By News Team
28th October 2020
Saturday will see Hibs and Hearts go head-to-head in the Scottish Cup semi-final, and if there’s anyone who remembers what it’s like to play in this fixture, it’s Paul Hartley.
There aren’t many players to have pulled on both the green and maroon jerseys during their careers, so the former Scotland midfielder is well aware of the mood in both camps in the lead up to the capital clash.
“It’s incredible. You can feel it in training all week and there’s a lot of media attention that week on you and it’s a game you don’t want to lose.
“I was fortunate that we beat them in 2006 but the build-up is great, and you just want to go on and play.”
Of course, Hartley is referring to the Scottish Cup semi-final in 2006 where he wrote himself into Gorgie folklore after scoring a hat-trick in the 4-0 thumping of their bitter rivals to book their place in the Scottish Cup final, which they went on to win.
And Hartley remembers the day as one of the best days of his career.
“We won 4-0 and I managed to bag a hat-trick that day so that’s the game I’ll always remember!
“Obviously winning the Scottish Cup with Hearts and then Celtic was special, but I think that semi-final game is always the one I’ll remember.
“It’s up there as one of the best moments in my career. Winning the league at Tannadice with Celtic is too, but scoring a hat-trick in a Scottish Cup semi-final, especially against your rivals, is something I’ll never forget.”
Hearts have a much superior record in this fixture, but the Jambos are currently one league below Hibs in the Championship, and they come into this match as underdogs. However, Hartley believes current standings won’t come into it in the capital clash.
“Hibs have had a great start to the season. They’re probably ahead in terms of preparation as they’ve played more games, but Hearts have also had a great start. I think form does go out the window in these games.
“I’m going to go for Hearts, I think they’ll just sneak it on Saturday.”
Hartley looks back on winning the Scottish Cup against Gretna in 2006 with fond memories, despite receiving a red card in the match.
“It was my first major final and we were overwhelming favourites, but we got a little bit lucky that day. Gretna had a strong team and were very experienced, so all the pressure was on us.
“We managed to beat them on penalties, but I was silly getting sent off in the last minute of extra time with the game heading to penalties. I was our main penalty taker! I was hiding watching the penalty kicks, but we managed to win so it was a great feeling later on and a massive relief.”
Hartley sealed a move to his boyhood club Celtic the following season, where he went on to lift the Scottish Cup for a second time albeit in different circumstances. The Hoops edged a close-fought encounter with Dunfermline, needing a late goal in extra time to lift the cup.
“It was a strange game against Dunfermline. We scored with five minutes to go through Jean-Joël Perrier-Doumbé – an unlikely hero from right back. But when you’re in finals it doesn’t matter how you win them you just want to win them.”
Celtic could do with that sort of response in Sunday’s other semi-final against Aberdeen, as the Hoops look to get back to winning ways domestically after a defeat in the Glasgow derby was followed up with a disappointing result away to Sunday’s opponents last weekend in a 3-3 draw.
“I think they’ve got to bounce back on Sunday. There’s a lot of questions getting asked of them because of their patchy form, so there’s a lot of pressure on Celtic this weekend.
“Aberdeen are in good form and playing well, so they’ll definitely fancy their chances against them.”
A win for Celtic would put them closer towards securing a remarkable quadruple treble, and Hartley believes it would be the best achievement in the history of Scottish football if they manage to do so, although he’s predicting a tight game against the Dons.
“I think it would be the best achievement, so it’s a massive game for Celtic on Sunday with that in mind. They’ve not been at their best since the start of the season, but just one game can turn it for them.
“I think it’ll go all the way to penalty kicks. It’s so tight, but I think Celtic will play Hearts in the final.”