel” in an interview after travelling to Edinburgh to attend the funeral of Tynecastle great Dave Mackay.
And he believes even Celtic would welcome a tile charge from Robbie Neilson’s men.
Sir Alex said: “I met Ann Budge, the owner of Hearts, during the summer and I was very impressed with how she set about changing the fortunes of Hearts. They are a serious challenger now.
“It’s been 30 years since anyone else [other than Rangers or Celtic] has won the Premier League and I think it’s great when you go back to the 50s and 60s when you had Dundee, Hearts and Hibs regularly winning league titles.
“You had a spell in the 70s and 80s when I was at Aberdeen and Jim McLean was at Dundee United which was healthy for Scottish football. You need that competitiveness.
“I don’t think Celtic would even deny that. It is great for the competition and great for the supporters.”
The former Manchester United and Scotland manager would love to see a three-horse race for the Premiership title emerge, after heaping praise on Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes.
The Dons also boast a 100 per cent league record this season, albeit they have played one game fewer than Hearts.
Sir Alex told Clyde 1: “Hearts have won their opening matches – as have Aberdeen – and it could be exciting. I genuinely believe things at Aberdeen are very positive, Derek McInnes has done a great job.”