WITH the assuredness of a preacher and the wisdom of a prophet, Sir Alex Ferguson emerged from the streets of Govan and gave Scottish football its go-to commandment.
If you want to win anything, you’ll have to win in Glasgow and, while no one is likely to mistake the city’s Southside for Mount Sinai anytime soon, his words might as well have been carved in stone and handed down from the gods.
We’ve all seen the story before: a challenger emerges in the chasing pack and murmurs grow that this could finally be the year Rangers and Celtic’s dominance is broken, only for the underdog to head to Ibrox or Parkhead and return home with their tail between their legs.
Taking on that mantle this time around are Hearts, who, having already scaled to the cinch Premiership’s peak, increasingly look like they could be the team to end the G postcode’s stranglehold on the top flight.
They’ve already proven their credentials with fine wins over Dundee United, Motherwell, and even Celtic, but when the players return from the international break they’ll do so with the acid test: a trip to face champions Rangers at Ibrox.
“There’s no reason to be daunted,” said the Edinburgh club’s Cameron Devlin. “We’re top of the league for a reason, aren’t we?
“So we go into every game with confidence – and we’ll go to Ibrox with confidence.
“We’ll go with a game plan that the staff will come up with, then it’s over to us.”
It’s a good thing Hearts have gone out of their way to prove Ferguson’s decree in recent times. A last-minute Osman Sow goal stunned Ally McCoist’s men on the opening day of the 2014/15 season and, if you are looking for omens, the visitors went on to win the league that campaign.
“We’ll try to be dominant – and obviously try to win the game,” added Devlin. “It’ll be tough. They’ll have a lot of fans, there’s no shying away from that.
“But we got there with full confidence, knowing we deserve to be top of the league.
“For me personally, I’ve done my research and everyone knows Celtic and Rangers.
“But for me, I would say why not? I’m not thinking about it just now, we’re taking it game by game, week by week.
“Obviously being top of the league at the moment is unreal, so good, but we aren’t getting carried away.”
Speaking after Hearts’ 2-0 win over Motherwell on Saturday, which took them top of the league, added: “As soon as one game finishes, you look to the next one. There’s nothing you can do about the game just done.
“So we’ll have a couple of days off next weekend, then we go to Ibrox – which might be the biggest challenge of the year, so far.
“I think that’ll be a pretty cool experience. It’s something I’m really looking forward to, something I’ve never experienced before.
“I know we’re all looking forward to.”
For Devlin, new to the Scottish game but already looking at home, it’ll be a memorable experience regardless of the result, having arrived from the often soulless surroundings of the A League.
“That’ll be the biggest crowd I’ve played in front of,” the former Wellington Phoenix player said. “Tynecastle is the loudest, just the way the stadium is built.
“It’s something I’ve never experienced and I’m lapping it up.
“I know the fans at Ibrox will be against me but I’ll love that.
“My A-League debut for Sydney FC was a derby in front of maybe 40,000 but the stadiums are massive there, not built for football, so it’s not the same.
“Here, 20,000 sounds like 60,000 back home. Honestly, it’s so much fun being out there – and that’s why I’m playing with a smile on my face.”
While he hasn’t quite clocked up as many air miles as Devlin, Motherwell’s Callum Slattery is another finding his feet in the Scottish game. The Englishman arrived at Fir Park in the summer and admits he has been impressed by the quality on show.
He said: “I wouldn’t say it’s [Scottish football] looked down upon [in England]. Just not many people tend to venture for some reason or another. I’d say the standard is very good. The speed of the game is very high. The quality of play is high.”