AUCHINLECK TALBOT’S Scottish Cup tie against Hearts today will be something of a “Sliding Doors” experience for the junior outfit’s last line of defence.
The clubs’ previous Tynecastle encounter seven years ago, nicked 1-0 by the hosts, was a bittersweet experience for all the visitors – but especially keeper, Andy Leishman.
His performance could have led to a permanent move to Gorgie.
“This draw has brought back a lot of memories,” said Leishman.
“I knew I’d be busy all game, and that was the case. I was the busiest man on the park and had a good game.
“I saved a penalty in the first half from Fraser Mullen, and at half-time they panicked and brought on David Templeton. But I saved a few attempts from him as well.
“We came so close to an upset that day. We scored but it was ruled off for offside. When we saw it again it afterwards, it was clearly on.”
Though Talbot lost the game, the good impression made by Leishman was not forgotten by the Edinburgh club.
“They offered me the opportunity to train with them the following week,” Leishman continued.
“But I’d hurt my wrist during the game – I got smashed at their goal – and couldn’t go.
“Gary Locke phoned me two weeks later, however, and I went back up to train with them.
“It was a great experience. We actually trained on Tynecastle, and it was much different training on it to playing on it.
“It was surreal. You’ve just played against all these boys and then you are in training with them.
“I did goalie training with Jamie MacDonald – he was the No. 1 – Mark Ridgers and Jack Hamilton. Then we played a game at the end.
“They were all good goalies. Mark and Jack were just young boys at the time but it was good to get that experience.
“I thought I’d definitely done enough that day to interest them. They said, ‘We’ll get back in touch with you.’.
“Jamie Hamill was with Hearts at the time. He stays in Irvine and I stay in Cumnock, and I gave him a run down the road because he’d done his knee, and was going back to his family that weekend.
“I told him how things had gone, and he said, ‘Imagine going back to your day job – I put in water mains for a living – then signing for Hearts next season.’.
“It was a great thought – but seven years on, I’m still waiting!
“I didn’t hear anything from Tynecastle. Then Hearts manager, Paulo Sergio, left the club a few weeks after they’d won the Scottish Cup.
“Actually I did get one call. One of my work-mates phoned me up, kidding on he was John McGlynn (Sergio’s replacement), asking me to sign for Hearts!”
If the 30-year-old is able to laugh about his near miss with one of Scotland’s biggest and most-storied clubs, he admits to still daydreaming about what might have been.
“You do think about it. I don’t want to be out working in bad weather every day but I have been,” he said.
“That was seven years ago now, so if it was going to happen, it would have happened back then. It’s not going to now. I’m getting too old!
“I’ve had a few offers from teams over the years – Stranraer, and Livingston when David Hopkin was the manager.
“I weighed everything up in terms of my job, and the money I can get from football, and in the end it just wasn’t worth my while.
“I got married a few years ago and I am settled, so things have worked out fine.”
If Leishman is in a good place right now, a win against Craig Levein’s team would put a smile on his face that will still be in place by the time the Scottish Cup gets presented to the eventual winner come May.
“The desire to get one over on them because of what happened is definitely there. I can’t wait to play them again,” he said.
“The park’s going to be great because they have spent money on it, and it’s one of the best stadiums I’ve played at. It’s right on top of you. It’s class.
“I know I’ll be busy again. I’m just going to try my best and hopefully we’ll play well again – only this time get a better outcome!”
Andy Leishman was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.