GARY MACKAY insists he feels privileged to have played a ‘small part’ in the history of the Tynecastle main stand.
And the Gorgie legend has joked he certainly had a great seat for one of the ground’s most famous nights, against Bayern Munich – because he was on the bench.
The Jambos play their final game in front of the celebrated but ageing structure on Sunday against Aberdeen, before the builders move in to continue the redevelopment work that has already begun at the stadium.
Mackay is happy for ‘progression’ to be made and was yesterday afforded his own tour of the Archibald Leitch building and an insight into what will replace it over the course of the summer.
The visit brought memories flooding back, especially the 1-0 win over Aberdeen that clinched Champions League qualification in 2006, but also excitement over the future at Tynecastle.
Hearts’ record appearance holder said: “I was in at Tynecastle on Thursday and it was lovely to go back into the home changing rooms and remember some good times in the past and to see the progress that is being made.
“I thought about games I had played in and watched as a young boy and attended since I stopped playing.
“One that seems to be coming back fondly from the main stand is the night when Paul Hartley scored the penalty that got Hearts into the Champions League qualifying stages.
“From a main stand perspective that is the one that strikes me, for the atmosphere and everything else.
“There are other games, like Bayern Munich – and I sat on the bench that night so I suppose that was like sitting in the stand!
“I grew up supporting Hearts from the main stand, where my nana and granddad took me as a youngster, and then I was fortunate to play a small part in the history as a player.
“I’m sure everyone will have their own memories and mine, apart from that Aberdeen game, are more watching individual players, like Donald Ford and Jim Cruickshank and my own idol Ralph Callachan, who I was fortunate to watch wearing the maroon jersey.”
Mackay is delighted the redevelopment of the main stand is being done on the club’s terms and not as a consequence of previous proposals to sell Tynecastle and move to a new stadium elsewhere in the city.
The 53-year-old spearheaded the Save Our Hearts movement that helped to stop former chief executive Chris Robinson from moving the club to Murrayfield in 2004 and the following year.
Tynecastle remains a ground revered in Scottish football for its electric atmosphere and Mackay is confident that will continue in the new make-up of the modern arena.
He added: “Ultimately, when everyone thinks back to Save Our Hearts and what the aim was, it is a massive thing to now be in a position where we have an owner, plus a base of supporters paying into the Foundation of Hearts, that is allowing this occur.
“The only concern might be making sure that as many of the 3,000 extra seats as possible are filled, and that will come down to the on-field activities.
“I think it’s been shown in England that if you move from the spiritual home it’s difficult to recreate that atmosphere but the continuing of the Tynecastle atmosphere will be a lot easier to do than if we had made the moves mooted over the years.”