Heart of Midlothian FC can write their own chapter in the club's history books on Thursday.
By Alex O'Henley
Heart of Midlothian FC manager John Robertson has urged his players to write their own chapter in the club's history books by securing a place in the knockout stages of this season's UEFA Cup.
Robertson's side face Ferencvárosi TC at Murrayfield on Thursday knowing that a win will secure them third place in Group A providing Feyenoord can take at least a point from the evening's other match against FC Basel 1893 in Switzerland.
The fixture has revived memories of the Tynecastle club's last major European campaign in 1989 when they reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup only to be beaten by FC Bayern München and Robertson, who was one of the stars of that side, told uefa.com the current crop of players have a great opportunity to join them in the annals of Hearts' folklore.
"The players have a great incentive on Thursday night," said Robertson. "All the Hearts fans remember that great run to the quarter-finals fifteen years ago and while getting to the last 32 wouldn't quite match that, it would be right up there among the high points in this club's history. The players have done themselves proud so far and it would be fantastic if we could take it one stage further."
Robertson is at pains not to underestimate the Hungarian side who still have a chance of progressing after holding group leaders Feyenoord to a draw in Budapest last month. But for a late penalty miss at Saint Jakob Park, Ferencváros would also have taken a point from their match against Basel which makes them dangerous opponents as far as the Hearts manager is concerned.
"We've had them watched twice and studied two or three videos of them as well," added Robertson. "They have two very good front players and the guy that plays in behind them, [Dénes] Rósa, is particularly dangerous. So, we know they're a quality side and we've got to be at our best to beat them."
Hearts' central defensive pairing of Steven Pressley and Andy Webster are already familiar with at least one of the Ferencváros players after full-back Szabolcs Huszti scored twice in Hungary's 3-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park earlier this year. Club captain Pressley is determined to come out on top this time round, but is well aware of the task that lies ahead.
"Huszti scored a wonder goal against us and he's just one of the few internationals Ferencváros have in their squad," said Pressley. "They are a strong, well-organised side who are currently at the top of their league. We know we face a difficult game and people shouldn't think it's a foregone conclusion we are going to win."
Hearts are confident that more than 30,000 fans will make the short journey to Murrayfield, their temporary home for this season's European campaign, and once the game is out of the way Robertson intends to sit down with the club's prospective owner, Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov, to map out the future direction of the Gorgie Road side.
Top of his list will be the future of 12 players, including Pressley and Dutch forward Mark de Vries, who are out of contract next summer. "You want to keep the best quality players you've got and I'm no different in that respect," he said. "But sometimes it's not always possible financially to do that, so we will sit down after the game and find out exactly what's what."