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Dave Mackay: all I wanted all my life was to play for Hearts. And Scotland

Football News | Article posted on March 3rd, 2015

The enduring image of Dave Mackay is one of the most instantly identifiable in football: the one with a firm grasp of Billy Bremner’s shirt and a threatening stare towards the Leeds United captain’s face during a match in 1966.
People routinely chuckle when seeing that photograph but Mackay was uncomfortable with the legacy. He felt it portrayed him in an unfair light; as a bullying aggressor rather than what he was, a hard but perfectly fair footballer. Albeit he would never say so himself, the Mackay memories should surround success rather than an isolated flashpoint.
In Edinburgh, north London and Derby, the news of Mackay’s death at the age of 80 was met with inevitable sadness. The emotion briskly turned, as supporters of Heart of Midlothian, Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County remembered and recognised the wonderful influence of Mackay in their clubs’ histories.
The phrase “you simply don’t get players like that any more” is oft-used and overused but it does literally apply to Mackay. As impressive as his professional talent, though, was the time and courtesy Mackay would offer to anyone who sought to ask about his career in later life. He was a smiling, courteous, thoroughly decent man.
Mackay’s love affair with Hearts began long before he was recruited by the club at the age of 16. “Just to get near Tynecastle was a dream,” he said. “I was a Hearts fan all my life; I used to walk the three miles to Tynecastle, go early to get under the turnstile because I couldn’t afford to get in. So when Hearts came along to sign me, I couldn’t believe it.
“For as long as I can remember all I wanted in my life, nothing else, was to play for Hearts, which is my dream team. And to play for Scotland. I had no ambition for anything else; always Hearts.”
The alliance was to prove mutually beneficial. And some. Mackay was a pivotal, driving midfield presence – or half-back, to place in proper historical context – as Hearts claimed all of Scotland’s domestic honours in a four-year spell. He captained one of the finest Scottish club sides in history, the Hearts team of 1957-58 which took the championship while scoring 132 goals and conceding only 29 in 34 matches.
Mackay had been established as a Tynecastle legend. An international career that began at the Bernabéu in 1957 yielded another 21 appearances, including at the World Cup a year later. Little wonder, then, that the Scottish FA described Mackay on Tuesday as an “inspirational pillar”.
Mackay always insisted he did not want to leave Hearts, the abiding memory of which was a young man on the platform at Edinburgh Waverley who had been reduced to tears upon

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