This is Part II of a of an exclusive interview with Saulius Mikoliunas. You can read Part I here.

Gorgie. Boxing Day, 2006.

An early Paul Hartley goal put Heart of Midlothian ahead. A Zibi Malkowski blunder would follow after the break. Then a Hibs comeback complete with Dean Shiels poleaxing Craig Gordon. It was the last great meeting between the capital city rivals. It was gripping, it was captivating, it was Boxing Day entertainment. If one team was going to win it, only a stunning strike would be fitting to do so...

'...And Mikoliunas! Saulius Mikoliunas makes his mark. Hearts 3, Hibs 2 in an epic Edinburgh derby.'

More than 17 years later the goal, curled into the top corner from the edge of the box with his left foot, still provokes joy from the club's former Lithuanian winger. Now 39, he looks back on his time at Tynecastle Park philosophically,  with maturity and pride. But it was the one moment of the interview where he struggled to find the appropriate words despite his fluency in English.

"This was definitely the best," he told Hearts Standard. "The winner, the screamer... Ah… fantastic. I remember… the emotions, the feeling of winning against Hibees and in such a way… wow, amazing."

He added: "You see how life changes. I hated green but now I am working with green!

"I felt it from fans and of course the team-mates. They explain. You can be at the bottom but you need to win against Hibees and fans will not be angry at you."

Hearts Standard:

Mikoliunas spent four and a half years at Hearts and during that time he packed plenty in. From success to controversy, there was hardly a moment of serenity. You could forgive him for any feeling of bitterness or frustration about his time in Scotland. Whether it was the fallout from barging linesman Andy Davis to accusations from some within the Hearts support of being a teacher's pet with Vladimir Romanov - or the way he was vilified and hounded after his frankly amusing dive to win a penalty against Scotland.

Touching on each subject, Mikoliunas took ownership of each, admitting he was favoured by Romanov, and spoke of the positive impact that emerged from each.

Reflecting on that time at Hearts, he saw it as a formative and important stage in his career, one he looks back fondly on from the moment he was chosen by John Robertson as someone who could add to the squad when he pitched up for a trial during the 2004/05 season.

READ MORE: Saulius Mikoliunas: Life after Hearts, 100-cap target, new Miko-Cesnauskis link

"Mr Romanov said we were going to go for one game to play Hearts reserves team against our young players," Mikoliunas recalled. "John Robertson was watching that game and he chose me, Marius Kizys and one more player. This other player didn’t agree with Romanov about the money I think and he didn’t come.

"I was so excited, I wanted to go, it was my dream to come to Scotland in such a football country. I think after one month I came to Scotland and it was so good."

During his initial months at Hearts, Mikoliunas felt as if Lithuania was a "magnet" for him but soon he regarded Edinburgh as his home. His English improved and he was helped by the likes of Christophe Berra and Lee Wallace to adapt off the field and he knew he had the support of Robbo on it.

Hearts Standard:

"It was very important for me that John Robertson liked me," he said. "I feel it and for me, it was very easy for me to adapt. When you feel the coach is supporting you and gives you the confidence you can spread your wings and start to fly."

He and countryman Deividas Cesnauskis shone brightly early on, notably in a Scottish Cup replay win over Kilmarnock which was shown live on Sky Sports. The former setting up the latter for a goal on his debut.

Miko on Marius Zaliukas...

I really appreciated how Hearts fans treated him after he passed away. I feel proud of him for what he achieved. I think he was happy with what he achieved. It was a sad, sad moment that he passed away at such a young age. What a person, what a player he was.

Calm and positive but on the pitch he was a big fighter. All the time he liked the duels, on the ground and especially in the air.

That bright start would take a turn.

The two red card evening at Tynecastle Park when the red mist descended, Mikoliunas channeling the anger of a baying crowd that night in Gorgie when Rangers were awarded a dodgy penalty for an apparent foul on Sotiris Kyrgiakos in stoppage time. Mikoliunas who at least put his English vocabulary to the test when he picked up his second red card from Hugh Dallas.

"He understood the situation and that I knew nothing about the football mentality of Scotland," he explained of Robertson's support. "I remember when I played in the Lithuanian league I saw another player, an experienced player, when a referee made a mistake he did exactly the same, he cheated the linesman. Maybe when I saw that in memory it stuck.

"This kind of situation came again and I was so emotionally sensitive because it was my first game against Rangers, I had watched them on television and now I was playing against them. We played really well, we were drawing and in my opinion, it was not a penalty for sure, it was a big mistake. It was really terrible.

"I was emotionally so sensitive and wanted to win so much that even a draw would be a big result for me, I would be so proud and then I saw that moment… something came back from my experience in Lithuania and I made this stupid thing. I start to swear at the main referee and get this second red card. I watch myself and I would say, 'this guy is mentally ill'!

"I didn’t have the experience to keep calm."

READ MORE: Eduard Malofeev: The story of the infamous Hearts interim - Rants, Rage, Riccarton 3

Hearts Standard:

That quality would be developed over the coming years at Tynecastle. As things soon began to unravel at Tynecastle, Mikoliunas bore the brunt of fan frustration during the 2007/08 campaign with sporting director Alex Koslovski accusing fans of discrimination. They were tainted by their association with Romanov and that's how supporters thought was best to get their message across.

And Mikoliunas' reflection on his relationship with the former Hearts owner suggested there was in fact a degree of favouritism.

Miko said: "He liked me, I don’t know why! If I had any problems he was supporting me all the time and trying to help me. He treated me in a different way than other players. Our relationship was bigger than just a business deal.

"We had this difficult period but it helped me to react in the future, in life a little bit more calm and take it as part of football. It is natural that you will not have all the time good things. Sometimes you need to pass the hard times. Every experience is good. When you go to the bottom the way is to stand up and move forward."

It was a season in which Mikoliunas became persona non grata in the eyes of fans and pundits up and down the country following his successful attempts to win a penalty against Scotland in qualifying for the European Championships at Hampden.

The reaction for a player simply diving was over the top and more embarrassing than the dive itself. Yet, there is no hint of ill feeling from Mikoliunas, instead viewed as a learning. That's not quite true - he became the first player to be retrospectively banned for diving by UEFA - but he feels there was Scottish influence within the corridors in Switzerland.

"Now we have VAR system, I would get yellow carded and that’s it," he said. "That situation I would say was stupid. Now in that situation, I would say no, no there was no penalty. Of course, fair play. But in that moment I was too young.

"You know what Scotland taught me after that? I hated players diving and pretending, they fall on the grand and have an over-the-top reaction. For me, I want to kick their ass. I was calling them pussies. After this period I became stronger as a man. I was never diving, never crying, I was staying on my feet."

READ MORE: Branimir Kostadinov: My Hearts dream, why it didn't work out and career since

Hearts Standard:

He would bounce back and leave the club on a relative high, helping the team finish in third spot in Csaba Laszlo's first season even if his campaign was hampered by injury. Another late-winning goal in a 3-2 home success, this time over Motherwell got the season off on the front foot. For the player, it was time to move on. He admitted he "wanted something new... needed a new challenge".

Reflecting on season 2005/06 and then the beginning of 2006/07, Mikoliunas, who pinpointed the double act of Paul Hartley and Rudi Skacel as the best in that teams, believes they achieved what they could achieve in the former but not the latter. 

Celtic with "bigger players, bigger budget, bigger team" were too difficult to topple even if George Burley had not been sacked, while he is of the view the team had "enough quality to pass" AEK Athens to get into the Champions League group stage. 

He said: "But some stupid or inexperienced decisions, not mistakes, these small details… I think we could have achieved more in that season."

Mikoliunas remains fond of Hearts and Edinburgh, he spoke of how much he liked "top player" Lawrence Shankland, how he is still looking to return to watch Hearts and of being friends with Steven Currie from property company Murray and Currie.

But there will always be one moment that overshadows everything else. 

"If I was to choose the best moment of all my career I would pick this, the Scottish Cup [in 2006]," he said. "The open-roof bus when we were going through the streets, all the streets were maroon, singing songs. It was crazy really, like we had won the Champions League!

"I am very proud that I was part of the team. I say to my son, ‘Look what kind of club I was playing for’. Hearts will stay in my heart my entire life."