It was 1986 when Tom Cruise became a megastar and a Dundee substitute became a hero to fans of two clubs he never played for.
It was the year Hearts came within minutes of beating Celtic to the Premier Division title.
Albert Kidd may not have had the box office appeal of the American actor who made his blockbuster debut in Top Gun – but then Cruise has never been voted player of the year by a Hibs’ supporters club in Sydney.
Kidd is held in perhaps even greater esteem by followers of Celtic for his role in their dramatic last-day title triumph on 3 May.
Hearts need a draw
Hearts led the division by two points going into that final day and were four goals better off. In the era of two points for a win, Celtic had to hope the Tynecastle side lost at Dundee while they won heavily at St Mirren. Prior to the trip to Dens Park, the league leaders’ preparations were less than ideal.
Former Hearts midfielder Kenny Black: ”A virus swept through the team that week. Four or five us were affected, including me, Craig Levein and Brian Whittaker.
“Brian was deemed fit enough to start but we knew he wouldn’t last the whole game. I was only fit enough for the bench and would have to come on at half-time. Craig didn’t even make the squad. He was a big, big miss.
“But I remember going to bed the night before thinking that the next day we could be champions. Celtic and Aberdeen were the favourites. We had a talented team with good flair players but we weren’t fancied. However, we went on an incredible run of over 30 matches unbeaten, including 27 in the league.
“Going into that final game we hadn’t lost in the league since Clydebank beat us in September.”
Former Celtic midfielder Paul McStay: “All we could do was go to Love Street, get the two points against St Mirren and put the pressure on Hearts.
”We had a fabulous team including the likes of Danny McGrain, Tommy Burns, Roy Aitken, Mo Johnston, Murdo MacLeod and others with lots of experience.
“If you’re looking for people to handle a big occasion, you need winners. We had that in abundance, guys who knew what was needed to be successful. We had the winning mentality.”
Four up but not yet enough
By half-time in Paisley, Celtic were 4-0 up and coasting, but it was still 0-0 at Dens Park and the title was still in Hearts’ hands. Kidd, now 58, says it was “amazing” he was even in the Dundee squad that day.
Kidd: “I’d had trouble with injury and was having a bit of a lean period, but I went to the manager Archie Knox on the Friday and told him he should put me in because I’d played well before against Hearts, so he put me on the bench.”
Even then, the course of Scottish football history could have run differently had Dundee’s Tosh McKinlay not picked up an injury. But moustached and mullet-haired Celtic supporter Kidd entered the fray after 61 minutes. The rest is history and heartbreak for Hearts, with the unlikely hero scoring from close range eight minutes from time.
Black: ”We had proven throughout the season that even when we were in the jaws of defeat we’d get a chance to come back and equalise. So when we went a goal down we thought we could still do it.”
That hope disappeared when Kidd scored his second, running with the ball from the halfway line, playing and receiving a pass, and shooting past goalkeeper Henry Smith. Hearts’ long unbeaten run in all competitions was over and so were their title hopes.
Black: “You know that’s it.”
‘It was pandemonium – in a good way’
News of Kidd’s heroics filtered through to fans listening to radios on the terraces in Paisley and the title was now heading for Glasgow.
Former Celtic midfielder Murdo MacLeod: ”I don’t know how many Celtic fans were jammed into Love Street, but they went berserk, the noise in the stadium was incredible. We realised that Dundee must have gone ahead.
”We went on to win 5-0, against a very good St Mirren side, but you didn’t want to go daft or get carried away until we got the final score from Dundee. We weren’t sure if that game was over.
”I remember walking to the halfway line, then seeing Celtic fans pouring on to the pitch then we knew we’d won it. It was pandemonium, but pandemonium in a good way.”
Hearts fans spilled onto the pitch too, the Sportscene cameras capturing their misery. Commentator Archie Macpherson struck a sympathetic tone, describing them as “utterly bemused by the happenings of this afternoon”.
|SCOTTISH PREMIER LEAGUE 1985-86|
Conspiracy theories & career lows
Scottish football being Scottish football, conspiracy theories abound to this day about the events of that day. According to some, St Mirren players with Celtic leanings perhaps didn’t try as hard they ought to…
Black: “I’m friendly with Jim Stewart, the St Mirren goalkeeper that day. I know he was disappointed by the performances of some of his team-mates. But Celtic were a quality side and if you see some of the goals they scored, it wouldn’t have mattered who they were playing.”
Macleod: “If that’s the case, I wish someone had told me that before the game, I wouldn’t have had to try so hard.
“One of the backroom staff had taken [a bottle of champagne] along in his car just in case. In situations like that you don’t want to be filling the team bus with bottles of the stuff, so our celebrations after the match were more about pats on the back. But we celebrated with a few shandies later.”
The contrast with the mood in the Hearts dressing room could not have been more stark.
Black: “I’ve never experienced anything like it. There’s no words you can use to express the feeling. Distraught is about the best description I can give. It was the lowest point in my career. I remember the supporters on the pitch and seeing them in their buses going down the road afterwards and just feeling that we’d let them down.”
Billy Connolly star-struck
Thirty four years ago, a Hibernian and Celtic hero was born. To fans of Hearts’ arch rivals Hibs, 3 May is [unofficially] Albert Kidd Day.
Kidd: “About 10 years after the game I was invited to a Hibs supporters convention in Sydney. They made me player of the year.
“I met Billy Connolly on the steps of a hotel. When I told him I’d scored a couple of goals that helped Celtic win the league, he said straight away ‘You’re Albert Kidd’. He invited me to his show that night and backstage afterwards.
“You have to remember we had something to play for too. We were going for European qualification. However, we didn’t get it because Rangers beat Motherwell to beat us to it.
“We met the Hearts players in the players’ lounge after the match and we really felt for them. It was so sad.”