FIFTEEN years is a long time in any footballer's life. Fifteen years

without a major trophy seems a great deal longer to Gary Mackay, who is

Hearts' longest-serving player and still cherishes the thought that, one

day, he will be a cup-winner in a maroon shirt. He thinks, albeit

cautiously, that this could be the year.

He and his team-mates take on the Tennents Scottish Cup holders,

Dundee United, tomorrow at Tynecastle.

And, after having knocked out Rangers in the previous round, Hearts

are not lacking confidence.

Mackay accepts that the defeat of the Ibrox club has given Hearts a

huge lift in morale, but he points out, too, that it has done nothing to

harm the self-belief of the seven other quarter-finalists, either.

''This has to be our best chance yet of winning a trophy,'' he said.

''It is the most open tournament for years.''

It is 33 years since Hearts were able to hoist a major prize aloft,

the League Cup in 1962, but Gary recognises the dangers in making too

much of the memorable success in the previous round. ''It is no good

knocking them out and then tossing it away in the next round.''


Hearts will be without Craig Levein and Jim Bett, both suspended, and

that will be a major problem. They paid #50,000 for full back Fraser

Wishart from Rangers yesterday, but he is not eligible for the tie.

United striker Scott Crabbe looks set to start his first game since he

broke his leg a year and 11 days ago in the same tournament. Crabbe, who

sustained his injury in the tie against Motherwell, thus missed the rest

of the great run that led to success at Hampden. Manager Ivan Golac

said: ''Scott has worked tremendously hard to get back and there is

every chance he will start the game on Sunday.''