Jim Jefferies knows from his own extensive experience the pressure Hearts will be under in Saturday’s Scottish Cup semi-final – but he would love the same outcome in May as his triumphant team enjoyed two decades ago.
Jefferies was in charge at Tynecastle in 1998 when the Jambos went on to taste silverware success for the first time in 36 years with a stunning victory over Rangers in the final at Celtic Park.
The similarities with this season’s cup run are clear. In the semi-final, just as they will this weekend against Inverness Caley Thistle, the Gorgie outfit faced second-tier opposition, in the shape of Falkirk.
Prior to that they had knocked out Ayr United, Albion Rovers and Clydebank. Since their fourth round success against Premiership Livingston this season, Craig Levein’s men have ousted Auchinleck Talbot and Partick Thistle.
Jefferies accepts that Hearts would have been hoping to avoid top-flight rivals Aberdeen and Celtic, and instead draw Championship Inverness for Saturday’s trip to Hampden, but he predicts they will not get it all their own way in the 90 minutes.
The 68-year-old is now sporting director at Edinburgh City, who Inverness defeated in a third round replay, and has recalled how First Division Falkirk gave his class of ’98 a massive fright that issues a warning to the current Hearts team for this weekend.
He said: “We played a lot of teams from the lower leagues on our way to the final in 1998 and, except Livingston, Hearts have had a pretty easy run to this stage so far.
“In ’98, Falkirk wanted us in the semi-final and we wanted Falkirk, because it meant we avoided Celtic and Rangers. But we knew, because Falkirk had been unlucky not to win the cup the year before, that we couldn’t treat them lightly just because they were from the league below.
“On the day, Kevin McAllister was absolutely outstanding, the man of the match. I gave Gary Naysmith a hard time at half-time for the way he was playing against him and he had a really good second-half, but even the best left-back in the world could not have stopped Kevin from scoring their equaliser.
“We were asked the question, and everybody thought Falkirk would go on and win, but we scored two late goals and got ourselves into the final.
“It’s about dealing with that and it is a massive opportunity for them to get to another Scottish Cup final. In 1998 it was the first time in about 40 years but they have a great chance to make it four times in just over 20 years.
“But it won’t be easy. Inverness have good players and on the wider pitch at Hampden you can’t rule them out. Robbo will have them fired up and it’s also a great chance for them to get to the final.
“It’s all about what happens on the day; you’ve got to make it happen for you and not expect the bigger team to prevail.”