We seldom see such a perfect match in football between player and club as the one that exists between Rudi Skácel and Heart of Midlothian. He is the Romeo to our Juliet, the Lancelot to our Guinevere, the Harry to our Sally. OK, maybe that’s too far, it’s not THAT kind of love, well not on the most part anyway. Regardless, there is a mutual affection between Skácel and Hearts that I’ve rarely seen in my time supporting the club.
Since former manager George Burley made the Czech midfielder his first signing back in the Summer of 2005, Skácel has become a firm fans’ favourite around Gorgie. Scoring 7 goals in his first 7 games certainly went a long way to securing this status, but a goal on his home debut against Hibs was equally as significant. Opening the scoring at Tynecastle, Skácel promptly signalled to the away fans exactly where they should go. It started a love hate relationship. As in, Hearts fans love him. Hibs fans hate him.
He ended the season with a goal in the Scottish Cup final against Gretna, a strike that would be his final farewell. Or at least that’s what we thought when he moved to Southampton later that Summer.
But four years after his departure, Rudi returned to Hearts in September 2010. And it didn’t take long for him to settle right back into the swing of things in Gorgie.
On the scoresheet in his first start against champions Rangers, and the goal machine was back with a bang.
I adored Skácel during his first spell, as did so many other Jambos, but I actually felt he returned an even better player. His work rate and all round contribution to the team was much improved, whilst still retaining the qualities that endeared him to the Gorgie faithful to begin with.
His enthusiasm and encouragement towards the fans is almost infectious, and the ‘we are not worthy’ bows that are regularly exchanged between Skácel and the supporters epitomises this. But what stands Skácel head and shoulders above many players that I have seen come through the doors at Tynecastle is his thunderous left foot, and amazing shooting ability.
Nothing short of devastating, rarely have I seen someone provide so much accuracy, power and precision on such a regular basis whilst wearing the famous maroon shirt. His treble at the weekend against St Mirren summed this up. A hat-trick from outside the area, and all three through a ruck of bodies, and the final one under immense pressure from a Saints player.
If that was Skácel’s farewell to Tynecastle, then it was a fitting one.
Whatever happens between now and the end of January when his contract expires, Rudi will go down as a Hearts great. That may sound excessive to some, since he has only spent two and a half years at Tynecastle, but his performances and overall record speak volumes for his contribution during that spell. 39 goals in just 77 starts is a statistic that most strikers would be proud of, giving him an average of a goal every 2 games in terms of starts, and just less than that if you include substitute appearances as well.
That is my message to Rudi, and here are a few more that I selected from Twitter as #rudimuststay was trending in Edinburgh over the weekend.
There were too many to include them all, but this gives you an idea of the feeling towards a fantastic player.
The Sock Thief @serialsockthief
A Hearts side without Rudi in it just doesn’t bear thinking about right now. #Rudimuststay
Rudi Skacel. What a man, what a man, what a man,what a mighty good man. #Rudimuststay
Adam Wallace @Footiemad95
my 5000th tweet goes to @RudiSkacel19 coz he’s a legend #rudimuststay
#rudimuststay just saw the goals on sky sports news… That man is an absolute legend!! #RUDIRUDIRUDI
Finally home after what can only be described as the best night ever! Here’s a message to Rudi I love you man! Absolute hero! #rudimuststay
Andrew Neill @ToxicDeath
@RudiSkacel19 Cracking game today mate, here is to you getting an offer from the team that allows you to stay #rudimuststay
Scott Hastie @scotthastie
#Rudimuststay what a left peg. The old place was rocking today.
Kenny Mulcahy @Kennymulcahy
@RudiSkacel19 you need to stay, not many player can be classed as legends at clubs but you have that chance! #rudimuststay
@RudiSkacel19 Great performance today top notch and please you must stay. Never have two things been so right for each other. #rudimuststay
Neil Souness @neil_snooze
What a team performance,with a special mention to @RudiSkacel19 what a game mate, got that extra bit of class to win us games #rudimuststay
Angus Coutts @angusmaroon
See that @RudiSkacel19 I think he’s amazing. They’ll write songs about him and children will do plays about him. I’m in love. #rudimuststay
Feg Bizet @FegBizet
That man Skacel is something special. Just about the best thing to happen to Hearts since Robbo. #rudimuststay