Tynecastle - The Old Vs The New
Hearts are hopefully on the verge of a new era when they eventually get their new main stand complex integrated into Tynecastle, but I wonder how people generally feel that the 'new' stadium as it stands today compares to what it was like in the pre-Taylor Report days.
I've no idea what the old Tynecastle looked like when the terraces were first laid way back in the day, but there is little doubt that by the time I started going to Hearts matches in the mid 1980s, the stadium had definitely seen better days. Three quarters of the ground was terracing, with one of the two seated areas (the covered enclosure opposite the main stand) basically just being benches on top of the old steps, a bit like the Beach End used to be at Pittodrie.
Tynecastle in those days could be bitterly cold with the wind howling in from all corners, and if it rained the chances were you'd get completely soaked, especially if you were standing nowhere near the famous 'Shed'. As for the state of the toilets on the old terracings well, let's not even start getting into that!
But despite all of this, just like many other famous old grounds used to have,Tynie had a tremendous aura about it. The place positively reeked (and I'm not talking about the Brewery!) of history - so many legendary players, teams and matches over the years had graced this venue, and this is what gave the old place its tremendous character. As soon as you walked into Tynecastle you walked into a thousand memories - this was the bonus of having a stadium that had hardly changed in years.
Then there was the atmosphere. Now I'm not going to pretend that the place was buzzing every week, because nothing could be further from the truth. The fact was that most of the time, the only atmosphere of any sort would tend to come from a group of a few hundred or so perennially drunk men who stood in the Shed, but when the time came for Tynecastle to stage a BIG game, the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic.
Because the away end was completely uncovered, you needed a big travelling support to generate any noise worth speaking of, so you tended to have to wait for matches against the Old Firm or Hibs before you got a proper big-game atmosphere going. No-one else really brought many more than a couple of thousand back then, which is probably not too different from the present day, but the difference in decibel-level between this number of people on a sparse terracing that held more than 10,000 and sitting in the Roseburn Stand really is night and day!
But when the occasion did arise for a big game at Tynecastle, there wasn't a lot to touch it. Domestically most of the games that stand out for me were against the Old Firm, with a Scottish Cup quarter-final against Celtic (in '87 I think?) at Tynecastle in particular striking a chord. I seem to remember that Scotland were playing Ireland at Murrayfield that same afternoon and ludicrously, I'm sure that both games kicked off at the same time. Can you seriously imagine the number of people in Edinburgh that day with green and white scarves on?! It was unbelievable, and I'm quite sure that a number of drunken rugby fans accidentally found themselves standing at the Gorgie Road end of Tynie that day instead of Murrayfield! To be honest though, at least these guys got to see a proper sport for a change!
The atmosphere that day was amazing though, especially at half-time when the Hearts end were twirling their scarves to 'Hey Jude' and Celtic held their scarves in their air singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' - definitely an occasion for those hairs on the back of the neck to have sensation. The official crowd that day was given as 29,000 which was Tynecastle's capacity back then, but it really did look as though many more had managed to squeeze themselves into the ground. And it was the maroon masses who ended up going home happy, when Robbo's 80th minute free-kick from the edge of the penalty area deflected into the top corner off the shoulder of Paul McStay - what a hell of a celebration that was!
Other great Tynecastle occasions would have to include European nights. We've seen several over the years: matches against Velez Mostar, Atletico Madrid and Slavia Prague all deserve a mention, and some of the older Jambos I know often talk very affectionately of a match against Lokomotiv Leipzig in the '70s. But the daddy of them all has to be the night Hearts beat Bayern Munich 1-0 courtesy of Iain Ferguson's thunderbolt free-kick at the school end. I think we'll struggle to ever host a match that will compare to that one and any time you watch old videos of that night and the subsequent second leg that Hearts lost 2-0, it's still hard to believe that they didn't manage to sneak through the tie. Great memories though.
But how does Tynecastle as we know it today compare to its predecessor? I would have to say that it stands up very well, even despite being a traditionalist when it comes to many things in football. Fair enough, we can't get the sort of crowds that we once saw coming through the gates of the old Tynecastle, but I would say that the atmosphere now is probably better than it used to be on a week-to-week basis. This is probably just because all four sides are now covered, meaning that whatever noise is generated tends to stay inside, and the design of the stadium is perfect for generating a hostile atmosphere as the stands are practically right on top of the pitch. This view is clearly shared by many current SPL players, who generally view Tynecastle as one of their favourite stadia.
But does it generate the same spark as it used to when big games come around? That's difficult to tell, but again there's more of me that would be inclined to say yes than no. Not convinced? Well just think about the night we beat Aberdeen 1-0 in 2006 to qualify for the Champions League - I really do struggle to remember a night at Tynecastle that beats that for atmosphere - the tension was incredible. We've also experienced some big European nights there as well, with Stuttgart and Bordeaux (although neither bore fruit on the night) immediately being good examples that spring to mind.
Perhaps the games against the Old Firm don't have quite as much of a feel of 'big game' as they used to, but I'm not completely sure if that's due to a combination of things rather than simply the venue. Back in the '80s for example, several clubs seemed to be on more of a level playing field in terms of spending power and the sort of players they had in their teams. Both Old Firm clubs at the present moment have much poorer sides than they have for a while and are very beatable, but this comes on the back of years and years of complete dominance by them, so it will take time for the others to truly believe that they can challenge. That said though, there was little to beat 29-30,000 crammed into the Tynie terraces for a game against one of those two.
There are definitely good arguments for both the old and the new Tynecastle, as we'll all no doubt have our own favourite memories that we value over all others. If most of them took place at the old ground then you're probably more likely to side with that version and vice versa, but let's just keep our fingers crossed that the best is yet to come...........