Albert Kidd: Dundee sub who broke Hearts to become a Celtic hero

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 league 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.

For although the likes of Paul McStay, Brian McClair, Danny McGrain, Mo Johnston and Roy Aitken got their medals, they wouldn't have were it not for Albert Kidd, or Alby, as he is known after settling Down Under.

If it wasn't for Kidd, the 1985-86 league title would most probably have been won by the Hearts team of Sandy Jardine, Gary MacKay, John Robertson et al.

That side, managed by Alex MacDonald, were two points clear of Davie Hay's Celtic going into the final league matches.

Thousands of Hearts fans travelled to Dens Park in anticipation of cheering their team to their first championship since 1960.

Hearts need a draw

A point was all that was required. But their preparations were less than ideal.

Former Hearts midfielder Kenny Black explains: ''A virus swept through the team that week, four or five us were affected, including me, Craig Levein and Brian Whittaker.

"On the day, 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 wasn't even fit enough to 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.

'"There are parallels with the Leicester City story in England this season. 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."

Celtic behind on goals too

In the era of two points for a win, Celtic had to hope Hearts lost and they needed to overturn a goal difference of four.

McStay remembers: "All we could do was be professional. Go along to Love Street and get the three points and put the pressure on Hearts.

1986 was a good year for Tom Cruise and Albert Kidd
Tom Cruise and Albert Kidd shared the headlines for a while in 1986

''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 within your squad. We had that in abundance, guys who knew what was needed to be successful. We had the winning mentality.''

By half time in Paisley, Celtic were 4-0 up and coasting, but that wasn't enough when it was still 0-0 at Dens Park.

Kidd, now 54, says it was "amazing" he was even in the Dundee squad that day.

"I'd had trouble with injury that season and was having a bit of a lean period at the time," he recalls.

"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."

PlayedWonDrawnLostForAgainstGoal DifferencePoints
DUNDEE UNITED361811759312847
ST MIRREN36135184263-2131

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.

Kidd scored from close range eight minutes from time.

''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," says Black. "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 before shooting past goalkeeper Henry Smith.

Hearts' long unbeaten in all competitions was over and so were their title hopes.

"After the second goal goes in so late in the game, you know that's it,'' sighs Black.

'It was pandemonium - in a good way'

News of Kidd's heroics filtered through to fans listening to their radios on the terraces in Paisley, as former Celtic midfielder Macleod remembers.

''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."

That made for an anxious end to the game against St Mirren.

Murdo MacLeod and Sandy Clark tussle as Hearts drew 1-1 at Celtic Park
Murdo MacLeod (left) and Sandy Clark tussle as Hearts drew 1-1 at Celtic Park in the 1985-86 season

''We went on to win 5-0, against a very good St Mirren side," adds Macleod. "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 onto 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 BBC Sportscene cameras capturing their misery. Commentator Archie Macpherson struck a sympathetic tone, describing them as "utterly bemused by the happenings of this afternoon."

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 says: "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 that day. But Celtic were a quality side and if you see some of the goals they scored that day, it wouldn't have mattered who they were playing."

Macleod also gives short shrift to that line of thinking. "If that's the case, I wish someone had told me that before the game, I wouldn't have had to try so hard," he says.

"They were a competitive side with some excellent players, guys like Tony Fitzpatrick, Billy Abercrombie and so on. They had chances to score and were unlucky not to get two or three."

'It was the lowest point in my career'

Black does, however, feel refereeing decisions went against Hearts.

"I think we should have had a penalty when Sandy Clark was fouled," he says. "But that's not to make excuses, you have to give credit to Celtic for what they achieved.''

Albert Kidd (number 14) watches his shot fly past Hearts goalkeeper Henry Smith at a packed Dens Park
Kidd (14) watches his shot fly past Hearts goalkeeper Henry Smith at a packed Dens Park

The champions celebrated their title win with champagne, just one bottle though.

"One of the backroom staff had taken it along in his car just in case," recalls Macleod. "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 starker.

''I've never experienced anything like it," Black explains. "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. But they were tremendous."

The season wasn't over for Hearts. They had a Scottish Cup final to play a week later.

"We had to pick ourselves up quickly," says Black. "It was really tough to come back on the Monday for training. The coaches did what they could to try and lift spirits, but there was only so much they could do.

"We had a match to come against a quality Aberdeen side, in what was expected to be Alex Ferguson's last match.

"It proved to be too much for us. The frustration from the previous week spilled over and our captain Walter Kidd got sent off."

Aberdeen went on to win 3-0 at Hampden.

"Looking back, we gave our supporters a lot of joy that season but it all ended in disappointment," adds Black.

Billy Connolly star-struck

Celtic fans with a banner display in honour of the heroes of 1986
Celtic fans show their appreciation of Kidd in a banner display to honour their class of 1986

Thirty years ago, a Hibernian and Celtic hero was born. To fans of Hearts' arch rivals Hibs, 3 May is [unofficially] Albert Kidd Day.

"About 10 years after the game I was invited to a Hibs supporters convention in Sydney," recalls Kidd. "They made me player of the year."

Celtic supporters of a certain vintage hold him in great esteem too - even celebrities.

"I met Billy Connolly on the steps of a hotel," says Kidd. "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."

Those May events earned Kidd a measure of fame that endures. At the time though, it was bitter sweet.

"You have to remember we had something to play for too," he says. "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. ''

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