Fittingly for a man who served Heart of Midlothian so well, Eddie Thomson was born in Midlothian, in the village of Rosewell in 1947. He was signed by another Hearts legend, Tommy Walker, in 1966 and was to become one of Hearts most consistent performers in the seven years that followed. The late 1960s/early 1970s were not exactly the most rewarding of times for Hearts but along with Jim Cruickshank and Donald Ford, Thomson was one of the mainstays of a rather average Hearts team. Hearts slide to the backwater of Scottish football gathered apace in the 1970s but it’s safe to say this would have accelerated had it not been for Thomson and his ilk.
Some of Hearts transfer decisions in those days were difficult to fathom, none more so than the sale of Eddie Thomson to Aberdeen in 1973. Hearts received £60,000 for Eddie – plus an ageing Ernie Winchester – and with all due respect, it’s not difficult to figure out which club got the better of the deal. Thomson scored just seven goals for the Jambos in seven years but his job was to prevent goals, not score them, and there were few better centre halves in Scotland at that time. Had he worn the colours of Rangers or Celtic, he would surely have been capped for Scotland.
Eddie played 213 games for Hearts, and was an ever-present during the league campaign of 1970-71 where he formed a formidable partnership with another Hearts great, Alan Anderson. Thomson’s importance to Hearts was emphasised when injury forced him to miss the Scottish Cup tie against Hibs in February 1971 – and Hearts lost 2-1 at Tynecastle.
Two years later, manager Bobby Seith saw fit to sell Eddie to Aberdeen where he proved a fine servant to The Dons until his departure in 1977. Aged 30, Thomson tried his luck across the Atlantic Ocean with San Antonio Thunder in the North American League before heading to Australia and Hakoah Eastern Suburbs. It seemed remarkable that a player of Thomson’s ability was now plying his trade on the other side of the world but Eddie fell in love with Australia and would settle down for good Down Under.
Hakoah changed their name to Sydney City, Thomson became coach and his coaching skills became second to none. Sydney City won three successive league titles in the early 1980s and Eddie also hit a treble as he became the only man to win the Australian Coach of the Year award three times in the mid 1980s. He then moved to Sydney Olympic where more success saw him inevitably called up by the Australian national side, first as Assistant Coach to Frank Arok then, as Head Coach in 1990. Eddie held the number one football position in Australia for six years. After a brief spell in Japan, Eddie returned to Australia where he remained a national hero.
Eddie’s fight with cancer has been well documented on the Kickback section of Hearts website and he was clearly fondly remembered by older Hearts fans who recall his days in Gorgie. Our deepest sympathies go to Eddie’s family and they can rest assured a generation of Hearts supporters will never forget one of the finest players ever to grace Tynecastle.