Scottish Football – Cult Heroes

By Rory West

As part of a new series of blog posts; I will be collecting cult heroes from across Scottish Football and explaining why supporters love these players so much.

A cult hero is seen as someone who is only appreciated by a small group of supporters – mainly their club’s supporters – for moments of brilliance. The cult hero status however does mean that there is a downside to the player, otherwise they would probably be seen as a club legend. Regular cases are the player leaving the club much earlier that fans would have hoped, injuries keeping him out of regular action and preventing him showing his full potential.

Alexei Eremenko

To open the feature is a player who defines cult hero. Only featuring in two full seasons with Kilmarnock, Eremenko immediately took to the hearts of the Killie faithful with the flair and trickery in his game.

Initially joining Killie on loan in the 2010/11 season from Ukrainian club FC Metalist Kharkiv, Eremenko was an instant hit after scoring on his debut in a 2-1 win over St Mirren. He would only go on to score a further three goals that season, in 31 games, however he was influential in gaining Killie a fifth place finish, a position that they haven’t been near to finishing to since. His form was rewarded with a nomination in the end of season, player of the year awards, he would lose out to Emilio Izaguirre.

Eremenko’s loan deal expired at the end of the season and he moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan. He would return to Kilmarnock in the 2013/14 season on a short term deal after finding himself without a club. His performances towards the end of that season earned him a new deal with the Ayrshire club. However he would again find himself leaving Rugby Park in 2015 after failing to come to an agreement on a new contract.

What Killie fans will remember fondly about Eremenko was his ability from a dead ball. It became one of their prized assests with Eremenko’s specialty at free kicks winning Killie valuable points during his stay.

Franck Sauzee

Known by the name of “Le God” around Easter Road, Sauzee arrived at Hibs in 1999 with the Leith side in the; then First Division. Instantly named club captain; the Frenchman guided Hibs back into the Premier League. He would then go onto to take Hibs to third place in the league, in their first season back and into the 2001 Scottish Cup final.

A Champions League winner with Marseille in 1993 , Sauzee joined from Montpellier after several successful spells in his home nation of France. Cited as famous Hibs fan, Irvine Welsh’s favourite ever player.

Sauzee will be most fondly remembered by Hibs supporters for his performances in Edinburgh derbies. The two most notable instances are the ‘Millenium Derby’ in 2000 where Hibs won 3-0 at Tynecastle with Suazee scoring and running the full length of the pitch to celebrate with the Hibs supporters at the other side of the ground. Another notable display in an Edinburgh derby was when he was knocked unconscious and lost a tooth; all in the act of scoring a header in a 3-1 win over Hearts. He was also involved in the 6-2 massacre of Hearts.

After retiring in 2002; Sauzee became Hibs manager for a short spell but was a massive flop; winning one of his 15 games. He was sacked after 69 days; however that is not what he is remembered for around Easter Road.

Mark de Vries

Joining Hearts in 2002; at the time de Vries was a sought after man, with his performaces at  Dordrecht ’90 gaining him some attention. Craig Levein managed to secure the Surinamese striker and he was an immediate hit with the Hearts faithful.

Scoring just under 30 goals in 72 games during his time at Tyecastle, de Vries played a key role in securing Hearts a third place finish and UEFA Cup footall in 2003.  He is well remembered by Hearts fans for scoring 4 goals on his first start against fierce city rivals Hibernian in a 5–1 victory in August 2002.

In 2003, after qualifying for the UEFA Cup the season prior de Vries scored the winning goal which gave Hearts a shock victory over Bordeaux, producing one of the club’s best ever away results in European competition.

De Vries would join manager Levein at Leicester in 2005. He would then return to Scottish football with Dundee United in 2008 however his spell there wasn’t quite as glamorous as his stay in Gorgie.

Claudio Caniggia

The Argentine played; in three World Cups, for Roma, Boca Juniors and Benfica. Then in 2000 he found himself plying his trade at Dens Park. A major coup was pulled off as Dundee added to their Argentine contingent in an attempt to become the third force in Scottish football.

Scoring on his debut in a 2-0 win at Pittodrie against Aberdeen, Caniggia couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. He also scored in a 2-0 win over Rangers in 2001, the last time the Taysiders beat Rangers.

Dundee would finish a disappointing sixth that season and also perform poorly in the cups. This prompted Caniggia to jump ship to Ibrox at the end of the season, joining Rangers.

Hicham Zerouali

Nicknamed ‘Zero’ by the Dons fans; the Moroccan was an instant hit and fans favourite at Pittodrie. Signed by Ebbe Skovdahl in 1999 he became famous for becoming the first player in Scottish football to wear the shirt number zero.

However what he became more famous for within the Aberdeen support was his sheer ability. Scoring 11 goals in 37 appearances for the Dons, he will be most remembered for a thirty yard free kick he scored in a Scottish Cup tie away to St Mirren, earning his side a replay.

He also famously scored a hat-trick against Dundee at Dens where after he scored his third he celebrated by jumping into a puddle on the side of the pitch, an iconic celebration for Aberdeen fans.

After his Aberdeen contract expired in 2002, Zerouali went on to play in the United Arab Emirates for two years until his untimely death in 2004.

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Author: pintsandpens

Pints and Penalties is a weekly Scottish Football Podcast where we discuss all the goings on within the Scottish game. If going to the pub and having a good 'blether' about the 'fitba' with your mates is your thing then this podcast is the one for you.

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