December 2, 2023


Professional waiter experts

Lewis Ferguson’s Hearts dive was so embarrassing it reminded me of loose cannon Suso Santana – Ryan Stevenson

Let me tell you about the time wee Suso Santana went loco in Il Ciocco and caused a full-scale rammy after taking a dive under a tackle from our hotel waiter.

Why? Because Lewis Ferguson ’s bellyflop at Tynecastle was one of the worst cases of simulation I’ve seen since the incredible day our wee Spaniard lost his head in the Tuscan sun.

The Aberdeen man should be embarrassed by his theatrics and it’s just as well Craig Gordon saved his resultant penalty because Robbie Neilson was angry enough without it also potentially depriving Hearts of what was a superb win.

But back to Suso, who was fond of hitting the deck. He was an absolute loose cannon as we found out on that trip to Italy in 2011.

Jim Jefferies liked to take us to a training base in Il Ciocco for pre-season. It was tremendous, beautiful, but we were absolutely pounded for a week running hills and all that stuff.

Our ‘reward’ at the end of the stint was a bounce game against a team that was made up of half the hotel staff and the amateur side they played for.

A nice, friendly 90 minutes to get a touch of a ball against the staff that had been so accommodating all week.

But Suso had other ideas. Thirty-five minutes in he threw himself to the turf under a challenge from a guy who – I kid you not – had been serving us pasta all week.

I don’t know if this poor chap had done something to Suso’s tagliatelle but the wee man was going tonto.

Suso, having dived, then got up and called the guy a son of a b**** in Spanish. Turns out the waiter spoke fluent Spanish and flew for him.

It was bedlam. Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown were at the side of the park knotting themselves as the rest of us tried to split it up. No surprise the game never restarted and Suso hid in the corner for the last supper before we went back to Edinburgh.

We pulled Suso up after it but he was a madman and to this day he’ll think he did nothing wrong!

We can laugh at that but diving, conning the ref, is becoming a real problem in the professional game. It’s embarrassing. If I was Ferguson’s manager I’d be telling him that if he did it again he’d not play for me.

I can honestly say I never did it as a player. If I had done then I’d have got a clip round the head from my dad.

Suso goes down under the challenge of Ian Murray

Robbie was right to call it out. I can only imagine his fury if Ferguson had actually scored the penalty and it had led to a turning point in the game.

Thankfully it didn’t and Hearts made it impressive back-to-back wins against St Mirren and the Dons to stretch their lead in third to 12 points.

That was the biggest week of the season. There was apprehension creeping in, questions were being asked – I said in this column last week the wheels were in danger of coming off if they never beat the Buddies.

They responded with a massive performance. It could have been more than 2-0 and gave the Hearts fans who had packed the away stand exactly what they deserved.

It’s got the campaign right back on track and with a Scottish Cup quarter final against the Saints around the corner then that could be absolutely crucial to ensuring complacency doesn’t set in.

From my own experience I’d tell them to beware the dangerous dozen.

That’s the advantage Robbie’s troops have over fourth-placed Livingston with nine games remaining. Eleven years ago we were also 12 points ahead with just eight to go – and still almost blew it as we won ZERO games in that run-in and sneaked third by two points.

That run-in was horrendous. We couldn’t get ourselves going at all. Jim and Billy were absolutely doing their fizzers.

It’s horrendous to admit but we just wanted the season to end as we were out the cup as well.

I’ve no doubt the current group wouldn’t take their eye off the ball but they also have that incentive of Scottish Cup glory to keep going.

If you have cup games coming up it gives you a jag. You know you need to be on the ball and that a trip to Hampden is edging closer.

Robbie will be driving it. He has done really well but for him to take the next step as manager he needs to deliver a major trophy.

If that was the Scottish Cup it would be a phenomenal year.