THE END OF SEPTEMBER 2015 is nigh and this means that the streets of Nottingham around the Nottingham Trent University city campus are once again thronging with ‘Freshers’. The areas including Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street adjacent to the Arkwright and Newton buildings being particularly awash with new students, locating their accommodation and general whereabouts for the coming academic year.
Nottingham Trent University
With my own place of work being quite close, a saunter through the area on Thursday brought the sight of a teeming group of young intakes to the streets, identically dressed in a uniform of bright orange t-shirts proclaiming the legend ‘FRESHERS CREW across the chest and personalised names on the back, football jersey style. The faces were those of young people principally just having left home for the first time, expressions of excited expectancy, underlined in some cases with a slight etching of self-doubt and apprehension as they settle in to making new friends and locating their place in various groups and pecking orders.
Next week will probably see the beginning of the processions of large groups of students in fancy dress, heading along Mansfield Road and other main thoroughfares, congregating in the city centre and its clubs, pubs and inevitable ‘student nights’. It’s a familiar sight each year and brings a knowing smile to my face
Nottingham, being a city that boosts the two places of learning, Nottingham Trent University and the older, illustrious University of Nottingham, is very much a university town these days. Sometimes, there have been reports of the city’s students bring problems to inner-city residential areas where they have tended to colonise and indulge in boisterous, noisy and non-neighbourly behaviour as young people often inevitably do. It should be said though that, for me at least, the city is breathed new life when they return each September. Apart from economic factors alone, I feel they bring something to the modern culture of Nottingham and of course, I have walked a mile in those shoes years ago and therefore don’t feel so far removed from them and what they are experiencing, although my own home was in Nottinghamshire.
Nottingham Trent University, Arkwright Building, Shakespeare Street
A happy thought is that many of these young people will be making friends for many years or even a lifetime. They’ll form new allegiances with the city’s sports teams, visit places with friends that they’ll recall fondly as long as they are able to remember. Some will meet their life partners and some may even settle that well they never leave the city again and call it ‘home’.
Autumn term beckons, good luck to the returning and new students of the Queen of The Midlands.
Work hard and play hard.
It’s great to sense the early days of the feel good factor reappearing and people with more reason to be positive. I’m heartened generally by the relative calibre of player being brought into the club. I do wonder if there is some kind of injury ‘problem’ going off beyond pure bad luck, notwithstanding that some players are being brought in when not fully fit.
John McGinn – midfield strength
I hear a lot of concerned comment about the amount of chances that are being created and the relatively low strike rate from them. It’s a fair point of course but I’m not necessarily worried. I do feel it’s much more worrying when chances aren’t being created. That’s a bleak landscape and one we witnessed particularly under Fenlon for example, arguably. I was schooled on a team in this city that people would complain incessantly about them trying to ‘walk the ball into the net’. It never got tiresome watching them win practically everything available while doing so though. Patience is required.
Regarding goal scoring I often find it interesting the comments about Jason Cummings. He’s maybe a limited footballer in some ways but who really cares? He does what he’s paid to do – put the ball in the back of the net – with monotonous regularity. I hear some talk of the need for a ‘twenty-goal striker’. We already have one. Possibly more than one given a clean bill of health.
It’s going to be another long fight this season to get the club where it should be and that is slightly hamstrung by an understandably disenfranchised section of the support staying away from Easter Road. I’m afraid the club has to suck this up at the moment. Many old and new fans will be back with a higher status restored and winning ways returning. Expect a few more three and four wins at Easter Road during the coming months as this useful squad gels together. It’s strength is based on some very good performers in the middle of the park.
There are really only going to be a couple of outcomes to this season aren’t there. Hibs either finish as champions, and they have begun a little off the pace, or a play-off situation at the season’s death which we’ll either lose – or more likely, considering the form we’re likely to be in then win. Importantly, at that time I think Hibs will show that they have proven goal scoring power – always important in one-off ‘cup’ type games and that in my view would likely see us through. The usual disclaimers apply.
Get on for the ride, Hibees, it’s going to be an interesting and entertaining season.
FOLLOWING THE WEEK which contained World Suicide Prevention Day, a few words for those suffering a new and tragic loss.
It may be very early days for you and I’m sure all sorts of things will be going through your head as you try to make sense of what indeed appears senseless.
Some of the reactions and support you will receive will be of comfort, some thought provoking, nearly all will be heartfelt. Accept the love and support that people offer, especially those close to you. I gained a tremendous amount of strength from my friends in general. I felt almost overwhelmed at the kindness and it taught me a lot about people, myself and my relationship with this world. In the midst of a sad situation, it is a gift to you. A natural equaliser and healer in life.
If you are a person of faith then there is no better time to call on that. Personally, I found it difficult to take part in Mass but would rather spend time in my local place of worship alone, finding peace, healing.
Forgive people if they are awkward around you. It is very difficult for some people to understand what to say or do in such circumstances. Know that all will feel for you, despite their apparent reactions.
I’m sure you will still be reeling with the shock of what has happened at this time. My main words to you would be to simply hang in there – survive it day by day – and let the future take care of itself when time inevitably works its miracle healing. It is a first-aid situation currently so don’t have too many expectations of yourself right now – just get through it the best you can. One day at a time, one hour at a time if need be. When you feel able in some way to return to your routines, if you have not already, undertake them slowly and be kind to yourself because you deserve it.
At the darkest of times it can help take your mind off things to think of others in the situation. There may be children in the situation or significant others who you can engage with and support each other. Look after each other – be a team.
Perhaps all or many of your days will feel bleak still at the moment and that is to be expected. Some days may feel unbearable but I am here to tell you that these times do decrease, though you may not be able to comprehend th
at right now. Have faith that this will happen and give time the chance to carry out its great work.
Whilst still very early days, when the pain becomes more bearable try to gently place back into your life, one-by-one, those elements that will help you, friendships, work, a little exercise, socialising. Take your time with them and go steady.
I’m sure that many have already offered but I’d also like to extend the hand of friendship and support to you. Write to me anytime, even if you just need to spit it out whatever is hurting you. Stay with us here, you are stronger than you think.
IT WAS BACK to the Vale of Belvoir, the Beautiful View’ to run on the towpath of the Grantham Canal this Saturday, for the first time in a few years actually and I had forgotten just how striking it is in that scenic area that sits astride the three counties of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire.
My leisurely mid-morning drive took me over the River Trent via stately Gunthorpe Bridge, passing through the attractive market town of Bingham and on to pretty Redmile. Soon, the impressive sight of Belvoir Castle came into view standing over a hazy hinterland, gently bathed in hazy early September sunshine.
From Harlaxton Drift Bridge, the Grantham Canal
The Vale of Belvoir has always been a popular choice for a some out-of-town relaxation for me, being only a modest forty-five minute drive from my Nottinghamshire home. I love it because it is under-populated by visitors and all the more peaceful for it. I have to say some do not know what they are missing as it is an impressive slice of countryside, all the better for having the atmospheric Grantham Canal running through it, a thirty-three mile ribbon beginning in Nottingham and ending in the Lincolnshire town it was named after.
Meeting my friend outside the Rutland Arms, better known as ‘The Dirty Duck’, near Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, a village that counted no less than Isaac Newton as a native*. I parked up canal side and noted how much the reeds had colonised the water since I had last visited. There were few people around at the adjacent camp site providing a peaceful serene scene.
The Rutland Arms on the Grantham Canal
A seven-mile plus run took us alongside the old waterway, punctuated only by the odd walker, cyclist or angler on it’s quiet banks. The run took us down to Harlaxton Drift Bridge and a return to The Rutland Arms passing locks and ancient turning circles for the canal barges.
Afterwards, it was time for lunch and with the Rutland Arms’ doors firmly closed it was a mile drive down the quiet road to the village and the welcome of the superb Chequers Inn at Woolsthorpe. It’s hard to imagine a much more impressive pub-restaurant environment than this beautiful and historic 17th-century inn with it’s stone fireplaces, bar and rabbit warren of attractive and well-appointed rooms. A restaurant/banqueting suite had evidently been extended on to the old building earlier this year adjacent to the attractive garden where we had our lunch in the sunshine, accompanied by the pub’s friendly resident rooster which patrolled the garden.
The Chequers Inn, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir, Lincolnshire
All good things come to an end so they say and my regular Saturday runs at Woodborough in Nottinghamshire are no longer, at least for now. After a moderate and pleasant drive through the neighbouring counties though, back to The Vale of Belvoir offers an outstanding replacement.
*See correction in comments section.
The end of August 2015 beckons as I write, leading to those days of ‘mellow fruitfulness’ of Autumn that can be so stimulating, atmospheric and enjoyable. Enduring sun and crisper days.
I’d an enjoyable and familiar run from nearby Woodborough, Nottinghamshire yesterday which took my friend and I through the pretty and adjacent Epperstone village and return. Grateful for a pleasant, sunny and warm late Summer day, we afterwards headed to a local garden centre cafe for our customary and welcome sandwiches and tea for lunch.
Lowdham Lane, Woodborough
Just as we were setting off on our run, it was good to see the bright green tractors with massively stacked healthy-looking hay bales piled on trailers heading to their destination along Main Street. It brought back memories of school days and cross-country running afternoons where a certain couple of class members hitched a lift aback to travel up one of the steep local hills!
There probably aren’t many better places to be than lying atop a haystack with big blue skies above, the sun generously blazing down on you, recharging you.
Yesterday’s run was a marker towards the end of the Summer as it is likely there will be a change of destination on Saturday mornings in the future. Next week will be a drive down to the Vale of Belvoir ‘the Beautiful Vale’ for a run along the Grantham Canal and a crossing of three counties, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire. It has been my custom to run and walk through all four of God’s good seasons since I have known how and that will continue. Onwards and upwards
You can play this as an accompaniment if you would like.
A few final thoughts on the Scott Allan-Hibs situation. Hibernian Football Club did very much all they could in a challenging situation and played out business (or lack of it) with great dignity, as they have always tended to do in their dealings with other clubs. Well done, Hibs.
I can’t join in the general triumphalism over the situation regarding thwarting the new Glasgow club as the Easter Road side has lost its most talented player. There are early indications however, that more than adequate and importantly, motivated replacements, will develop in the youthful Henderson and McGinn.
I think most Hibbies will be happier if and when the excellent and committed Dylan McGeouch signs on the dotted line.
For the player the furore has surrounded, Scott Allan, I do believe that by signing for Celtic he has potentially placed himself in a whole world of trouble regards his career but more likely his off-field life. He has some quality, that is not in doubt (though not proven consistently at this point, albeit a sublimely skilled 23 year-old midfield player. Hi notorious Rangers allegiances will see him reviled by his boyhood team’s supporters for not signing for the Ibrox club after expressing a wish to do so. To magnify that issue he has defected to the hated ‘other side’, perhaps almost unbelievably. It’s always a possibility that Celtic’s supporters may turn on him for those same allegiances should Scott not perform.
We should of course remember that Allan is first and foremost a professional footballer and the sport and his earnings from it come first in what is a short career, as we always told. I can’t help feeling though that implementing one of those body swerves and sidestepping both Rangers and Celtic to pursue a career at a quality club in the English leagues at an appropriate point would have been much more beneficial to him for career development, earnings and a relatively sane life away from the field of play. For me he has manifested a parochial and short-sighted attitude towards his career and a lack of insight into how his lifestyle is going to be in the pressure cooker atmosphere with all it’s side issues that is Glasgow football.
WHEN YOU BLEED GREEN AND WHITE and your famous old club celebrates its 140th BIRTHDAY, what better to do than recount its past?
A Short History of Hibernian Football Club
Welcome to a short history of Hibernian Football Club, the Green and White side of the Edinburgh professional football scene. ‘The Hibees’ play at Easter Road Stadium in Leith and have a proud, honourable and intriguing history stretching all the way back to 1875.
Hibernian Football Club has been part of the fabric and culture of Scotland’s Capital since its early inception. The club’s name is most usually abbreviated to ‘Hibs’ by fans and media alike. The club sports an impressive 20,421 seat facility in Easter Road Stadium where they play their home games.
Standing sentinel over its local community – Easter Road Stadium
Hibs have traditionally played in green and white strips since their formation, a pointer back to the Irish origins of the club. These origins emanate and embrace Irish emigration into Scotland and its Capital during the dark days of the Irish potato famine when many were displaced into the country and further afield around the world. The club badge has had several incarnations and its most recent one refers inclusively back to history and to the geographical placing of the organisation in its emblem of the Irish Harp, the castle depicting Edinburgh’s garrison and the ship signifying the port of Leith, respectively.
The club enjoys something of a high-profile fan base amongst its regular faithful fans. Notably, author Irvine Welsh has featured the club in his novels on many a memorable occasion, even hitting celluloid in the case of Trainspotting. Singing duo The Proclaimers contributed a modern-day and much-loved theme to the Easter Road terraces in their emotional ballad ‘Sunshine on Leith’ – recently also transferred to film in an excellent musical production. Further regular literary mentions also abound in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus stories in which his assistant, Siobhan, is depicted as a ‘Hibby’.
Charlie and Craig Reid -The Proclaimers
So who are this team then? What is the lifeblood that has characterised this enigmatic green and white phenomenon since its inception? Let’s take a leisurely and enjoyable stroll through the history book to find out a little more about the team’s rich past.
The club was originally formed, largely by the efforts of Canon Hannan, an Irish priest originally hailing from County Roscommon, and Michael Whelahan in the environs of St. Patrick’s Church in the heart of Edinburgh’s ‘Little Ireland’ of the day. The church still remains in the historic Cowgate area, now a world heritage site. The club’s famous name, ‘Hibernian’ was chosen for its reason of being the Roman word for Ireland, Hibernia. The initial and very laudable aim of the early club was to keep young Irish Catholic immigrants on the ‘straight and narrow’. To play for the Hibernians in those days entailed membership of the Catholic Young Men’s Society and an adherence to an abstemious lifestyle and regular attendance at Mass.
The Cowgate, Edinburgh
The early days of the club were also characterised by the club’s ceaseless work in aid of charitable causes – looking after and tending the impoverished of the community from which the club rose.
Hibs became an early power in Scottish football despite much prejudice and suspicion shown towards them by the authorities and within a few years were instrumental in the formation of the Celtic club in Glasgow and indeed myriad other teams of Irish heritage throughout Scotland.
Early mismanagement of the football club saw a temporary demise and hiatus in Hibernian’s history in 1891 when they ceased to exist for a single season. Before this however, the club had managed to become ‘World Champions’ by defeating the mighty English giants Preston North End! Hibernian re-emerged a very different club, open and inclusive to all, masterminded by the drive, ambition and loving care of Philip Farmer (ancestor of present owner Sir Tom Farmer), and his associates.
In 1892, Hibernian Football Club moved into its present home, Easter Road, often known as ‘The Holy Ground’ from those early years and traditions, and the club never looked back. Hibs enjoyed some moderate success on their reformation but it is perhaps the 1950s that most ‘Hibbies’ would claim as the club’s golden era and undoubtedly the club’s most successful and romantic period. The Hibees helped revolutionise attacking forward play in this glorious decade with their world-famous and revered forward line ‘The Famous Five’, comprising of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond. The ‘Five’ were renowned for their brilliant and dynamic attacking play which would often employ the five stars interchanging positions mid-game – unheard of in the rigid tactics of the time. The ace in the pack was undoubtedly right-winger Gordon Smith – who many rate as the best Scottish player of all-time, his mercurial talents exciting the big crowds of all persuasions of the day. The present day Easter Road Stadium still has a stand named in ‘Hibs’ greatest men’s’ honour.
The Famous Five – Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond
In many ways, the Famous Five gave the club its reputation for open, attacking and attractive play which still prevails. At various junctures over the years, perhaps in seasons of struggle, it was difficult to justify that image but let it be said that Hibs’ most memorable teams are still those that brought great excitement, exuberance and enjoyment to the terracing faithful. It is difficult to generalise but many of the club’s dedicated supporters still adhere to the notion of the team playing the ‘right’ way – the ‘Hibernian way’.
Amidst great excitement and huge crowds, The Famous Five and their talented teammates behind them brought unprecedented success to Easter Road in the form of three Scottish Championship trophies. Nevertheless, the Scottish Cup still eluded this team of shining stars as it has done to this day since 1902, a notorious deficit in the history of the proud club.
Innovation has often been a feature of Hibs’ history and the club became the very first British outfit to take part in European Competition when they were admitted by invitation to enter the 1955 European Cup. The club acquitted themselves well in this inaugural foray onto the continent beating Rot-Weiss Essen 5-1 on aggregate before finally ending their involvement after being defeated by Stade Reims in the semi-final.
In the latter days of the 1950s with the ‘swinging sixties’ about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public, one of Hibs’ finest talents of all surfaced. English-born, Scots bred Joe Baker, a young centre forward, became the club’s most prolific scorer of all time and, unusually for the day, was eventually transferred in a big money move to Italian club Torino where he spent one stellar season alongside soon-to-be Manchester United and Scotland legend, Denis Law. The talented Baker, a player of great speed, dynamism and deadly finishing enjoyed a productive and much-loved playing career and returned to the Hibernian fold eventually as a player and ultimately, later in life, as a match day host.
The ‘Baker Boy’ – Joe Baker
Hibs enjoyed a fine reputation in Europe during the 1960s with many a famous victory for the men from Easter Road. Such giants of the game as Barcelona, Napoli and even Real Madrid in a specially arranged friendly, were unceremoniously put to the sword in cavalier style ‘down the slope’ by the men in green and white. The slope refers to the prominent dip that in those days was part of the Easter Road pitch.
Perhaps one of Hibernian FC’s most admired sides was the team of all talents of the early 1970s dubbed ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ after Eddie Turnbull who returned to Easter Road as Manager after a successful period in charge at Aberdeen. The team, whilst ultimately under-achieving and being broken up prematurely, played a hugely exciting brand of football and boasted two genuine world-class talents in John Brownlie, an early overlapping full-back of the day and the great Pat Stanton. Stanton – still a much-loved and revered figure amongst the Easter Road faithful traces his Hibernian roots all the way back to Hibernian’s origins being a descendant of the important figure of the afore-mentioned Michael Whelahan, one of Hibs’ first on-field greats and a seminal figure in the formation of the club.
Patrick Gordon Stanton
Turnbull’s Tornadoes won silverware on several occasions but it is perhaps one particular day in 1973 that they are best remembered for by Hibbies everywhere. On the first day of January that year, Hibs were indeed in celebratory mood as they demolished city rival Hearts to the tune of seven goals to nil away at Tynecastle Stadium. That famous day is still very much a feature of the bragging rights between the two sets of Capital football supporters.
In the mid-1970s Hibs courted some controversy when they were again in innovatory mood in introducing sponsorship to the front of the club jersey. This gained television company’s ire – curious when one thinks of the corporate nature of the present day game.
That era was probably most notable for another story that revolved around one very special man. Towards the end of the decade Hibs famously signed an errant George Best who was already poised for a journey of self-destruction. Paid per game out of Chairman Tom Hart’s own pocket, the Irish genius scattered a little much-needed stardust around the club in a time of struggle before finally leaving the club for the United States and the next stage of his mercurial story.
George Best in the famous green and white
There have been some enduring themes in Hibs’ history. Glory and frustration, along with the benevolence of the early years being just a few. In 1990 however, the spectre of mismanagement returned to the club when they faced financial ruin and anxious times which almost lead to closure. During that year, Wallace Mercer, the Chairman of Hearts, launched a proposed merger of the two city clubs under the banner of an attempt to challenge the two big Glasgow clubs, Celtic and Rangers. The proposal however was viewed as a hostile takeover and an attempt to close down Hearts’ old city rivals. It was at this time that the pressure group ‘Hands off Hibs’ was hastily formed in order to protect the club and ensure its survival.
Local businessman, Tom Farmer, (now Sir Tom) originally a Leith native, came forward to acquire a controlling interest in Hibernian FC. One of his quotes of the time was that he was ‘tired of seeing so many miserable faces around Leith’ bearing in mind the community was nigh ready to lose its old club. Here again was another twist in Hibs history with Sir Tom’s ancestry lining back to Phillip Farmer who had performed a similar deed in helping save the club in its early years.
Sir Tom Farmer
Under the stewardship of Farmer and with a mobilised fan base, the club, after some desperate and worrying days eventually survived, being lauded as ‘The team who wouldn’t die’. For many present-day fans these were Hibs’ darkest hours until the daylight of survival was assured.
After a barren time of survival and existence for the enduring club ,save for a magnificent Skol Cup win in 1991, Hibs entered several seasons of consolidation and sometimes struggle. Former Scottish internationalist Alex McLeish was appointed manager but was unable to prevent the club dropping down a division in 1997-98. Hibs bounced back in fine style however under the on-field guidance of the talented former French internationalist Franck Sauzee and midfielder Russell Latapy. It was a return to an expansive style of play which was much-lauded from the Easter Road terraces and the springboard for where the present day club finds itself placed.
Further progress was recorded under the managerial tutelage of new appointment, Tony Mowbray and the club enjoyed an ‘upward spiral’ with a galaxy of young stars breaking through into the first team at a similar time and playing quick, attractive and controlled football on the ground as preached by the philosophical Mowbray.
Many of that team are now spread far and wide but the legacy of the financial gain they brought to the club by way of transfer fees now sees the club in a relatively enviable business position.
Another former hero eventually returned in the shape of former midfield star, John Collins. Collins’ stay was a tempestuous one in many respects but saw the club record one of its happiest days of all with a magnificent League Cup win to the tune of 5-1 over a hapless Kilmarnock at Hampden in March 2007.
Hibs Manager, John Collins celebrates with the CIS League Cup 2007
When this resume of Hibernian’s history was originally written, another former player, John Hughes, was in the managerial hot-seat at Easter Road. Early on-field signs were encouraging with ‘Yogi’ attempting to impress a passing game on the team with some encouraging results to follow. Relations subsequently soured, however, Hibs still managed a fourth-place finishing spot in spite of a disastrous run of form latterly. After his departure by mutual consent, Hughes was replaced by Former Nottingham Forest boss, Colin Calderwood to poor effect. Many fans reflected on this era being one of Hibs’ historic low points before and during his exit in November, 2011.
Irish club, Bohemians gave Hibs permission to speak to manager, Pat Fenlon who was drafted into Easter Road to make the many changes that were viewed as necessary. It is recorded that Pat, a likeable and principled character, whilst bringing a little more grit to the team, presided over some of the poorest Hibs results in several generations. A heavy loss to the team’s local rivals in the 2011-12 Scottish Cup Final, billed as the ‘Salt and Sauce Final’ in the media and a 0-7 European home debacle – a record Scottish defeat – against Malmo from Sweden in 2013 followed. The latter was particularly keenly felt due to it being the first home fixture after the sad passing of Hibs hero and legend, Lawrie Reilly. After major rebuilding work post the 2011-12 final, Hibs once more appeared at Hampden in pursuit of the Holy Grail in the 2012-13 Scottish Cup Final against Celtic. The result however, was a rather tame surrender to the ‘other’ team in green and white by three goals to nil.
Fenlon dutifully fell on his sword eventually to be replaced by the much-vaunted Terry Butcher and Maurice Malpas management team from Inverness Caledonian Thistle where they had experience moderate success. At the time of writing, Hibs are still making good after what became a disastrous, short-lived tenure under the big Englishman’s stewardship. From relative mid-table obscurity under Fenlon, Hibs, after early encouraging signs under Butcher, slipped slowly inexorably into the relegation zone which resulted in a two-leg play off against Hamilton Academicals. Hibs began with a heartening 2-0 win at Hamilton but surrendered to a late equalising goal and subsequent devastating penalty shoot-out defeat. Hibernian FC now face the immediate future in the Scottish Championship with some tough-looking competition from Glasgow Rangers and once, again Hibs’ local neighbours. After the dismissal of Butcher, former Celtic player and Everton coach, Alan Stubbs has been installed with the job of bringing some pride, style and success back to Easter Road. Early signs appear encouraging. There is however, much work to do.
A major change in the club also occurred in the close season before the big kick-off in 2014, that of new CEO, Leeann Dempster being installed from her previous position at Motherwell FC. Ms Dempster appears to have big plans for the old club, notable amongst that is a ‘return to the community’ feel about her approach. During this period, former player, Paul Kane has headed a pressure group to oust former CEO Rod Petrie from the club and subsequently wrest ownership from Sir Tom Farmer and Petrie towards a fan-based ownership model. At the time of writing, negotiations remain in progress.
Perhaps the bigger picture to be seen at this time is Hibernian Football Club’s relative financial surety – a feature that has not always been so during the Leith institution’s history. With the final piece of the Easter Road redevelopment jigsaw, the replacing of the East Terracing complete and the construction of a magnificent new dedicated training complex at East Mains – the envy of many a club and a development that will see the club’s future progress for the coming decades – the infrastructure for future success certainly appears in place
One might say that Hibernian Football Club’s greatest days are yet to come…
‘Glory Glory to the Hibees!’
ON A LUNCHTIME BREAK recently, and enjoying the slightly short-lived recent summer weather, I spotted a quiet Nottingham landmark, something of a curiosity in the middle of the city that few local people might ever pass by. I decided to re-investigate a city feature which I hadn’t trodden for many a year.
The Park Estate is a smart, historic and characterful residential area, well-known to city residents. It perhaps surprisingly, held an annual tennis tournament that was often used by top players on the professional circuit as a grass court warm-up event, immediately prior to Wimbledon each year.
The Park Tunnel, Nottingham (south entrance)
The Park Tunnel which leads most inauspiciously from the busy thoroughfare of Derby Road was originally built back in 1855, its purpose to facilitate access via horse-drawn carriage, into the Park Estate. The Estate has a history as a former hunting park for the Duke of Newcastle, the owner of nearby Nottingham Castle, in truth a mansion or palace rather than a castle, replacing the former structure which was burnt to the ground by unruly and unhappy local people. The area became renowned as a popular part of the city for local wealthy luminaries to reside and to this day boasts many fine homes.
A sober sight: the north entrance sits under the white arch, in 2015, stranded in the car park of nearby local businesses
Proceeding further, the entrance remains unapparent
Down the steps and the hidden tunnel comes into view
Typically carved from the local sandstone, the tunnel boasts extensive brickwork above
Looking back: the tunnel surround displays signs of erosion of the soft sandstone
It’s said that the Duke of Newcastle originally ordered for the tunnel to be built with a specification of a gradient of no more than 1 in 14 feet. The grand tunnel however, was constructed to 1 in 12 foot dimensions, thus making it somewhat redundant from the inception of its life due to its unsuitability for horse-drawn carriages. These days, the Park Tunnel is used as pedestrian access to the Park Estate, largely forgotten and hidden from sight at the Derby Road end in the car park of some commercial businesses. Remaining yet another curiosity of the city of Nottingham, which are indeed numerous.
I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.
I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.
The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.
Looking to the future with one eye on the past.
For those interested in history, I’ve taken charge of an overhaul of my local history group’s website. The Arnold Local History Group is an established and growing organisation that offers education courses, events and exhibitions based on the town of Ernehale ‘The place of Eagles’, as it was formerly known.
The Old North Road of ‘immemorial antiquity’. Mansfield Road, Redhill, Nottingham pictured in 1925
Mansfield Road (above) which travels through our borough and close to my home fulfilled the role of joining the North and the South of England together and is arguably one of the oldest roads, if not the most ancient, in the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, a Stone Age animal path wending its way through Sherwood Forest originally it rose to prominence and importance as the main road from London to York. There are records of a 9th Century Danish Viking invasion marching from York to the city of Nottingham four miles to the south along the predecessor of the byway and accounts of William the Conqueror travelling what later became known as ‘The Turnpike Road’.
The site has some unique and high quality content for anyone with an interest in or link to the town and thereabouts or for those with a liking for history in general. The Arnold Local History Group site is available at:
Regular updates can also be found on the ALHG Twitter feed:
A very Happy New Year to all my friends and family
and visitors to The Tears of a Clown
Happy New Year, Grace Marian and John
Thinking of you on this special day and every day, mum and dad. It feels like forever since we hugged and kissed at New Year. One day we will be together again.
Whatever I am, you made me and gave me the determination and strength to carry on. Thank you. Love you.
And I find myself in the ‘wrong’ place at the top of the year. In truth, I wrestled with the idea of going home to Edinburgh for the celebrations but didn’t feel quite up to things emotionally after a difficult time this year and so chose a quiet, sometimes solitary time in Nottingham. I knew I’d have some regrets about this but didn’t know what else to do really. I hope for better times, times when I can truly enjoy myself with my many faithful pals in Edinburgh, in better condition to give a bit back to the people in particular who I’ve become very close to over the years.
I’ll miss my buddy and his partner’s house, the chat, the banter and laughs, I’ll very much miss my ‘little sis’, the People’s Republic of Leith, roaming down the shore. I can only think about past times at Easter Road for the moment and my dear home place of Musselburgh. Portobello’s esplanade and a run into the sea breeze along there lies in my imagination at the moment. A brisk stroll down Princes Street and a meander up the old town will have to wait.
There’s an Edinburgh derby game going on with my beloved Hibs taking on ‘them’ from across the city. Friends will be there and win, lose or draw it will all result in a blurry, long post-match amongst a gang of old mates and new. We are all one.
Not for me this year the Edinburgh Street Party celebrations nor a stool at the bar of the beautiful Cafe Royal or negotiating the revolving doors of the Guildford Arms and warm welcome of many other hostelries I’ve inhabited for so many years. There will be no house parties. It’s what I appeared to choose. All I could do.
People are not here now, things have changed and in their place just memories remain.
There’s no sorrow though in knowing that I will be back, hopefully in better fettle, not feeling weighed down by a ton of emotion laced with grief. Ready to move forwards again. I know those friends and that beautiful city will still be there.
As I write it’s too early for New Year’s wishes but my thoughts are with you all.
Here’s to a better 2015 and a hope that surviving will turn into flourishing and steady growth.
Goodbye and good riddance, 2014 – a year that almost broke me. I’m still standing – just.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 54,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
The recent cold snap providing Boxing Day’s significant snowfall an enduring life over the past few days reminds me of many winter snow days in Canada. Indeed, I think back wistfully to those times. That is in spite of the intensely cold temperatures one often has to cope with in that beautiful country.
During my many visits I had the good fortune to ski, both downhill and cross-country, ice skate and snowshoe through incredible and out-of-this-world landscapes. I went on snowmobile trips, engaged with wildlife and generally lived the life. Hugely influential on me were trips to stay in a genuine 1930s Canadian log cabin by Wabamun Lake in Alberta. The cabin was an experience like no other as it had little in the way of home comforts or even basic utilities. Water was gained by walking on to the frozen lake and using an auger before dropping a bucket down into the icy water. There was wood to be chopped, fires to be maintained, coffee to hand-grind and so on. It felt grounding to be released from modern technology and to get back to life’s most basic things.
There is nothing quite like ice skating – and even better, playing hockey – outdoors. It is an absolutely exhilarating experience. I remember one Canadian saying to me that skating was ‘the nearest thing to flying’. I particularly knew what he meant the first time I managed to achieve my own ambition of playing for fun outdoors on Wabamun Lake, thirty miles from Edmonton, Alberta.. What a memorable day that was. A small party of us set out, wrapped up well, carrying sticks and pucks. Being born in the UK I’d been used to scrambling and scrabbling across the odd frozen pond as a kid – with some trepidation as the surface heaved, threatened and cracked. All such historic fears and reservations of collapsing ice were allayed however when a large truck drove past us on the ice! We cleared snow from the ice to form our rink with the obviously quickly-frozen ice as smooth and clear as glass. Even the fish underneath the ice could be seen swimming around, what a beautiful experience!
I still remember well the ringing click-clack sound of sticks on puck and skating into the frigid air, the freshness – that feeling of just being alive.
I was since fortunate enough to mess around with a stick and puck and skate on quite a few ponds and lakes in Canada, also in such hitherto unlikely areas as school playgrounds with the snow piled up in surrounding banks to make a rink. There really is no feeling like it. How I miss it.
‘Keep your stick on the ice’ eh.
In loving memory of Margaret Weaver and to all my friends and family in Canada.
This time of year can provide a lot of difficulties. I read a Tweet with four simple helpful points yesterday and agreed with it. It was aimed at suicide survivors but I think it’s good general advice, especially for those with depression and other mental health issues:
Don’t take too much on.
Avoid being overwhelmed.
Limit your activities to those which you are interested in and able to do.
It is okay to say no.
Personally, i couldn’t stomach the thought of Christmas and New Year this year. I’ve lost too much and my life has been stood on its head and I don’t care to celebrate. Maybe that will come back one day. It’s only when you’re practising avoidance of it that you realise the subtle and continual pressures to join in, especially commercial ones. For some reason one of the worst things for me was trying to do my weekly grocery shop in Sainsbury’s and having to listen to insistent piped Christmas songs. I really couldn’t wait to get out of the place to be honest as it was making me perfectly miserable and acutely reminding me of my loss. I finished my shopping yesterday and won’t be back until the New Year. It’s all a bit cynical when you think about how many people have a rough time in the festive season.
I’ve felt the need to decline a lot of what Christmas has to offer. I’ve absolutely no wish to upset anyone, quite the contrary and in some ways it’s a very hard thing to do but this is my reality and how I am to survive, that I understand. At a very testing time I’m going to do everything in my power to protect myself. I am going to suggest to others that they look after themselves as much as possible in the same way.
I guess I just wanted to come on here and add my support towards others because it’s important to know that other people are going through this stuff as well. I want to reiterate the message that ‘keeping up appearances’ for Christmas when you’re having a bad time is not a necessity nor obligatory. I keenly feel the real significance of Christmas being a Catholic with a deep faith but even having said that I want to maintain the message that it’s just another day on the calendar in some ways and it’s important to protect oneself from the difficult feelings that can envelop one at this time. Sometimes it a ‘learn as you go’ as it appears to be with me right now.
Keep surviving. When you’re on your knees, get up again and proceed slowly with care. We are charged with looking after ourselves. That is the important thing even at this special time of year.
God Bless, good luck and peace to all.
I’ve always been happy and comfortable with the working class roots of both sides of my family from Scotland and England respectively. Not at all in a show of inverted snobbery but a genuine affection for the types of hard and honest communities my mother and father rose from either side of the border. Both came from families of ten children, there are so many aunts, uncles and cousins that I have to admit there are some I’ve never yet met.
Hucknall’s iconic statue commemorating the mining industry
I saw a nice story today on BBC East Midlands TV news and it reminded me of that family feeling, a feeling of my roots.
The story below is a report on the commemoration of 150 brave miners who lost their lives in the three pits of my mammy’s home, Hucknall Torkard and Linby village in Nottinghamshire. Good and honest working class communities were built around this industry and the hard, resilient men who travelled down underground to put food in the mouths of their families. My own father, a miner at one time, himself survived a serious fall underground having his ear viciously ripped off and needing it sewn back on again. Some were less fortunate.
I have nothing but deep respect for the men who did and still do this job.
We will remember them.
Day Five of Five – My Girl – Otis Redding
The final day then and many of my favourites omitted. No Dexys, no Rod and the Faces, The Who or Beach Boys. No Temptations, Brother Marvin or Peter Green. It’s not a ‘finest five ever’ though so I’ll grab one and pitch it in your direction. It’s a special delivery too. How can it be feasible to ‘improve’ (with the deepest respect) on something that the heavenly voice of Sam Cooke sung or that The Temps crooned and grooved to (as in here)? Ask Otis Redding to sing it, that’s how.
Anybody familiar with me even just a little knows that Otis is my top soul brother of them all. For me the Macon, Georgia boy’s voice defined how to sing with soul, until he was tragically cut down in his prime. Nobody did it like him. It’s a family thing too as my darling sister, Anita, introduced me to Otis’ music when I was barely old enough to understand what had happened to him when he perished. Thanks for that sis, what a gift.
Feel the soul. Dedicated to my love.
Day Four of Five: In a Big Country – Big Country
I’ve always loved the strength, optimism and fighting spirit of this song and years ago when I first heard it, it summed up for me the spirit of the Scottish people who were displaced during the Highland Clearances and how they fought through atrocious and inhumane conditions to sail to the new world of Canada especially and from there forge a new life for themselves and their descendants.
I was thinking about this song earlier in the year, not long after the greatest calamity and sadness of my life – trying to hook into that spirit – when I wrote the short blog below. I take much from the words of this song:
‘I’m not expecting to grow flowers in a desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime’
‘So take that look out of here, it doesn’t fit you
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted’
‘Stay alive’ is the song’s simple message, for that is what we must all do.
It’s sad to think about what happened to Stuart Adamson but he has left us with a fine legacy.
Day Three of Five: The Tracks of My Tears – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
Where to start with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ The Tracks of My Tears? One of the elite, classic tunes in popular music history and one that was regularly voted the best ever in older surveys way back when. This and that other classic by Smokey, The Tears of a Clown, which I named my blog site after, portray a very special theme for me. The story is of the funnyman, the joker but one with a hidden, sad and reflective side. I’ll leave you to guess why this concept is one that is close to my heart. Just listen to the words.
Continuing with the second choice of five songs for five days.
Day Two of Five. Just a Little Misunderstanding – The Contours
I first came across this song as an inclusion on a budget cassette compilation in the early seventies which I probably paid 50p for and it had a real effect on me. I’m not sure I’d heard the term ‘Northern Soul’ at that point but the track’s driving uptempo rhythms became very familiar to me shortly afterwards in that idiom. I’ve liked practically every song I’ve ever heard by The Contours since.
It didn’t achieve great success commercially, apparently only reaching a modest number 85 in the Billboard charts but it’s a number one hit in my book. This song still does something to me and I can play it over and over without tiring of listening to it. My favourite piece of Northern.
I unashamedly spend some regular time on Facebook, keeping in touch with friends, having a little fun and exchanging information. Amongst others, I was recently asked to post up five songs over five days that were particular favourites and decided to do this and add a few words along the way to accompany them.
Like others I’d find it a thankless, if not impossible task to name my definitive five songs of all time so quickly lost that notion in favour of five I’m rather fond of recently and would be likely to listen to on my iPod today.
Here we go with the first one:
Day One of Five: It’s Too Bad – The Jam
I’ll give this a go. I won’t try to pick my five favourites – that’s too hard – but rather one or two top picks and other’s I’d like to hear at this precise moment. I’ll try to say something about them too.
On side two of ‘All Mod Cons’ by The Jam this appeared in the shops in 1978 when I was at somewhere around my vinyl record buying ‘peak’. Straight down to Selectadisc or the seminal small Virgin store in Nottingham every Friday, wages in pocket after work and wading through the exciting New Wave and Punk 45s and prepare for the weekend which would be full of music.
There are so many great Jam tunes and on much of their output Paul Weller showed what an uncommonly mature writer he was for his fairly tender age. The harmonies of this song and the ringing Rickenbacker sounds provide the perfect backdrop for the pathos of Paul’s lyrics of the futility and yearning for a lost love. Haven’t we all done that?
Today: a little article salvaged from the beginning of the season…
Around about this time of year, one of the main events that football followers look forward to is the annual introduction of the new home and away kits of their team. Sometimes these occasions are met with approval by the fan base and at other times, derision. The design of the average football club kit being such a subjective matter, it’s quite hard to gain universal approval – especially when we consider the more hard-line traditionalist opinion of perhaps more ‘mature’ generations of diehards.
The ‘Famous Five’
It already seems like months ago but back in the dog days of high summer last month, my club, Hibs, released their brand new strip for season 2014-15 to a truly cataclysmic fan reaction. One the like of I hadn’t witnessed before. In something of a departure for the club, the famous white sleeves which have traditionally accompanied the green jersey of Hibernian for the past seventy-something years were jettisoned in favour of a late return to the much older solid green styling, using a darker shade of green as had been employed by Hibs’ earlier ‘greatest men’ of a different age. It sounds small beer when stated that way but truly, perhaps especially as so many fans had felt disenfranchisement from the Easter Road club after the dark days of a recent relegation; it produced a hurricane of protest, revilement and anger. Not quite a cold fury on the Hibs internet forums but certainly not far from it. Along with this was a fair volume of negative comment about the size and design of Hibs’ new on-shirt sponsor’s logo. A few didn’t seem to accept the fact that the red lettering of their logo is somewhat at odds sartorially with the green of Hibs and imagined that the sponsoring company’s corporate colour should be ‘changed’. That’s not going the way it works by the way, boys and girls.
The club’s marketing campaign for the new kit on the official website was somewhat appealing. It featured attractive images of the grandchildren of Hibs’ indomitable forward line of the 1950s, the Famous Five, and focused on a small, dare I say not-very-well done inscription to Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond on the shirt. This however, appeared to fail to win people over.
It wasn’t all about the white sleeves. The early images of the jersey made it appear cheap and shoddy looking – a ‘training top’ appearance to some – made from poor materials and based on a budget standard Nike template shirt which was something that upset many. In this way, some went as far as to see it as a defilement of the memory of the Famous Five which of course is a complete no-no – those men being held in such exalted opinion by every Hibee, even those of us who were not around in person to see them bewitch defences and dazzle the huge 1950s crowds.
Something very strange then happened. A few days later the jersey actually appeared for sale in the club store on the rail and opinion began to swing to the like of ‘it’s better in the flesh than it first appeared’ type comments. Here, we can truly see the destructive power of social media and internet forums generally, in all their ferocity – and what felt like an almost complete U-turn in opinion overnight from that.
It’s clear that these days, when clubs need to maximise their potential income, the number of replica jerseys sold is a highly significant figure. In this way, we see that football shirts are often designed to as much as anything look good with a pair of jeans, on the beach or in the pub – a reason why they have in some cases began to morph into t-shirts (rather like Hibs’ latest effort). Many of the comments I read referred to fans not buying one – as opposed to what the team would actually look like playing in it. This is, of course, a modern phenomenon. The earliest Hibs or Scotland jerseys I was able to get my muddy hands on during school days to play on local recreation grounds were pretty generic looking items, unbadged and certainly sans ‘Frew 9’ on the back. Of course this was usually de rigueur for professionals too in those days.
What we always come down to after these unholy outbreaks of wrath is, of course, the bottom line. If Hibs start winning regularly in their new bottle-green ‘training top’ it will become a classic! As ever, we football fans remain the fickle ones.
Iconic – Pat Stanton
My own thoughts are that I don’t really like it. It looks neat enough but for me, it’s not ‘Hibs’. I’m not worried though as I’m aware it will be eBay fodder in around twelve months’ time, such is the way of things. Whatever it looks like, I had no intention of buying one however, my concerns are only that my club is presented appropriately and traditionally on the field of play so maybe my opinion doesn’t count for much with the hierarchy. I recall one of the 1970s’ Turnbull’s Tornadoes, possibly the great Alex Cropley, stating that not only did he and his team believe they were a great side (they were) but that they knew they looked the classiest too (they did). That still has to mean something? To be proud to wear that beautiful green jersey with the crisp white sleeves and to know that you and your teammates look the business in it?
Hibs 2014-15 Away kit
Since they launched the home kit, Hibs have partly redeemed themselves (in my eyes) by the release of the club’s new away kit of white jerseys and green shorts. This strip reminds me greatly of the old tradition of reverse strips to play away from home in and, being a traditionalist, I like that very much. It even panders to the more modernist way of thinking too in that the jersey will probably go well with a pair of jeans. However, as one observer so succinctly put it, ‘I’m not paying forty-four quid for a white polo shirt with a Hibs badge on it’.
It looks ‘nice on’ though as they say, well it did last night at Ibrox I thought. They certainly seemed more able than of late to find a teammate in the same colour all evening.
Suits you sir.
‘What else am I gonna do. To keep this world from hurting you’ Stuart Adamson
YESTERDAY, I CAME HOME from my work at the usual time, a little weary, ‘another day, another dollar’ as they say, with its usual trials and tribulations. Collect the mail, what’s for tea – the usual mundane routines that many of us enact. On this day however, there was a large envelope with something substantial enclosed on my doormat. Now, I don’t get all that much mail and for that I’m often grateful!! It’s all brown envelopes isn’t it, never that much fun these days, pay this, respond to that, most of it goes straight to the bin without collecting two hundred pounds. I think we all know the script. But this was different.
Ripping open the package, to my enormous surprise I find a pristine hardback copy of ‘Gordon Smith: Prince of Wingers’ the biography of the great and legendary Hibernian and Scotland right-winger and member of the Easter Road club’s Famous Five forward line. I instantly remembered that a little while ago a friend and one who I should add that I have yet to meet in person had promised to send me the story of Gordon Smith, written by his son, Tony Smith. Turning the front cover back I see a note and a host of autographs signed by Hibernian legends. Wonderful.
I find this so humbling. That someone a few hundred miles away in my home city had woken up one morning and taken the time to think of me, taken that book in hand, packaged it and sent it to my home in Nottingham. It is a very typical gesture of the kind that I have been the recipient of during the last few difficult and trying months of ‘starting again’. During those months too I have suffered in trying to concentrate for significant periods, something which has upset me and affected my ability to gain enjoyment from a great love of mine, reading but gradually that is slowly coming back, thankfully. So a gesture like this is a significant and important one for me. It is a motivation and part of the process of becoming well again.
I have had support close at hand for which I am very grateful, crucial support at times and yet this link, this huge warmth coming from Scotland has been immeasurable and enduring. It it an extraordinary comfort blanket that I have been able to resort to in times of great need. The constant messages, the hospitality, the gifts, the acknowledgments, the warm words thoughts and deeds, the love and friendship – truly extraordinary and yet should I, knowing what I know, expect any other? Perhaps not. When I was a young laddie I like to think that I was raised with many good Scots values. I was brought up to understand that to give to others is better than to receive. Without being a saint, I have always remembered these words and had a shot at living that way wherever possible. It seemed the right way to me. I now find myself the recipient.
I won’t embarrass the kind and thoughtful friend who has extended me this kindness but just to say, if you’re reading ‘K’ thank you for the gesture. Always here for you.
PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY, Hibs surrendered yet again this afternoon, this time at Easter Road to Falkirk by a goal. This sees the club in the invidious position of being placed third bottom of the Scottish Championship, albeit at a still early stage of the campaign.
It really isn’t looking good. The reality is that a couple of poor results with an already less than sparkling start to the season are most likely to see Hibs drop deeper into the doldrums and the gap between fans and club widening further. A dangerous factor that seems to remain unconsidered by the club.
Seemingly, they refuse to act. It’s clear that the only way sensible route forward for the club is to buy better quality players. This is not optional, money has to be found, but instead of that the supporters are fed excuses – while still paying Premiership prices for the privilege of owning season tickets to watch a low-grade of football. If the quality players out there exist – and better quality players certainly do – then why are they not signed up at Easter Road already? Quite honestly I don’t believe poverty pleas in spite of a lowering of status, what I see here is the old Hibs/Petrie biscuit tin mentality.
Undoubtedly, there have been good, healthy changes at the club since last season. It’s a pleasure to hear that Hibs are reaching out to the community and making forward-looking backroom changes, unfortunately though, this is a football club with the main aim of actually winning football matches. This appears to be considered a side issue at Easter Road – meanwhile the team has staggered from one disaster to another and now slumps alarmingly towards mid-table Championship obscurity.
I’m afraid that I now don’t want to hear or read about this or that off-the-field ‘initiative’. Nor do I want to hear about anything else other than firstly, how this team is going to be strengthened significantly and secondly, when an agreement, hopefully one based on a fan-ownership model, is going to be put into place to relieve this club of its current ownership.
Do something soon Hibs or just turn out the lights…
I had a seat in the Main Stand at Meadow Lane yesterday, as I’ve got into the habit of late, for the Notts County v Fleetwood game. With yet another fresh season upon us, those with an interest will recognise the sterling efforts of the boys of 2013-14 to keep the old club afloat in League Division One before what seemed like an impossible task at regular intervals came to pass, with the team and manager eventually doing themselves proud – with the club seemingly readying itself for what appeared inevitable relegation.
So it was with some optimism, notwithstanding the huge turnover of players at Meadow, that I alighted the Nottingham tram at Station Street and walked alongside the canal by a busy London Road on a pleasant, part-sunny August afternoon. Meeting my friends at the busy Trent Navigation pub on Meadow Lane, adjacent the ground, it was good to catch up after what seemed a very brief close season.
Pensive – Notts manager, Shaun Derry
It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Magpies however, the first home league game of the season ending in an insipid and dull 0-1 defeat. Notts, in my humble opinion, lost some very decent players over the course of the close season and whilst it was always going to be difficult to adequately replace one or two of them, I expected a little more fight, urgency and determination from a side put out there by Shaun Derry, a man who’s attitude and integrity I’ve come to respect.
For the opening home game and considering Notts’ terrific and successful fight against relegation last term, I was a tad surprised at many supporters’ criticism of Derry at this early point, both in the ground and online afterwards. For me, he’s done a very decent job so far with few resources. Shaun, being a former Notts player and brought up a gritty local lad appears to ‘get’ Notts and the club’s fans better than most I’ve observed. Probably in common with many others, I’d originally viewed him as another, slightly strange, left-field choice – or more likely a cheap option – but I’ve enjoyed the way he talks about Notts and more importantly, what he seems to instil into the players in black and white stripes.
‘The Great Escape’ of 2013-14
For the event itself, there is little I can impart that would make it sound like an exciting affair. Notts, though reasonably secure in defence, manifested a great lack of creativity in the middle of the field in particular and were fairly toothless up front too with Jimmy Spencer-replacement, Jake Cassidy having a somewhat lean afternoon. In truth it was extremely poor fare, particularly in the opening half with Notts seemingly unable to string more than a couple of passes together. The Magpies’ engine room huffed and puffed but showed a lack of energy, drive and in particular, subtlety which does not bode well for the coming winter. Notts missed their wide outlets of last season, appearing for a good deal of the game to play a more compressed style. It must be said that there were few, if any, highlights or eye-catching individual performances.
The typically bold, Derry substitutions of bringing on Balmy and Ismail in the second half brought about a short-lived improvement in the side and a little more life to the proceedings but ultimately, Fleetwood ran out with a deserved single goal victory which could hardly have been denied them. It’s early days with the season but an infant currently, first signs however, appear that the level of player brought in will see the Magpies endure another uncomfortable season. One hopes for better.
Without major improvements, sad to say, Notts County will be ‘digging tunnels’ once more when the season moves towards the sharp end…
As a footnote. I’d like to pay tribute to club stalwart of so many years, John Mounteney who passed away last week. His stewardship of the club will be remembered and appreciated by all. John was that most rare of individuals in the modern game, a gentleman and one-club man for many, many decades. Sincere condolences go to his family and friends, Rest in Peace, John.
I’D LIKE TO ASK A QUESTION regarding Scottish independence – because I’m confused.
Every day I look at my Facebook page and Twitter feed, I read Scottish-based internet forums and online newspapers and come into contact many times daily with the views of a wide range of people in Scotland about all manner of things, obviously, especially the subject of independence for a good while now.
I see the polls and I look at the betting odds on the referendum. These consistently indicate a potential victory for the ‘No’ vote – not by much and certainly narrowing but consistent in their ratings of a few per cent in favour of staying together. They do not however, reflect what I am viewing and hearing from here – not even remotely so. I may have kindred views about many things with many of my friends in Scotland who I am in contact with regularly but by no means have my friends and acquaintances been chosen on the basis of their politics or opinion regarding the referendum. Indeed many of these people have been friends for a good number of years now and all we perhaps usually had in common outwardly originally was a liking for a certain football team in Edinburgh who play in green and white.
So here I am a few miles down the road in Nottingham, wondering exactly what is going on here? There is NOTHING about these forecasts that rings true to me from my personal experiences with the people I know who have a vote. To that end I have also observed every dirty trick in the book being played in the long run-up to this crucial vote that will decide the future of these islands and it leads me to believe that the above projection on the likely outcome on 18th September, 2014 is quite likely another piece of subterfuge – another grand lie intended to dupe the Scottish electorate into believing there is no hope of independence. Take the wind out of the sails of the ‘Yes’ vote. This and other Better Together strategies appears to have achieved little but galvanise the cause of independence, so insulting, threatening and condescending in tone have they generally been.
I’ve made my own views clear previously that I wish for independence for Scotland, I hope obviously then that the majority of Scottish people who read these words feel similar. Having said that this is still a democracy so respect to those that don’t share my view. In the meantime I’d genuinely love to hear an opinion or two on this conundrum? Am I inclined towards paranoia or is this the greatest lie of them all? After all, what part of the establishment can really be trusted now?
I’m not really looking for a debate on the whys and wherefores of Scottish independence here as others will debate that much better than me. The above is a question I’m curious as to other’s opinions about though.
ON THIS DAY that we remember and hopefully learn from the declaration of World War One, exactly one hundred years ago today, my thoughts go to my grandfather, Henry (Harry) Frew of Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland. Grandad was a Gordon Highlander who served on the Western Front in ‘The war to end war’ – that most honourable and decorated of Highland regiments with their proud motto emblazoned on the Gordon badge, ‘Bydand’, which means ‘Bide and Fecht’ in Scots – literally ‘Stand and Fight’.
In truth, it’s so very little of my father’s father I know and my memories of him are scant as he died when I was a young boy but those memories that have survived are incredibly vivid. A big man, one of the first images that set in my mind of him are when at his home one day he took out his old Gordon army kilt and showed me how he got into it in the old days. Laying down on the floor on what seemed to my young eyes like yards and yards of thick green plaid material, he belted it up and draped it over him just like he would have done in those former days.
It was an impressive sight indeed and one I have never forgotten.
Life was by no means easy for young Harry. His lost his wife Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ Archibald who worked as Head Seamstress at the impressive and iconic North British Hotel on Princes Street in Edinburgh when they had a young family of two boys aged just four and six years old. Those young laddies were my dad, John and his older brother, Alexander ‘Sandy’. Eventually, Harry remarried and had no less than eight more additions to the family – all boys excepting one girl. The family spent some time near Bellshill in Lanarkshire with Harry, I understand, going about his old business as a coal miner.
Harry was an expert ballroom dancer and would give dancing tuition. My mother would often tell of the times he would take her to Barrowlands in Glasgow for the dancing.
In later life, to keep him our of mischief, he took a part-time job at the local cemetery near Bellshill. A man of very dry wit, I came across a beautifully hand-written letter to my mum and dad in England in later years. Asked how ‘business’ was at the cemetery he comically replied, ‘it’s alright son but we’d be a lot busier if they weren’t burning so many up the road at the crematorium’!
Living in Lanarkshire he didn’t get the opportunity so often to see his beloved Hibs and adopted nearby Motherwell FC as his ‘second team’. I guess for that reason I still don’t mind seeing the ‘Well experiencing a bit of success.
The word ‘Bydand’ is inextricably linked with his old regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, the regiment for whom he was highly decorated for bravery though you wouldn’t know it because he would never mention it, being a modest man. It holds great meaning for me as I see it as an honest approach to life itself – to stand and fight. We all of us have experienced our difficult and trying times – heaven knows I could write a small handbook on that of late – and the mark of us is what we do during those times and how we react. When the world and its workings appear against you, you must ‘stand and fight’ – face your problems with bravery, courage and honesty. Always stand and fight – never give in – face up and never run. Just like those Gordons.
That’s why my granpaw Harry, the motto ‘Bydand’ and the Gordon Highlanders mean so much to me.
In Loving Memory of Henry (Harry) Frew and his brave comrades. Lest we Forget.
Hibs played the second game of their pre-season programme at Berwick Rangers today – the ‘Wee Rangers’ and, as is often the case at this time of year, this was set up to be a slightly more taxing affair than the previous friendly fixture at Vale Of Leithen on Saturday of last week. I’m not sure what it is about these games but for me, apart from a very pleasant day out, they represent fresh beginnings and a renewed keenness to get back to the action after the summer break. Green shoots, indeed.
So it was today with a free and easy drive down the A1, music on, sunroof open, culminated by parking up curbside adjacent Hibs’ opposition today’s home, Shielfield Park. Spotting my friends as soon I walked over the grass into the park, we headed for a drink from Berwick’s comfortable social club, taking our drinks outside into the surprisingly warm sunshine. A healthy number of Hibees had evidently travelled to enjoy the day.
You see, this is the kind of thing I really miss at times. It’s not just watching the team, which is obviously the main point but the friendship and camaraderie of being amongst your ‘own’, enjoying the conversation with people who care about the same thing that you do and that understand why this club means so much. Why it is so special. I spent my afternoon with special people too – new friends and old. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated that as much as I do now, after the trials and tribulations provided by the first half of year 2014. The doctor appeared to order it for me.
Hibs, with a good proportion of first team regulars fielded, began the game brightly in their new bottle green strip which has split opinion. It is not my choice and it looks a little unfamiliar but hey, it’s still Hibs, make no mistake. This time next year it will be consigned to the past, such is modern football, awaiting it’s day as a ‘mint condition’ item on Ebay. It is what’s in the jerseys that matters of course and the little matter of over 130 years of history won’t disappear into the ether.
It will be recorded that Hibs ran out winners by four goals to nil with markers by newly signed right-back, David Gray, club captain, Liam Craig, Tom Gardiner and Lewis Allan. It’s always good to win any game but a pleasing feature of the ninety minutes was the Easter Road’s side’s willingness to play the ball along the ground, avoiding the somewhat crude style employed by Hibs’ previous management team. They’ll certainly court favour from me and a majority of fans, dare I say, if that continues.
A fond farewell to friends for a few days then and a cruise back down by the rugged and spectacular coastline, back over the border into Scotland. Yes, I do let out a little cheer when I’m heading the ‘right’ way. Spotting the familiar signs for Musselburgh, my family’s home town, from the main road I decided on a short redirect through the dear old place and a stop off for a little Luca ice cream from the Olympia Cafe.
You know what? Driving into the ‘Honest Toun’ I couldn’t help thinking my old dad would definitely approve of this allegiance it has been my lifetime pleasure to uphold – to Hibernian FC and yes, to Musselburgh. I couldn’t help but contrast the tough times my family knew here a century ago and me driving down the Musselburgh High Street in comfort in a shiny sports car. We are all the same though. I’m of them. He’d have been pleased to know where I was this afternoon, the people I was with and where I was afterwards. I know you’re watching, dad, I’m just keeping it in the family.
Saturday 5th July and as I was coincidentally travelling through the borders of Scotland, as my team played their first pre-season fixture of 2014-15 buta few miles away.
Just a point about the Hibs ‘Select XI’s victory by four goals yesterday at Vale of Leithen. Outwardly, the result doesn’t matter and on some levels that’s true. I recall sage words from Brian Clough however, who stated that maximum effort to win ALL games is the way to go. In his view, winning was habitual – it becomes a good habit – better off learnt and adhered to. In every single ‘tin pot’ game, Forest played in they were sent out to win and win well, with style.
I agree with Old big ‘ed. Well done to Hibs on a positive first day back and good to see the old, established, Vale Of Leithen FC in Scotland’s pretty borders swell their funds on the day. A pleasant afternoon out too for reportedly 1,300 Hibs supporters, getting back to some ‘proper’ football after all this World Cup business!
Onwards and upwards.
It’s ‘Flaming June’ 2014 version and my local running spot at nearby Bestwood comes into its own on these beautiful, sunny and relaxed evenings. Nominated as a country park a good few moons ago, it will always be plain old ‘Bestwood’ to me. A patch of the old Sherwood Forest which lies but a few minutes from where I live that is satisfying accessible.
In truth, I love the place at all times of year, the former royal hunting estate and retreat of many a notable over hundreds of years of history looks gorgeous when coated in a thick layer of snow for instance. Spring has its own translucent green freshness whilst some might say Autumn is the richest time of all. It’s the dog days of summer that most appeal to me though as I trot along the dry, dusty paths bordered by lush green fields and thick forestry of Oaks, Chestnuts and Birch to name but a few of the ancient trees.
Within a few moments in this place, I forget the hardships of the day and wind down with copious amounts of fresh air, the sound of skylarks and lapwings and the sight of an odd walker or horse rider. The air at this time of year feels invigorating and highly scented with the delicate fragrances of the old hedgerows. It is the perfect tonic and antidote to the unfortunate stresses of the day that never seem to go away otherwise
The sun finally sets over Bestwood, it is time to return home.
IN THE OLD IRISH TRADITION of Hibernian, a wreath of flowers in the shape of a broken harp would be presented at a funeral as a mark of respect. Yesterday’s events when, to quote the old ironic phrase, Hibs, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, was not a funeral but was nevertheless a sad and emotional culmination of several years of struggle for the club.
It’s difficult to write these word without showing anger at the catastrophic mismanagement of the team and the club as a whole but in the twilight of this ignominious period in Hibernian history that anger is reverting to the familiar frustration by myself and, dare I say, a majority of the support.
After angry scenes of protest outside Easter Road last evening we awoke to news that there are staff meetings scheduled at the training centre at East Mains today. Already the media informs us that no less than fourteen players are invited or ordered to end their association with Hibs. There are many fans that wished for this after one abject display after another over a series of months and who can blame them? For me though, the problem is that the man with a great shared responsibility for the club’s demise is the individual serving the ‘don’t come Monday’ messages in Manager, Terry Butcher. It’s an indication, however accurate or otherwise that he is being relied on to rebuild the Hibs – a gargantuan order that I don’t think he is fit be tasked with.
Since arriving at Easter Road I cannot think of one single positive that Butcher or his cohorts Malpas and Marsella have brought to the team. There is simply nothing. They have however brought disarray, discord, indecision and a brand of football that I can only describe as ‘prehistoric’. A (the) main tactic appears to be to dumping the ball into the opposite team’s corners in an attempt to create ‘pressure’. Former Hibs and Hearts midfielder, Mikey Stewart correctly identified this mediocre thinking on Sportscene last evening and added the sentiment that it’s the type of football that ‘deserves nothing’. I am much in agreement with Stewart.
The game itself against Hamilton featured a litany of managerial errors that cost Hibs dearly. cost the team it’s SPFL status in fact, and I remain amazed that this fact isn’t recognised by Rod Petrie and his fellow board members. Those questionable decisions included not selecting the old head and steady experience of Kevin Thomson for such a fraught affair – a man who might well have brought the ball down a little and protected his teammates. Butcher also mystifyingly returned Danny Haynes to the team from nowhere to replace out of confidence youngster, Alex Harris – a strange move indeed and surely either Cairney, who can play a similar position or the aforementioned Thomson would have been superior choices. Within minutes Haynes was being helped from the pitch injured so what did Butcher do? Yes, pitch Harris back into a white-hot relegation battle. For a man who proposes to understand a little psychology and use it with his players I found this, again, mystifying. Embarrassingly, he had to substitute his substitute later in the game. One hopes that Alex hasn’t been set back too far by his treatment by Butcher in general this season. How to ruin a young player’s development.
In the first leg, another youngster, Jason Cummings, happily broke his duck for the first team with a fine brace of goals. What did Butcher then do for this game? Play him further back in front of his own left-back in order that he could keep his treasured 5-4-1 formation, therefore rendering the keen young forward impotent as an offensive threat. Later in the game with Hibs having formerly clearly played for a draw and now desperately playing for a 0-1 defeat, the manager pulled the experienced and intelligent play of Heffernan from the action to be replaced by his favoured defensive midfielder Tudur Jones, leaving Hibs vulnerable with little goal threat should extra time have been necessary, which it proved to be.
Full marks should be given to Hamilton who played good, attractive, neat football at all times and passed it around and through their Hibs counterparts. It looked a sophisticated style when compared to Hibs’ leaden lumping of the ball forward, rendering possession to the opposition time after time.
After an excruciating two periods of extra time we finally came down to the almost inevitable penalty shoot-out and here again, Butcher showed his incredible lack of know-how for a man of his experience in the game. The club’s regular and arguably best penalty taker, Craig was not chosen to take the first penalty with Thomson gamely stepping up to take responsibility for getting the team on its way. The inevitable happened, with Thomson not being a regular penalty taker. Sadly, it came down to young Cummings again to take the do or die fifth spot kick and I felt this was a huge strain on an 18-year-old youngster – unforgivable really. He missed his kick, hid his face in floods of tears and Hibs were relegated. What a way to hang the young man out to dry.
So, the future and who knows, this piece may be out of date very quickly but it appears that at the time of writing the Butcher-Petrie axis remains with us. I have the strong feeling that the former Rangers man employs a somewhat ‘bullying’ style of management and this concerns me if so. There will always be players that can cope with that but others that cannot. That’s the way it is. I recall dear old Brian Clough at Forest terrifying some of his players at times – even to the point of the like of England international, Viv Anderson hiding under a desk when he heard Clough approaching but the big difference was that those same players had respect for their manager. I don’t think that exists with Butcher and the Hibs players. They appear to hate him and he them. The same feelings appear to surround coach, Malpas who has specialised in having run-ins with fans in the seats around the dug-out. Classy indeed.
I’ve said enough regarding this sad and disturbing part of Hibs history but of course there is one man culpable more than any other who I’ve barely mentioned – Rod Petrie. I have plenty to say about him for another time as it seems we are stuck with him still – even though he has brought in the interesting character of Leeann Dempster in order to deflect flak from himself. From the club’s owner, to him and his board, the management staff and the players, all have critically underperformed. In fact the only people who haven’t are the fans. I salute them – especially the ones who can find it in themselves to continue supporting this club after one abject humiliation heaped upon another.
God bless the Hibs.
THE ONLY THING that’s predictable about Hibernian is perhaps the team’s unpredictability and this was again shown (at long last) when taking on Hamilton Academical in the first leg of a crucial play-off decider between the Championship side and a Hibs outfit woefully short of belief and form over the past few tortuous months. Let it not be understated, the ‘Holy Grail’ of the Scottish Cup notwithstanding, this fixture and it’s second episode on Sunday are gigantic in their importance with defeat over two legs almost unthinkable. Clearly, such an outcome could set the Leith club back years – if not decades in terms of achievement and finance. ‘Absolutely crucial’ is the term dancing on my lips when considering the pivotal nature of the result.
Hibs’ Paul Heffernan
It’s recorded now, of course, that the Easter Road men finally remembered how to win again in the first leg. Heck, they recalled how to put the ball in the back of the net even. On this occasion, 18-year old Jason Cummings providing the firepower with a very welcome initial brace for the first team – something he’s promised for some little time. Well done him forgiving the whole club and it’s supporters a huge and timely lift.
Personally, I was stuck at home in Nottingham whilst the drama was unfolding at New Douglas Park. I did however have the very best and most reliable internet live stream I’ve ever had in a month of Wednesdays so obviously God was looking down favourably on my oasis amidst a Hibee desert. It’s been said by many that the performance was unimportant on the night and of course this has, for once, to be agreed with. Survival in the top flight is all and playing pretty and intricate football can wait for another time. Although many of the usual failings were present and let’s be serious, those shortcomings weren’t going to dematerialise overnight, there were some positive signs visible. I thought Paul Heffernan played an excellent, intelligent striker’s role, working the channels and giving the team different offensive options than the very basic lump-it-forward stuff that we have suffered for what seems an eternity. Alongside him, Cummings, apart from his two goals gave a lively, spirited performance and made himself a constant nuisance to the Hamilton rear-guard. Generally, there was a greater tempo about Hibs than in recent games, commensurate with the type of performance required on the night.
As I write, the Hibernian faithful are buying up tickets fast for the second leg at dear old Easter Road. They will be our twelfth man and no disrespect to Hamilton who play some neat football, I believe they will make the difference that see Hibernian over the finish line safely and looking forward with some expectancy towards next season’s campaign and a (hopefully) new broom with fresh ideas in the shape of Leeann Dempster overseeing operations at Hibs.
One last big effort lads.
God bless the Hibs.
1. You find that you talk to yourself in the absence of your partner. You wander around the house asking her questions. There are no answers.
2. You have upsetting images that flashback into your mind of when you had to identify your partner at the hospital. The images destroy you. You wonder if the sight of your breathless partner will ever leave you, to be replaced by the smiling image you remember.
3. You find yourself constantly asking yourself the questions ‘What if I could have done something?’ and ‘Why did you do this to yourself/me/your children?’
4. You feel so low at first that simple everyday things like keeping yourself clean seem like a huge task.
5. There are many times when you feel like taking your own life, so impossible do things seem. You consider different methods of doing this.
6. Eating becomes something to just survive. You don’t want to spend any time preparing proper food and you take solace in junk food. The microwave is your salvation.
7. Many of your long time neighbours avoid you. They push their children into the house when they see you walking up the road so that they can avoid talking to you because it’s ‘awkward’.
8. You wonder how you are going to be able to manage at work, ever, any more.
9. You cry when you least expect it, frequently. Even after a period of time when you think you’re ‘getting over it’ the tears squeeze out of your eyes unexpectedly when you have certain thoughts or are reminded of her in some unexpected way. You even cry at the nice things people say to you.
10. You find it difficult to listen to music because you associate the lyrics with you and your lost partner. The chords feel like a soundtrack to your broken life.
11. Even though you have friends and family you often feel so lonely, especially when you’re going back to that empty house once more. You can go a whole weekend barely speaking to anybody. You feel slightly powerless to do anything about this.
12. Anxiety is your normal state, you find yourself panicking about most things, often without specific reason.
13. Your life becomes narrow. Those country walks are no more, the meals out, the cinema. Holidays appear to be a thing that you used to do.
14. You become fatalistic about life and wonder if this is now all there is for you? That the game is over? You’re on your own until the lights finally go out.
15. You keep trying. You go to work on time, do your chores at home wherever possible, shop for food, tackle that garden as best you can. It all feels rather pointless. It isn’t for anybody else’s sake and you don’t care about yourself.
16. Your finances are in shock mode as you gain unexpected expenses whilst at the same time losing a household income.
17. You believe that you are not going to get through this ordeal. This feeling is revisited every day. Day after day.
18. Her clothing and possessions have to be sorted. This task feels heartless – like you are throwing your memories of being together away. Like you don’t care, but you do.
19. You begin to look at the people you know differently. Almost subconsciously you practise zero tolerance with people you feel have wronged you or ignored you at your time of need. Good people come to the fore, the genuine friends prove themselves time over. One or two new people enter your life, show caring and give you some hope.
20. You write a piece like this but don’t know exactly why. You’re almost beyond caring if anybody reads it. You could write twenty more.
IT’S NOT TOO OFTEN THAT you can experience a bit of pleasure from the simple task of waiting for a bus but that interminable wait has recently been made a little easier at Nottingham’s Victoria Bus Station. Not particularly unusual in any way, the building has just received a half-million pound facelift with visible improvements for commuters such as updated electronic screens etc. One nice little addition is the inclusion of some piped music through the place and here they seem to really have it right! I really need to shake the hand of the person who chooses what we listen to!
I’m not going to say that waiting patiently for buses is my favourite pastime but I guess it just got a little bit more pleasant. Here’s the selection of sweet soul music regaling my ears this evening before the journey home.
1. THE TRACKS OF MY TEARS – SMOKEY ROBINSON AND THE MIRACLES
First released in 1965, when I first began reading the music press in the mid-seventies this thing of beauty was regularly placed at number one in polls to determine the best-ever pop song. This song represents the absolute epitome of Smokey’s long career and it’s a song that still moves me personally. As an aside, Big Country did a fabulous version of it that’s well worth consideration.
2. REFLECTIONS – THE SUPREMES
Just two years later in 1967, Hitsville USA produced this glitzy, glamorous waxing by The Supremes, surely the stereotypical and best Tamla girl group of them al headed by soul queen Diana Ross. It still serves to send a shiver through the listener.
3. LET’S GET IT ON – MARVIN GAYE
For sweet sophisticated soul and (ahem) late night listening, it really doesn’t get any better than Brother Marvin’s Let’s Get It On, taken from the album of the same name. Marvin Gaye was of Tamla Motown’s royal family if there every could be such a thing. His troubled life ended too early but not before leaving us with a wealth of wonderful songs.
READING AROUND THE MESSAGE BOARDS at the moment there is much conjecture regarding the future of erstwhile Hibs striker and former Scotland internationalist, Kenny Miller. The 34-year-old former Rangers and Celtic hit man has of late been plying his trade in that most lovely of cities, Vancouver, with the Whitecaps who compete in the North American, Major League Soccer.
Kenny began his professional career at Easter Road of course before a big money move to Ibrox as a young player and left the Leith faithful with a raft of good memories of his early days. He has managed to have an excellent first class career resulting in an impressive 69 full caps for Scotland, scoring 18 goals in the dark blue jersey. Not necessarily the most potent scorer his game has been exemplified by craft and good honest hard work with no little skill. He has consistently shown his ability to play in an up-front pairing or alternatively on his own as a target man. Looking as fit and effective as ever, he scored a perfect striker’s goal against England in the last encounter in August 2013 between Scotland and the ‘auld enemy’ showing that his fitness levels, know-how and guile leading the line are by no means diminished.
Sources close to him suggest that he is keen to re-join the club he began his career with and end his playing career at Easter Road. Those same sources also state that he has already offered his services on a previous occasion to the club but that these were rejected by former manager, Pat Fenlon, being supposedly well furnished with an on-fire Leigh Griffiths at the time. Media reports state that the Rangers are seeking to bring him back this side of the pond also whilst a predictable silence stagnates around any proposed move from Hibs.
At a fit thirty-four years Kenny still has much to offer a club like Hibs, despite his age he is far in excess of the quality the club presently has on the books in that position and has tip-top fitness levels with at a minimum two good seasons left in him. Perhaps it could be suggested that Hibernian FC has a great deal of other issues to deal with at this current time also with the club facing a crucial two-leg play-off to retain its status in the top flight. For me however, if the club were to show a little dynamism and quick and decisive thinking in bringing Kenny back on board it would be a minor master stroke. The lift to the club and fillip to the support would be immeasurable, even without him being able to hurriedly take part in the play-offs. The fans could view a little intent to progress whilst on the pitch Kenny’s experience would also be invaluable for young players to learn from. We witness the club miss out on opportunities such as this so often due to staid and apparently over-considered thinking. I do believe it is a major reason why we find the famous old club in the dire straits it languishes in.
Over to you Hibs.
Well, as planned, I got along to Easter Road last Saturday for one of my all-too-irregular visits. The game against fellow strugglers, Kilmarnock had built up into something of a crescendo in terms of importance, since the time I booked my modest trip to the Capital, with the loser being consigned to the indignity and frayed nerves of a play-off position for relegation to the Championship. Privately, and in spite of the odds and all indicators, I’d felt that Hibs might well come through this test but sadly it was not to be.
From observing recent televised games and listening to fellow supporters, there appeared to be something of a pattern forming with the Hibs huffing and puffing to no great end before being scored on and becoming totally deflated. It didn’t take a football genius to spot the same blueprint from my lofty position in the East Stand on Saturday. It’s sad, it really is. One can see that in spite of all the team’s many shortcomings it may only take a casual slice of luck to change fortunes, a coat of paint on a goalpost, a fortunate bounce but any good fortune does indeed appear to be hiding.
It was heartening to see the manager going with a little more experience in this game. I’m a great fan of youth being introduced early, but a relegation dogfight is not a good arena for a young player to learn his craft. One might opine that the more experienced members of the squad should also be charged with getting the club out of the abject mess it they placed it in.
It’s probably predictable to praise or slate players but there were glaring moments when Hibs’ rearguard completely forgot their remit and stood static allowing the likes of Kris Boyd an opening for his well-taken goal. Whatever Boyd might or might not be these days I’m afraid you don’t allow him cart blanche to use his craft to find space around the box, not even for a moment.
After the break it became increasingly poorer from a Hibs point of view with Kilmarnock taking control of decently long passages of the game. Craig, who showed some quality at times, rattled a heavy shot off the bar but an avalanche of fortunes never really looked on. A significant moment for me was the introduction of defensive midfielder Tudur-Jones when Hibs were haplessly chasing the game. I’ve seen reasoning that he’s good around set-pieces and that it appeared unlikely that Hibs would score from open play but I’m afraid that just won’t do for me. There was a little period a few months ago when Hibs scored from attacking a corner or two and gained a little success. Is this tactic as good as it gets though? If that’s how we are going to concentrate our offensive efforts then me might as well all go home now. Indeed, it was clear to me that Hibs had little or no method or craft in attempting to creatively carve out an opening or two. The main focus appeared to be the vain hope of getting on the end of a ball bumping and bouncing around the area. Even here Hibs are found lacking with apparently nobody seeming to relish going in where it might hurt to ram that ball in the back of the net.
There has been much criticism of the team of course in the past few months and whilst accepting it wholesale my personal viewpoint is that this group of players are not as inadequate or devoid of ability as they are being decried. There is a clear lack of quality in one or two areas and the squad certainly appears dangerously unbalanced too but for me this is a mid-table quality group. They are however, completely shorn of confidence and, it has to be said, not being well marshalled by the manager. There is no method about Hibs’ play and the players at times do not appear to understand what their jobs are. They look lost and the man directing them on the bench equally, if not more so. If I were to hazard a guess – and that’s all it is – I’d say that Terry Butcher has completely run out of ideas quite some time ago. He appears dumbstruck as to what to do next with everything he knows, which sadly appears to be a little limited rather than expansive, having failed miserably.
The full-time whistle blew and I honestly rarely recall feeling so absolutely gutted after ninety minutes of a football match. It was a special visit home for me this time but that wasn’t really the source of upset. It was much more to do with what this proud football club has now descended to. Hibs have no god-given right to success, heaven knows we understand that after all these years but the position the club is now in is just plain wrong. Mismanagement, neglect, lack of interest from above, all of these things but don’t now blame a heavily disgruntled set of supporters – even though I have recently stated my two-pen’orth on the need for us all to get behind this club in the remaining games.
So, on to two legs against either Hamilton or Falkirk it is then. Characteristically, many fans have us already in the Championship before a ball is kicked. I can’t blame them, only so many beatings, disappointments and having hopes dashed can one take. Common sense and a little study of the state of play shows us that Hibs simply cannot score goals yet equally will always let goals in. They can’t do the serious business at either end of the pitch where it really counts. For me the best chance would be for Hibs to go away from home in the first leg and attack their Championship opposition, with the chance of leaving a reasonable target to achieve back at Easter Road. With the important and influential Kevin Thomson back in the side, pulling the strings, providing the ‘glue’ and fighting for the jersey I happen to believe it can still be done. Hibs need to rely on experience though and this means the inclusion of the likes of Craig, the creative threat of Cairney and the craft of Heffernan at the sharp end. If Hibs are to save their status and for this to act as a conduit to a new, brighter future for the club the seasoned professionals are going to have to stand up here and be willingly counted.
FRIDAY THE NINTH OF MAY, 2014 rolls inexorably closer and it’s almost at long last time to go back to Edinburgh. It is always time to go back to Edinburgh but this occasion feels especially significant.
The past few weeks since the calamitous and tragic loss of my dear partner, Sue have at times been shocking, harrowing, lonely and at times isolating. There have been ‘good’ things of course and at the forefront of that is the support I have received from my family and true friends, almost universally. I have learned much about myself, about life and about people. I take these lessons forwards as I plan a rebuild of my life alone. It is a rehabilitation process and not at times without it’s difficulties. I keep trying, I Persevere and (unbelievably to me at one point) I am still standing
Those early dark days of February saw a call to that dear group of volunteers, The Samaritans, when at first it all felt just a little too much and I didn’t wish to go on. There was another long talk with a suicide bereavement counsellor who spoke to me in a straight and forthright manner. How could I ever live the rest of my life after this horrendous experience? What meaning did it have? Survival mode kicked into place and I decided to play this game of life with a straight bat, without the ‘assistance’ of medication or by misusing alcohol.
I also knew instinctively that my friends could help too, by talking, by me asking for and accepting their support. None more so than a close friend here in Nottingham, my dear friends in Edinburgh of so many years and by a new friend from that city brought to me like an angel. I won’t embarrass those people but if you’re reading, you know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me.
So on to tomorrow. I catch that familiar train and will walk upon Edinburgh ground by lunchtime tomorrow. I have awaited this time and upon feeling ‘up to’ doing it. Being in and around Edinburgh, with all it’s memories can have a powerfully emotional feeling for me and I needed to be ready to use that constructively. I’m now ready and it’s part of the pathway ‘back’ for me.
I have a Hibs-related surprise awaiting me tomorrow! A sweet gesture by my aforementioned new friend which I in turns feel intrigued and happy about. The fates have conspired to offer up a hugely important game for my beloved Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday which I will attend. Excellent sense of theatre lads but I nevertheless wish you had sorted out the relegation worries ahead of my visit to Leith! God bless the Hibs.
Anyway, I’ll try to fight the impulse to get down on the floor and kiss good old Edinburgh ground when I alight at Waverley tomorrow. After all, I’ve things to do and good people to meet. The very best. Wha’s like you?
DURING THE PAST FEW WEEKS I’ve been visiting Meadow Lane, home of Notts County with a couple of friends for a diversion of a bit of Saturday afternoon football, old habits die hard, and taken a big interest in the Magpies’ fight for survival in League One. Chairman Ray Trew has publicly acknowledged that he was preparing the club for the bottom flight of teams. With Notts fully seven points adrift at the bottom of the table in March, this could only have been viewed as prudent. Over three home games though I watched the team, never shorn of fight, grow in confidence, winning each one of those games – one from being two goals down.
It’s been an interesting experience watching the players’ performance grow along with their confidence and there have been some outstanding displays from the likes of Spencer, Grealish, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce and Liddle. It almost seems churlish to single out individuals though as it has truly been a team effort.
The Notts I viewed in the first game played some pretty awful football if truth be told. A lot of head-tennis in the middle of the park and desperate no-look hoofs up the field to nobody in particular. Some of the defending was very shaky too. Over the weeks though they have come to play a good deal of decent football, passing the ball and using the wings, especially the clever ball play of on-loan youngster, Jack Grealish.
I have to confess, I had no particular thoughts about manager Shaun Derry, a man who appeared to be something of a cheap option with no managerial experience at all. Seeing the local man’s belief, determination and shrewdness has however convinced me that he has done a great job in the short time he has been back in his native city of Nottingham. In addition to that, his open letter to the Notts fans and the people of Nottingham a few days before the game was top-class – as were his interviews pre and post game around the final fixture of the season. Let nobody say that this man doesn’t have great determination and is very sincere too. Well done, Shaun.
I read a small article about team captain, Irishman, Alan Sheehan recently too who touchingly explained how his faith kept him going through the tough times with a weekly visit to his local Roman Catholic church in West Bridgford, nice stuff for someone to say in these cynical times.
The final Saturday against Oldham in Lancashire saw Notts needing at least a point for safety after all their courage and fortitude over the past few weeks. Well into the second half it appeared that things were going terribly wrong when Oldham went ahead and Notts were looking down the relegation barrel with just fifteen minutes to go. A handling offence in the area however and a penalty to Notts with that man Sheehan stepping up to the spot saw Notts home, to great relief. Results elsewhere additionally going the Magpies’ way to ensure safety also. You can view Sheehan’s coolly taken spot kick here and feel the palpable relief from the black and white part of the stadium.
So, on to the close season and a job well done. The club have only three members contracted for the next campaign so there will be changes. For my money it world be an excellent idea if Notts were able to keep this nucleus of players together as much as possible. With a modest fan base that may proved economically difficult but with the end of season spirit and fight shown by this group of players they could do very well indeed next year. They’ve fought as one – a true team. Well done to all involved, you’ve made your fans proud and been truly worthy of the black and white striped jersey.
ON SATURDAY 1st MARCH 2014 Notts County suffered a horrendous pounding at nearby Rotherham to the tune of six goals to nil. Dispirited and bottom of the table they have since that time shook themselves down, gathered themselves and fought together with bravery and spirit to gain six wins and a draw from their last eleven games. On this penultimate weekend before the season’s end they have pulled themselves out of the bottom four relegation places and have battled, scraped and dug deep to give themselves an excellent chance of survival with just one game to play.
I have had the pleasure of witnessing a few of these games. I have also noted how Notts’ fans have fought along with them – never giving up – constantly urging them onwards, from the first till the last minute.
From behind my computer in Nottingham, following the Edinburgh derby game I ‘see’ a lot of defeatism. I understand where it comes from – ‘let down’ once more – but negativity will unfortunately not help, as much as we feel it justified (and it is). There is a huge and desperate need for fans to show some unity with the club – to keep cheering the team on in the club’s hour of need.
Forget for now the issues that many of us have with the people who run the club and the team (none more than me) and work together at the eleventh hour in helping this grand old football club out of this terrible mess it now finds itself in. Just like those faithful Magpies supporters have been doing.
You can make a difference.