Hearts may have struggled for much of the 1970s but one player still fondly remembered by older Jambos is Donald Park. The Invernesian signed for Hearts in the summer of 1972 and made his debut three months later, scoring in a 3-0 win over Arbroath at Tynecastle. Although just nineteen years old, Park was to make twenty other appearances in maroon that season as Hearts finished tenth in the First Division.
Parkie, as he was affectionately known, spent six years at Tynecastle during a difficult time for the club, a period when Hearts suffered relegation for the first time in their history. Hearts won promotion in 1978 after their first season downstairs and many saw Parkie’s experience as an important factor in Hearts chances of avoiding further demotion. However, in September 1978 manager Willie Ormond swapped the undoubted skills of Park for two Partick Thistle fringe players, Denis McQuade and John Craig, a move that angered many Hearts fans. Unsurprisingly, Park made an impact at Firhill and Thistle avoided relegation that season - at Hearts expense.
When Hearts finally stabilised under Chairman Wallace Mercer and won promotion to the Premier Division in 1983 - ending a six-year yo-yo syndrome - manager Alex MacDonald looked to experience to help Hearts remain in the top division and he wasted little time in bring Donald Park back to Tynecastle for the Highlander’s second stint in Gorgie. The wee man’s most memorable moment that season was when he scored Hearts equaliser against Hibernian in the New Year derby in torrential rain at Tynecastle.
Thanks to the experience of Park, MacDonald and others, Hearts established themselves as Premier Division club and began replacing the older players of the squad with youngsters. Park moved to Brechin City in the summer of 1985 before taking on a coaching role at Meadowbank Thistle. After a brief spell managing Arbroath, Parkie took on a coaching role at Hibernian before being appointed Assistant Manager to Franck Sauzee in 2001. However, the Frenchman’s reign as Hibs boss was short-lived and both he and Park left Easter Road in 2002.
Park joined his former Hearts team-mate John Robertson as part of the managerial team at Inverness Caledonian Thistle towards the end of 2002 and their partnership helped Caley Thistle to promotion to the SPL for the first time in 2004. It was inevitable that such success would link the pair to Hearts and they returned home to Tynecastle when Craig Levein left Hearts in November 2004. Sadly, things didn’t work out as hoped and Robbo and Parkie left Tynecastle at the end of the season.
Park was to return to Caley Thistle as assistant to Charlie Christie in January 2006 before returning to Edinburgh two years later as assistant to Mixu Paatelainen at Hibernian.
Last summer, Donald Park left Easter Road to take up the position of Head of Coach Education with the SFA in Glasgow.