BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
TYNECASTLE legend John Robertson reckons Hearts supporters are still tormented by the opportunity they wasted to halt Hibernian’s march to a historic Scottish Cup triumph.
The Jambos were leading their fierce city rivals 2-0 at half time in last season’s tie, with goals from Sam Nicholson and Arnaud Djoum seemingly putting Robbie Neilson’s side on easy street.
However, facing yet another year of cup heartbreak, Alan Stubbs’ troops produced a sensational rally and Jason Cummings’ looping header halved arrears before a last minute strike by Paul Hanlon rescued a replay – and sparked bedlam in the away section.
So it proved, as they went on to beat Hearts 1-0 in the replay before seeing off Inverness, Dundee United and Rangers on their way to winning the competition for the first time since 1902.
Yesterday marked exactly one year to the day of that fixture at Tynecastle – and it will be deja vu all over again on Sunday when the sides cross swords in Gorgie, with Hearts aiming to make amends.
Robbo said: “Hibs were 2-0 down and effectively out of the cup. Does that still stick in Hearts fans’ throats? Of course it does. It should.
“We had an opportunity to see it out and we didn’t. Hibs took full advantage of that. In terms of annoyance and anger, it still resonates with Hearts fans that we blew an opportunity.
“Could Hearts have gone on and won the trophy? We’ll never know because that question was taken away the moment Hibs knocked us out. For a lot of Hibs fans, that’s where they won the cup.
“It’s the fact that Hibs went on to win the trophy that really grates. It’s still a thorn in the side. Hibs fans have the bragging rights from last season’s cup tie and they’ll let us know about it. In terms of city rivalry, the Hibs fans will be crowing about it.
“Is it better than thrashing your rivals 5-1 in the Scottish Cup final? Absolutely not. But for a lot of Hibs fans it went a small way to repairing the hurt they felt in 2012.
“But we have the opportunity to take the cup right back from them. They did it to us when they knocked us out the season after we won it in 2012. We have that opportunity on Sunday.”
Robertson reckons former boss Neilson never recovered from that exit against Hibs in the eyes of some supporters, despite objectively succeeding with the Jambos by winning the Championship title in his first campaign before securing European qualification the following season.
“There was always a small section of the Hearts support that didn’t take to Robbie. Nobody can really put their finger on it. If you look at his record, he won the Championship by a record points total when Rangers and Hibs were in the league.
“He finished third in his first season back and while his cup record was not great he left when Hearts were in second place!”
However, the Hearts legend insists this tie will not “define” Ian Cathro’s tenure, regardless of the result.
He added: “Would it upset the fans if they lose? Of course, but it would upset the fans if I was the manager and if Craig Levein was manager. They would be every bit as upset with us as they would be with Ian Cathro.
“Would it define his career at Hearts? No chance! But if he wins it, it’s a massive thing and Ian is well aware of how big the derbies are. Don’t kid yourself.”