Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 7.12.19

A winter-sun December Saturday it is and it comes as a relief in case the atmosphere inside Meadow Lane this afternoon becomes decidedly frosty. I’ll be meandering through the city for Notts County’s 3pm kick-off versus Sutton United in the Vanerama League. Heady days.


The Magpies have been experiencing a fairly torrid time of late after an excellent run of nineteen games in which they lost only three. Things have slightly nose-dived since however with Notts drifting out into a mid-table berth. It’s all very disappointing for the team’s faithful and appears to be pointing very much towards another season of non-league football for the club unless there is an immediate and dramatic upturn in fortunes.

The city and its roads will no doubt be overcrowded today, exacerbated by Christmas shoppers, thousands of students and the (I have to say) pretty naff Christmas Fair in the Old Market Square, set to fleece visitors or their hard-earned.

Back in the heartland, Hibs take on the tough challenge of the Dandy Dons of Aberdeen. It would be good to think that Aberdeen will turn up with less of a cynical attitude than on various other visits in the past few seasons. Hibs manager, Jack Ross has the task of lifting the team after a disappointing road trip to Dingwall midweek with a 2-1 capitulation. Seeing Hibs yet again give up a lead is not edifying at the moment and questions are being asked.

These questions are invariably concerning the Hibs defence which is achieving sieve-like qualities recently. There is a major problem at Easter Road in this area of the team with several key players aging at the same time. Great and good servants such as David Gray, Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and a soon-returning Darren McGregor have for some time been needing replacements coming through but Porteous aside, there has been little by way of that. Anyhow, thinking of you, Hibees from my spot at a game here.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 16.11.19

It’s international break weekend (boo) so just the one fixture under scrutiny today, Notts County v Barrow. I’ll meander along to Meadow Lane via a quick watering hole stop to witness any damage or otherwise. Two days ago it was looking like this might be a boat trip with part of Nottingham under water. Today presents two teams in fine form, the Magpies having lost only three in the past nineteen games and Barrow having won a tremendous nine out of ten previous away games It’s fair to say that it’s anyone’s game today and the team that comes out of the traps in the best fettle will prevail. Arguably rare at this level too, both teams are renowned for trying to play good football and a passing game so it should be a reasonable spectacle which always makes the afternoon more agreeable along with the Scotch Pie and Bovril.

(Image: Economist)

North of the border and Hibs, well it’s all been happening, apart from a blank football Saturday. New manager, Jack Ross, safely installed, we can only hope for a little stability returning to Easter Road after a slightly disastrous first part of the season. It’s almost been laughable seeing some of the comment about him before barely setting foot in Leith. I sometimes wonder what drives this kind of attitude of sky-high expectation, albeit the Hibs support certainly deserves a little bit more success over the piece one could argue. Safe to say, apart from Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klop, any candidate is going to get trashed by one section of Hibs fans or another. Good luck Jack Ross, I still believe Hibernian is a fine club, well run and with some potential. You’re going to need some good fortune though.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 2.11.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A squelchy day in the rain is promised for me at Meadow Lane for me today as Notts County take on Hartlepool United at 3pm The ‘Monkey Hangers’ are pushing for a play-off position where the Nottingham side currently reside after a quite magnificent run of form of late. The Magpies, fresh from battering Woking 4-0 in midweek away from home in a seriously good performance will be attempting the tightest defensive record intact.

A football hits the back of the net

It’s been interesting watching Notts’ progress since the shaky days of late summer when a side was cobbled together just two days before the first game of the season. They have grown in stature, cohesion and confidence week-by-week. Pleasing too to see Notts boss, Neal Ardley grow with the team after the relentless pressure he had been under since joining the club. A good and decent man.

After the game it’s a dash home by tram and bus to Redhill and hopefully access some coverage of Hibs in their League Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden Park. There have been tough times for the Hibees this season of course, with the team consistently offering mediocre and punchless displays. Celtic meanwhile sit atop of the Scottish Premier League and are scoring freely. Expectations will be modest for all Hibees today but at least the team have shown some solidity and resilience of late. My wish is that they have a really good go at Celtic and don’t allow them to play their football. ‘Mon the Hibs.

Nottingham Forest also find themselves pushing for a play-off spot currently after relinquishing what might easily have been a second spot berth for them with two successive defeats. They travel south to Luton Town today hoping to get back on track. Manager Lamouchie reports healthy selection problems.

Peter Cormack, Dementia and Protecting Footballers

Some sobering news about a former footballing hero of mine today, Peter Cormack. Peter and his family have disclosed the news of his dementia diagnosis and symptoms of it he has been experiencing for some years.

Peter was an entertaining and swashbuckling attacking midfield for my team, Hibs, moving to Nottingham Forest where I was able to watch him many times as a youngster. I loved to watch him play and so did my dad who had a very high regard for our fellow Edinburgh native. As a boy I liked to try to emulate his prance-like run as Peter ran on the balls of his feet.


Perhaps Peter’s high watermark as a player came when performing for Liverpool in what became a trophy-laden career, as well as gaining nice full Scottish caps. As a player even as a skinny youngster he could certainly ‘dig’, pass the ball and had excellent control and vision. He was also versatile enough to leave his midfield berth and take over in goal for Hibs in an emergency as well as playing up front or in wide positions as well as his normal midfield slot. His great talent was spotted at an early age by then Hibs manager Jock Stein among others, when in 1964 in a prestige friendly game against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, Peter, just seventeen years-old scored against the legendary club.


(Image: Shoot Magazine)

Peter, though not a big man by any means was so very talented in the air – a great header of the ball due to his agility, ability to leap and his superb timing. It brings up the subject of another former footballer, the late Jeff Astle – also an exceptional header of the ball – who passed away due to a degenerative brain disease in 2002 caused by repeated traumas through heading the heavy leather footballs of the day. This is in light of a recent dementia study that has resulted in the Scottish Football Association considering a ban on Scottish children heading the ball

On a wider note, I have a growing feeling that professional footballers, perhaps due to considerations of their their ‘wealth’ (or assumed wealth) are being somewhat sacrificed for the needs of the game. In Peter and Jeff’s day footballers were perhaps considered differently with much more modest rewards available from the game. In the modern era, it seems to me that players are increasingly vulnerable to addictions such as those of gambling, alcohol and recreational drugs. Stories of depression, anxiety and even suicidality in players due to pressures of the industry and attendant lifestyle are becoming more common and are almost certainly under-diagnosed and reported due to stigma and ignorance. It’s almost as though the players cannot complain about the issues or problems they are experiencing in the public’s view due to arguably, a minority being paid fortunes to play the game many would love to.

I do feel the football industry and individual clubs need to focus more on the health and well-being of football players – no matter how much or little they earn. Money is not a protective factor for health or mental health in these circumstances. Tales of excess and ruined lives litter the professional game and those stories are certainly not relegated to the modern era solely. Players it appears are increasingly more indulged and overprotected in everyday matters of running heir lives and careers. Their personal health and well-being however seems to be a lesser consideration. In some ways, attitudes in the game have not evolved significantly from past days with certain subjects still being subject to stigmatisation.

Good luck and bless you Peter Cormack. You gave me so many happy memories which I will always cherish. Let’s all wish for the better protection generally of the professional football players of today.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 19.10.19

A not too shabby day in Hood Town (i.e. it’s not raining) and it’s another bus-walk-bus to the south of the city and Meadow Lane Stadium to watch Notts County take on a team I haven’t seen since the 1960s – Belper Town, in the FA Cup. Back in those pleasant football-going days it was Belper travelling to Arnold FC’s Gedling Road ground in the now-defunct Midland League. ‘Mary’s’ as Arnold were long known from their days as Arnold St Mary’s FC hold fond memories of Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening football kicking off at a ground that was walkable from my folk’s front door. A call in at a Front Street chippy for a sixpenny ‘mix’ (chips and peas) with the gang and home to watch Dad’s Army on the telly. Those were the days.


‘Eight One…Eight bloody one!’

In 2019, Belper Town reside in the eighth division of League football and Notts in the fifth. The ‘Nailers’ from the nearby Derbyshire town being expected to bring some 1,500 supporters to Nottingham. Should be fun.

Meanwhile, my dear Hibees travel to Hamilton in Lanarkshire to face the Accies at New Douglas Park. A curious and unpredictable one this after the international break with Hibs showing a little more resilience in the three games prior. Hibs don’t have their problems to seek currently with few of the close season additions being termed as a success. They particularly struggle up front with new signing Doidge not firing as yet and Florian Kamberi out of sorts once more. I’ve a feeling there will be more questions asked of manager Heckingbottom come 5pm today.

The international break came at an inconvenient time for Nottingham Forest who were on a fine run of form and points gathering when the league had its short hiatus. It will be interesting to see if they pick up things where they left off against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium tomorrow and my hunch is that they will. They have shown a reliable resilience this season so far. It’s too early to be considering prospects for the season currently but I’d absolutely love to see the Garibaldi Reds back in the top flight once more where I believe they belong.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 12.10.19

Autumn rolls relentlessly on and for me it’s another visit to Meadow Lane Stadium in Nottingham to watch Notts County v Torquay United. How the not-mighty have fallen as the representatives of the English Riviera make the long trip to civilisation, possibly populating a motorised scooter. The Magpies’ boss, Neal Ardley appeared in the local media the previous day answering fan questions and reaffirmed what a genuine, principled and real football man he is. Well done Neal.


Meanwhile, the team in black and white stripes continue their press towards the play-of positions and with a good and sizable squad look well placed to make a charge on promotion as the season wears on.

The cat will no doubt come to the end of the drive to wave me away on this brave quest of bus, tram and terrace warfare.

At the same time, my one true football love, Hibernian, kick-off at New Douglas Park as they take on Hamilton Academical in an unpredictable-looking fixture. There have been some more encouraging signs from the Hibees of late after a fairly terrible time this season so far with at least a little more grit being apparent in their play. However, the jury remains firmly out on manager Heckingbottom at the moment, if only for having a silly Yorkshire name. The grand old team still appear to be labouring under some mediocre close season recruitment Do what you’ve got to do Hibs and put a display on please for my pals in that faithful away support in deepest Lanarkshire.

Edit: Just to make sure you’re paying attention at the back, the Hibs game is next week.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 28.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game and it’s off to the city and Nott’s County’s Meadow Lane I go for the 3pm kick off against Fylde FC. It’s bargain giveaway day today as owners of club, the Reedzt brothers, have kindly offered the game for just £3 admission as a thank you for the club’s faithful sticking by their team in the dark days of last summer.


Surprisingly, my new cat-pal-visitor decided not to follow me in the persistently precipitous weather. Cats are so smart. Notts Manager, Neal Ardley in almost a year at the club hasn’t overseen his team experience back-to-back wins in all that time and after a midweek away win, here’s another chance for the Magpies. My Saturday afternoon will be punctuated by a Scotch pie kindly provided by my Glaswegian pal at half time and earlier, checking up on the goings on at Easter Road where Hibs play Celtic. Probably by viewing my iphone through my fingers.

It’s turbulent times at Easter Road of course. Most of the dialogue features releasing Manager Paul Heckingbottom as nauseam with little debate about any other subject. I remain convinced that the Yorkshireman will find it incredibly difficult to turn fortunes around. His own lack of popularity being partly attributable to some challenging and slightly dismissive comments directed at the club’s supporters.

It was good news for Nottingham Forest last night as after an exciting 3-2 away win they went top of the Championship. Great to see Forest on top again – even if it may be short-lived. They are looking like strong challengers this season and play some exhilarating football at times through the likes of the excellent João Carvalho, Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban.

You’ll excuse me now as the Hibernians have just kicked off and gone ahead courtesy of any own goal by Celtic’s Ajer…


Notts performed grittily in grinding out a 2-0 victory. Another clean sheet would have been pleasing to them as would a terrific goal by forward, Thomas. I think many have seen the team perform better this season and lost. A moment of note was when the referee was injured in a collision with a Fylde player. Needing to retire from the game, the announcer on the public address system requested any ‘fully qualified referees to please come forward’. Handily, the Pavis Stand generally finds itself well stocked with ‘referees’! The Magpies now find themselves on the cusp of the play-off places for the first time this season.

Hibs competed well in a slightly tempestuous and feisty game with quite some controversy. Manager Heckingbottom managed to get himself banished to the stands after kicking a Gatorade bottle in anger, hitting a linesman! Some good signs but much work to do.

Happy 75th Birthday, Pat Stanton

Happy 75th Birthday Pat Stanton, Hibernian legend.

Perhaps no player embodied the ethos of the Hibernians more than Pat. On the field of play he was elegent, poised and personified class. He played the ‘Hibs way’ and led by an an example that few, if any, could ever match. What a glorious and wonderful footballer he was. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when watching Pat Stanton play the beautiful game.

‘What a time that was at the Hibs. We were the last of the romantics.’ – Pat Stanton’.

A descendent of Hibernian co-founder Michael Whelahan an emigree of County Rosscommon after the Great
Famine in Ireland, Pat Stanton upholds the link between present day and the 1875 of its Irish founding fathers.

As a young man, Pat with his dark, Irish good looks, and gentlemanly and kindly manner was a fine ambassador for the club he loves. He remains so at 75 years. Safe to say, no player in the club’s long history demands more respect and fully deserved, downright adoration. Happy Birthday, King Paddy.

The Bipolar Nature of Modern Football

You know, sometimes I really feel like turning my back on football completely, as I’ve been known to do in the past.

Football fans have always been fickle and that’s the truth, no surprise there, nothing new. It didn’t seem to work on a game-to-game basis as it now does however with the bipolar nature of many supporters in these times. It’s tiresome, immature and largely fuelled by social media the internet in general and by people who can barely spell ‘Hibs’ who really shouldn’t be left alone in charge of a computer or mobile phone.

It seems we live in times where many cannot accept a defeat of any description without lashing out or finding someone to blame.

And it’s utterly boring.

The Cowgate, Edinburgh ‘Little Ireland’ – scene of the foundation of  Hibernian FC

It’s been a tumultuous week in the Edinburgh football world with a bad tempered and fractious clash between two age-old protagonists in Hibernian and their city rivals, Hearts in midweek. After that game many stood in support of Hibs Manager, Neil Lennon who suffered in a violent incident and who has now spoken of the greater problem surrounding that sectarian abuse in Scotland. We’ve witnessed ‘Only one Neil Lennon’, ‘in Lennon we trust’ and the usual stuff (that is quite incongruent with how he was spoken of before he took charge at Easter Road I should add) and the dubious reception he was afforded by some.

Since that time he has proved his worth, ability and professionalism time after time, while Hibs in general have reached greater heights as a club than they have in many a year. Lennon is the best Manager I have witnessed at the club since Eddie Turnbull and the Famous Five legend vacated the role some thirty-eight long years ago. Attendances at Easter Road are the highest in a generation, the grand old club is buoyant, expertly and professionally run with vision and purpose and in a more healthy financial position than I can actually recall. Apparently, this is not good enough though.

Below is just a fraction of the childish garbage I’ve read this evening since the final whistle sounded today. Don’t worry though, you can be certain Neil Lennon will be a football genius by the time Hibs have won their next game.

Sometimes I think I’ll just concentrate on watching ice hockey instead. I feel pretty sickened with the whole thing just recently…

‘Forget the hype..Lennons nae better a manager than that has gone before..alex miller, jim duffy, Mcleish, even boaby williamson’

‘Cmon tae f***..he’s an average manager at best….big chip on his shoulder’

‘Off the field antics affecting us.’

‘Horrendous result.’

‘Starting to worry bout this side. Lennon is not convincing me with his recent starting 11s’

‘Not convinced Lennon knows his best team. Starting to have my doubts’

‘I don’t even think he rates us (Hibs) with some of his comments.’

‘tactical decisions have been questionable’

‘Starting to get a bit concerned’

‘Lets be honest last two displays have been terrible.’

‘would you blame both on Lennon ? I would’

‘How s**** whittacker (sic) is’

‘Without Kamberi, Jamie MacLaren is useless’

Hibs open Easter Road on Christmas Day for those less fortunate

Hibernian FC is a football club that in recent times has rediscovered and unearthed overtones of its original purpose in the community it represents. That early initial purpose, born and conceived back in the 1880s, is one of the cornerstones of why I love this club so much, that together with family tradition, truth, loyalty and the glue it embodies to me.

Christmas time should be one of joy and yet sadly, we understand that it can be distressing, lonely and heart-breaking for many, many people.

I am happy to read today that my Hibs are opening the doors of Easter Road on Christmas Day to those in need, providing up to 250 people a Christmas lunch, carols, a Christmas movie and other festive activities.

How proud can you be? Perhaps no more proud than I am at this precise moment at reading this announcement. You know what too? I have come to expect no less of them.

Bravo, my beautiful football club. x




Lewis Stevenson – Celebrating Ten Years

HIBS LEFT BACK, LEWIS STEVENSON’S  100% service to the Hibernian cause is celebrated tonight with a testimonial dinner. Many have quoted his unique position in being both a League Cup and Scottish Cup winner with the club and that is indeed impressive. It’s a different factor that I always think of with the solid Hibs left back though.

Lewis Stevenson – Hibernian FC

Lewis has never been a flashy or eye catching player, he is though totally dependable and fights with every breath he has for the cause in that green and white shirt. He knows that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back. He is a modest and unassuming character which is becoming more of a rarity in professional football these days, Many times over the years he has been maligned by a section of the support. There have often been frustrating times for the team, generally, in fairness.

My favourite memory of Lewis Stevenson, apart from watching him lift the Scottish Cup, was his incredibly mature and influential performance in midfield for Hibs on the day that Kilmarnock were destroyed 5-1 in the League Cup Final of 2007. He was immense that day, controlling the game to a large degree from his midfield berth, spraying passes all over the field. Just terrific.

It occurs to me that, by my reckoning, Lewis has played under no less than EIGHT managers in his decade at Easter Road though. Each of those managers has realised his worth to the team and sent him over that white line to represent the only team that’s worth supporting. That will do just fine for me.

Well done Lewis – here’s to many more!

Green and White Jerseys

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.

Hibs drop deeper into the doldrums – strong action required

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…

Hibernian – The Broken Harp

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 clharpub 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 to be tasked with.

Since arriving at Easter Road I cannot think of one single positive that Butcher or his cohort 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 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. and cost the team it’s SPFL status in fact. I remain simply 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 to ground 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 and offering 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 and judgement 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. What a way to be relegated.

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 by the look of things. 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.

Hibs: One Last Effort

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.

Hibs and Kenny Miller

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.

Hibs On The Brink

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.

Hibernian: Keep The Faith

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.

When Pat Stanton speaks we should all listen…

Interesting views in the news from Sir Pat Stanton as always. Gentleman Pat is always worth listening to. If only Hibernian Football Club had a few with his attitude now, let alone a modicum of his sublime, God-given ability.

Playing on over six-hundred occasions for Hibs, one might state that Pat is allowed to say exactly what he likes about his beloved Hibs. Unfailingly however, he appraises the situation at Easter Road in a polite but assertive way, full of wisdom and know-how.

No wonder we call him ‘Saint Patrick’.

In the following article in The Scotsman, the subject matter is outwardly regarding Hibs’ impressive training facility at East Mains, a complex I’ve had the pleasure of looking around. Read on though to gather some illuminating general views from The Quiet Man, former captain and leader of the famous old Leith club.

Hibs should savour training facilities – Stanton

A Late Call and Hibernian Euphoria!

The following article appears in the 2013 Scottish Cup Final edition of Mass Hibsteria. It was written for the Hibs fanzine shortly after the recent victory in the Edinburgh derby game.


I WRITE AS A TORRENT OF HIBERNIAN green blood surges through my veins in the immediate aftermath of a famous away derby victory against ‘they who shall not be named’. A conquest made all the more sweet in that it was achieved with an injection of youthful promise, little in the way of great expectations and a terrific late, late goal by the muscular young talent of Ross Caldwell. It will be recorded that earlier in this lively affair, Hibs, after falling behind despite boasting huge territorial advantage, fought back tenaciously and levelled with yet another stunning strike from a free kick by goal machine, Leigh Griffiths before scoring for a second time at the very best juncture possible.


It’s a late call for me too, writing these words at the pinnacle of publication deadline time after a kind request. The kind of contribution that is always a great pleasure as I think of my Hibernian brothers and sisters back home and indeed all over the globe. At this moment, they will variously be celebrating in Edinburgh pubs, sitting behind their computers at home like me (poring over a small avalanche of Facebook and Twitter updates and the like) or maybe even retiring to bed in the wee sma’ hours. In just two weeks time, and maybe as you read this, many of us will be reunited once more in a common cause.

It falls upon me to speak of the past season, 2012-13 as we reach it’s very zenith, a somewhat extraordinary campaign in many ways. After a summer of low spirits, constitutions were thankfully fortified towards putting matters right at Easter Road. After a largely successful time achieving these aims as the winter approached, a slow, insidious (and it has to be said) perhaps slightly predictable deterioration took place. This was tempered generally by the insistent, eye-catching and dazzling success of one-man forward line, Griffiths’ attempts putting the ball in the opposition net where it belongs. Very well done to staunch and loyal Hibee, Leigh in carrying our hopes through some darker moments. Will that magical thirty-goal target be achieved, I wonder, before the final whistle sounds on 2012-13?

There have, happily however, been two Hibernian FC’s as the season has drawn inexorably on. The afore-mentioned, slightly toiling league team that has left some frustration amongst us and also the excellent cup team who have fought their way to yet another opportunity to win the Scottish Cup through some difficult ties and an incredible almost once-in-a-lifetime fight back in a Hampden semi-final. This is the team I would like to focus on as I am full, yet again, of hope.


The twelfth of May in this year of 2013 has left manager Fenlon and his staff with some intriguing questions to answer. I refer mainly to the belated introduction of youth into the Hibs starting line-up and regarding who shall be accommodated in the final eleven that walks out in Hibernian’s name in Glasgow at the end of May. Of late, we have witnessed the clever urgings, mature skills and intelligent football brain of Alex Harris, evidencing an overdue beginning to his senior professional career. Significant today for me too was the Ross Caldwell goal, a beautiful and clean derby strike which will perform great things for the young forward’s confidence as he begins to understand how to score for the ‘big boys’. Teenager, Jordan Forster too carried out a solid and assured debut today in this most difficult of events amidst a cauldron of Edinburgh passion.

Clearly, the way forward is written, it is in youth, not the acquisition and juggling of middling, run-of-the-mill journeymen. Hibernian has been and will again become a football factory of effervescent and confident young talent. I hope to see such a confidence in and parade of that talent on the twenty-sixth. I remain upbeat about the blessed institution that is Edinburgh Hibernians Here endeth today’s homily.

Those who know me well understand that my love of Hibs travels beyond football and into family, roots, history and tradition. I know that others are with me in these thoughts and more than occasionally I hear a heartening and lovely story that reaffirms this culture and set of beliefs. Today was one of those days. A fellow Hibee and great friend related the story of how she packed away her late father’s – a lifelong Hibs man – bunnet with her into the away end at today’s derby. It happened as follows:

‘At 89 minutes I took my late Dad’s flat cap (inclusive of 2 Hibs badges) and placed it on my head. I made a silent wish for a last-minute goal……. and boom! Love you Dad x’

This to me illustrates the ties of generations past and future. It is a love like no other, as I have often stated. The deep feeling, the faith, the passion and the knowing that you ‘belong’.

I look forward to meeting some of you again very soon. The Hibernian Football Club and its family, reaching back to 1875.

We walk together.

Hibs: McPake or Forster for the Cup?

AS WE APPROACH THE FINAL few days running up to the Scottish Cup Final with Hibs due to make a second consecutive appearance, Hibs boss, Pat Fenlon has a major conundrum before him. With influential captain, James McPake injured and off-form, young Jordan Forster has stepped up and taken the opportunity offered to him, installing himself in the heart of the Hibernian defence during the past three games and performing with distinction


If it’s the case that McPake is borderline ‘injured’, which is not clear, then there’s obviously a tough decision to make. Although I’m not particularly a fan of Manager Fenlon, I have some sympathy with him regarding this as he is basically on a hiding to nothing, unless Hibs win of course when all will be forgotten!

You need experience in these types of games, it counts for much to have the big game mentality that having been around the block a few times can bring. You also need leaders on the park – especially if things start to go wrong. McPake, I believe brings these qualities.

Forster, however, must be feeling very confident after his introduction and early promising start. There have been many examples where youngsters with ability and in his position have been trusted and have come through. ‘If you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Brian Clough was particularly adept at plucking a youngster from obscurity and trusting them with the responsibility to perform a good job for him.

I’d leave well alone. Forster has done little wrong and deserves his chance. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, as they say. Bringing in McPake is a big risk, shame though it would be not to have his qualities out there at Hampden Park. I don’t think he is offering these qualities though currently.

There are aspects of McPake’s game I’m not convinced about generally, for example his tendency to over-commit himself  and his haphazard distribution, his good points tend to overshadow that though. I’m not too happy about his moping around either – desperately disappointed though he must be – he is still the captain of Hibernian and has a duty to show strength, leadership and resilience – especially where younger, less experienced players are concerned. I have concerns that he is a negative influence around the squad of late.

I’d like to state though that I have a large degree of sympathy for McPake. I feel his heart is in the right place where Hibs are concerned and I admire that. I think many times he has served us very well when in desperate need and I like to hope he will again – just not in the Scottish Cup Final 2013 I’m afraid.

Hibs in a Lazarus-like comeback

WELL, THOSE OF US OF A HIBERNIAN persuasion can breathe again. It’s the day after a tumultuous, worrying and ultimately relieving victory over First Division Falkirk by four goals to three. The unusual score line barely begins to tell the tale of the day though.

After thirty minutes of the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden Park, Glasgow, Hibs looked completely dead and buried, three-nil down to a tigerish and eager young Falkirk team looking for the blood of an SPL scalp and finding it. Many Hibs supporters began trooping out of the ground at that point, a hail of booing erupted and the player’s heads were down. Very seldom have I witnessed such an abject forty-five-minute display by Hibs – or indeed any time. The performance was at the level of an under-12’s side.


Leigh Griffiths strikes.

Football is a ‘funny old game’ however and what followed was quite sensational with Hibs rattling in three goals to tie the game and take it into extra-time. With the Hibees so clearly on top and Falkirk struggling to cope, the writing was visibly on the wall for Hibs’ young opponents and so it came to pass with a clinical Griffiths strike in extra-time to book his side a return journey to Glasgow for another May cup final.

In spite of a famous victory there were few pass marks being handed out to players in Green and White yesterday. The great and notable exception was 18-year old Alex Harris who used the big stage to good effect in his fledgling career. Alex’ screaming goal, intelligent prompting and willingness to go forward and take people on was as refreshing as Hibs’ general (in the first half at least) display was dull, listless, artless and infuriating. Full marks go to the young winger.


Hibs’ Alex Harris scores

It’s a curious position that Hibs followers are placed in today. On the one hand, the club have reached a second consecutive Scottish Cup final and given themselves an opportunity to atone for last year’s disgraceful performance in May. On the other hand, all of the team’s glaring problems were showcased, with Manager Fenlon and his negative tactics in particular coming under great scrutiny.

I’ve documented my feelings about Fenlon previously but I’d like to add that this game alters my opinion of him as a manager in no way. It is being argued today that having identified his errors yesterday he set about correcting them in the second half to good effect. That may well be true, and fair play to him on the tactical changes he made, but in my view, the turnaround came from deep down inside the players themselves. Apparently, there are rumours of dressing room fisticuffs at half-time and harsh words. It this is true then so be it. It is about time that Hibernian FC found some passion to match that of the club’s supporters which is never in doubt.

Onwards to Sunday 26th of May then. Another date with destiny beckons.

Glory Glory to the Hibees.

Hibs and Pat Fenlon: February 2013 Report

I’M GOING TO OFFER an apology before I begin. I’m a remote fan of Hibernian and as I don’t don’t live within a long punt up the pitch’s distance of Easter Road, my thoughts are mainly informed by internet feeds and the odd BBC Alba game. I’m also cognisant of my fellow supporters’ views and concerns.

We football supporters tend to be a slightly bi-polar bunch in present times. After a decent win the world is our oyster and everything in the garden rosy. When our team loses there tends to be a corresponding diametrically opposite view which leads directly to anger, despair and dissatisfaction. Hibs message boards can be a holocaust after a particularly bad day at the office for the team. Last evening’s Hibs v St. Johnstone clash at Easter Road was just such an occasion with an apparently very poor and weak capitulation to the tune of 3-1 to the men from McDiarmid Park, Perth.

The point is I think it has come to the stage where this negative reaction is more than deserved.


In the earlier part of the season, Hibs, whilst not necessarily convincing in their displays, enjoyed much enhanced results from season 2011-2012. The Hibees indeed topped the division briefly and were regularly in second spot – a great achievement considering the tragic state of affairs twelve months prior. Since that time however, there has been a long series of dismal performances, punctuated only by odd notable wins such as those against Celtic and Hearts.

Over this period the Easter Road faithful appear to have become at first bored and further, increasingly restless. I need to align myself with those feelings.

I will state here and now that i was disappointed when Hibs appointed  Pat Fenlon as manager. It’s not meant as any disrespect to Pat but I felt with some conviction that after a series of managerial disasters it was time for Hibs to ‘push the boat out’ a little and attract some proven quality to the club in the manager’s hot seat. The candidate they ended up choosing was a man who had sound credentials in Ireland and a winner’s track record.

Any manager has to be given time to turn things around and Hibs were certainly in a desperate state after the ‘efforts’ of Colin Calderwood’s clownish stewardship of the club. As has become expected with Hibernian there was no ‘new manager bounce’ and matters stayed firmly down-at-heel under Fenlon. Relegation threatened throughout till season end and the only polish added by a run at the Scottish Cup which ended in absolutele disaster for Hibs’ team of loanees.

This season, Pat Fenlon appeared to be showing his mettle. He appeared to recognise the importance of a solid spine down the team and made some good signings in the like of goalie, Ben Williams, James McPake and so on towards that end. At first, the crowd lapped it up – why wouldn’t they after experiencing so much failure for so long.

So, here we are up-to-date. For the first time I’m hearing serious claims for Fenlon’s head. I can’t profess to be surprised either. Not only have results seriously deteriorated but the fans are not being remotely entertained. Each time I watch Hibs through my available mediums I am shocked as to how little creativity they have and how lacking in ideas they seem to be. Never mind that, they don’t even do the basics correctly. Most games appear like a rearguard action by Hibs with the men in green playing deeply and defensively, inviting teams to come at them – often with inevitable consequences. The centre-backs McPake and Hanlon continually launch the ball forwards to no one in particular, with Hibs smaller, less powerful forwards struggling to make anything of this ‘service’. I find McPake – a player I have a lot of time for generally – particularly reckless in this respect.

The midfield, and tellingly its incoming personnel brought in by Fenlon, has almost no significant creative passing ability. They play sideways and backwards before someone obliges with the aforementioned long, hopeful punt up the field. Just a single player of this type would be sufficient (Claros). An honourable exception to this assessment is awarded to Paul Cairney who though now seeming to have run out of steam a little has had a very good season – despite being hampered by Fenlon playing him out of position and less usefully, wide left.

Pat Fenlon

This brings me to another problem with Fenlon, who has a penchant for playing players away from the position they are most familiar and accomplished in. This criticism is bang up-to-date with the placing of new winger Done  on the right wing he is not accustomed to.

Fenlon’s tactic’s are almost non-existent. I do feel that far too much is made of tactics these days but his only plan for his team appears to be to sit back cagily and play on the break or use the long ball game with the ball hoofed down the pitch. It’s pitiful stuff – like watching a team of kids playing kick and rush – embarrassing at times.

A further criticism, apart from his very negative mentality, is his abjectly poor use of substitutes. He appears not to be aware about using them tactically to change the pattern of a game and has continually used them (or not) at inappropriate times during games. This is not new as I watched Hibs huff and puff for a goal in a home Edinburgh derby last year with a rearing-to-go proven goal scorer in Garry O’Connor sitting on the bench until a very minutes to go when he could make no impression on the game. Last night alternatively, Fenlon substituted Gary Deegan just four minutes into the second half. I’m going to be charitable and say that this could be because the Irish midfielder was feeling a knock – no other reason would be satisfactory or explicable.

I’m going to go for broke and say that I’m sick and tired of seeing my club play this way. I heard a well-known ex-player state the other week that Hibernian FC have never been about defensive football and I agree. Pat Fenlon’s conception of how football should be played does not even nearly coincide with my own, nor dare I say, many other fans. It is tedious, dull and dreary and is turning the fans away steadily. There is nil entertainment and it has no place at Easter Road as far as I’m concerned.

I, like many, do not enjoy the constant merry-go-round of managers that the club has invested in during recent years. I like to see a manager given a chance but at this juncture, I’d be quite happy if Pat took his notion of ‘football’ elsewhere.

Hibernian 2012/13: Optimism?

A recent question on the Hibees Bounce forums queried how optimistic the Easter Road faithful were feeling with just four weeks to go until the coming season is upon us. In some ways it was pleasant to see that some optimism still abounds but to temper that, I tried to imagine where that optimism is coming from?

I’ll be very happy to be optimistic when there is something concrete to be optimistic about. I won’t base optimism on blind wishing and hoping. Steps forward may or may not happen over the next few weeks but until then, what I see is a requirement for an almost total rebuild of the playing squad.

To balance matters, it’s great to have James McPake back and let’s be hopeful about the other two signings.

James McPake

Much will depend on the inspirational figure of captain, James McPake

The recent statement attributed to Manager, Pat Fenlon but clearly not written by him did nothing to make me feel hopeful. I fear the club’s attitude at the top has not changed. Stating to the club’s supporters that if they come out in numbers to buy season tickets the club will then buy a player or two will not work – especially after one of the biggest maulings and humiliation’s that the club has ever had in its long history back in the cup final in May. That’s a hard fact they have to address, claims of no funds or not. It still hurts, Mr. Petrie – we didn’t just forget and it went away…

It’s not all about spending money Hibs apparently do not have – I’d take an optimistic view if a few youngsters started getting a game and doing well. I understand that was difficult for Fenlon in a relegation battle last season but it’s a situation that goes further back.

Hibs SERIOUSLY need the very best goalkeeper we can acquire. The question over the most important position in the team – particularly for the Hibs and the state they’re in, is long overdue being addressed.

To sum up, its early days. I’m looking forward to those that run the club proving my slight cynicism, built up over a long period wrong. They have an awful long way to go to do that at the moment after the past few seasons and in particular the debacle of the whole of last season and its final capitulation.

As stated previously, I’d very much like to be wrong.

This club needs some different thinking – in every area – especially at the top.


Hibs: Ivan Sproule – Roadrunner once…Roadrunner twice

Sometimes it’s illuminating to look back. I found the below article that I wrote a few years ago on an early website that I created around that time. It’s now floating around in cyberspace.

The article concerns Hibs’ Ivan Sproule who had just broken through into the side at the time after being brought into the fold by then manager, Tony Mowbray. History records that the likeable Irishman moved on the Bristol City where he exclaimed that his blood ‘would always run green’  referring to his happy time at Hibs. Ivan was eventually transferred back to Easter Road.

In the sport of boxing there is a saying ‘never go back’. I’ll let the reader judge whether  Ivan’s return was a success and if Ivan achieved his potential in his career. One thing  I dare say, there will always be a little place in most Hibs fans hearts for Ivan and his expressed affection for the Hibs.



Roadrunner once…Roadrunner twice

Ivan Sproule! The name on every Hibee’s lips of late. The young Ulsterman is currently cutting a swathe through every defence that trembles in his way to goal, and what excitement he is creating for the Hibs support!

The twenty-four year old former engineer, presently staking a late claim for first-class football with the Hibs is the talk of the SPL it seems so let’s take a look at this emergent talent and examine if there is a likelihood of longevity of his recent exploits.

There have been many players in the game previously with huge pace and not a little trickery combined that have come along and taken a club and its league by storm and Ivan Sproule is but the latest in a long line of such players. Please make no mistake however, that is not to denigrate the young Irishman’s fine achievements over the past few weeks. Suddenly after only four recent games as a substitute it appears that Ivan’s fledgling professional career is about to explode into outer space – beware however, there are several precedents for failure.

Of course it might be said that the reason previous similar players have fallen by the wayside might be due parlty to the huge expectancy placed upon the shoulders of every footballer of this kind. It becomes almost a ‘right’ of the crowd to expect that every time the ball reaches such a player’s fast feet, fireworks should occur.

I sometimes muse that the game’s defenders aren’t given their rightful credit at times. How  many times have we seen a young ‘wonder boy’ to coin a phrase, have an amazing initial season only to be found out and worked out by the defenders that now have the experience of dealing with this not-quite-so-new threat? Yes defenders do actually talk to each other at times despite contrary opinion, they chat about which way a player tends to move, whether he has a right foot roll, his pet tricks and all. It’s their job, it pays their mortgage.

Reading this, you may suppose I’m putting rather a dampener on Ivan’s recent crusade to entertain the Hibernian faithful and what’s more make a name for himself. Not so. This boy by all accounts has something special, he has blinding pace and we all know that the modern game revolves around that quality. Speed disorientates in sport. Sometimes we see a footballer or other sportsman deceive the opposition but at a pace that the defender has time to recover. The same trickery performed at pace however can be murderous and extremely incisive.

Ivan in action

From the little footage I have been able to observe of Ivan Sproule he also possesses an even more unique skill than one to run like the wind, that of direct running, now this IS a rare commodity in today’s game and for me will be, if anything, the pivotal ability that projects Ivan into a hugely successful career. We think back to players like Paul Gascoigne and Stan Collymore who I had the pleasure of watching a few times. These players were dynamic for many reasons but the primary one was that they ran directly at defenders. Try and find a defender that enjoys being tested in this way – they’re rare indeed. What’s more, it’s terrific for us fans to watch, opening up the game and dictating the tempo the way it does. Note again however the two temperamental individuals concerned here. A psychologist’s conundrum the pair of them.

The next stage for the young Irish forward will be in actually establishing himself in the first team! In all the excitement, perhaps some of us are forgetting that his recent deeds have all been as a substitute. Sometimes it’s difficult for a substitute to come on to the field and contribute meaningfully during the hurly-burly of the game, at other times the stage is set for a Sproule to dictate the outcome – just as he did so devastatingly at Ibrox recently. I’m sure the issue of a regular peg in the first team dressing room is the only one in Ivan Sproule’s mind at the moment, encouraged by manager Tony Mowbray.

Time will tell if Ivan Sproule will be a five-minute wonder. My considered opinion is that he will succeed as a good honest pro. For one reason, he has a hunger for the game, he plays as though he’s in the last chance saloon to impress, perhaps indeed he is as a player coming into the professional game at a mature age. In the meanwhile Hibernian will hopefully reap the benefit.

Hibs: Where now?

WELL, THE AFTERMATH of a tragic Scottish Cup Final display smolders on with many disaffected fans and anger raging in many supporters about the way things transpired in the national stadium – a one-sided capitulation so rarely seen.

I’ll begin if I may by commenting on the Final tie – my take on events. The first thing I need to say is that after the build-up to the game which included some fine support by the Hibees’ faithful, many players in green and white completely froze on the day. This was always going to be the main problem – keeping the players focused on doing their job and performing to the best of their abilities in the game. Sadly, the occasion appeared to negatively affect too many players who just couldn’t handle the enormity of the situation and therefore provided little on the day, giving a very poor account of themselves.


Controversy at the final whistle

It needs also to be recorded – and those who know me would confirm that I’m very rarely critical of referees and officials in general – that the ‘small world’ of Scottish football and appointment of Craig Thomson as the man in the middle severely disadvantaged Hibs. Mr Thomson as we know has professed ‘tendencies’ toward our opposition on the day.

Let’s be kind – and this is hard – and say there was no outright bias by Thomson during those ninety minutes, it must still be said though that for some reason at least two pivotal decisions by the man in black were completely inexplicable – let alone forgivable from a Hibs perspective. With the game still in its relative infancy, the opposition midfielder, Black, a combative but narky, snarling little player felled Hibs’ Griffiths with a cowardly challenge from behind featuring an elbow to the man in green’s head which completely felled the player. Thomson duly took Black to one side for what was easily arguable as a red card and after a long lecture did…absolutely nothing – effectively offering Black the opportunity to run around with impunity like a rabid dog for the rest of the game.

After trailing by a couple of goals early in the game and looking a little dead in the water, Hibs staged something of a comeback with a goal which took them into the break with all to play for – ‘next goal’s the winner’ as they say. History records that within seconds of the restart the game was over as Thomson called a penalty against Hibs from a challenge by Kujabi on Suso several feet outside the area. The forward managed to spectacularly dive those final few feet into a sprawling heap in the penalty area and Thomson needed little more to blow for a spot kick and order the Hibs full back off the field.


The game barely into the second half – Hibs 3-1 down and reduced to ten men – there was little way back as the game descended into a training session look-alike of a non-event.

Enough, what of the future then?

Perusing the Hibs forums I see amongst the anger and despair that some people are optimistic regarding the coming season. This I find remarkable considering the season the club has just had, following several other poor seasons of late. I personally like to keep a half-full glass wherever possible concerning Hibs but I’m afraid I cannot share that optimism and see little reason for it apart from blind faith, wishing and hoping.

The club requires a complete overhaul at playing level and a large influx of new players with a hunger to do well, look after themselves like athletes and help the club move away from an apparent very poor culture behind the scenes. One factor that may help in this gargantuan if not impossible task is that manager Fenlon should have a few more resources available, pulled in from Hibs’ cup run and extra renewal of season tickets as a direct consequence of it. I still don’t feel this will be enough however.

I have yet to be convinced about Pat Fenlon. In some ways, for example his strong work ethic, single-mindedness and honesty he is laudable. In other respects such as tactics, team selections and substitutions he has been found wanting and made many mistakes. He has also been almost totally unable to inspire and galvanise the players at his disposal and I have a fear that his players do not necessarily hold him in the greatest respect. This, in fairness, must partly be laid at the players’ door. I feel the task at Hibs is somewhat beyond him but I want to record that I honestly and truthfully hope that he proves me wrong. He needs a further chance to show what he can do.

A disgruntled Pat Fenlon addresses the media at East Mains yesterday

Pensive – Pat Fenlon

I saw the last Hibs managerial opening as a time when the club could state it’s intent and ambition. What was sorely needed was a ‘big’ confident personality to walk into the club and spread a little daylight and fresh air into what had become a fetid atmosphere. Delivered to the club instead by the club’s fathers was a man who was largely unknown – albeit a success in his own football world in Ireland – but yet again the ‘wrong’ type of manager for Hibs in my humble opinion.

This brings me onto the thorny subject of the ownership of the club and the men placed in charge. It has been customary for more than two decades to place Sir Tom Farmer on a pedestal for ‘saving’ Hibs in those dark days when our club almost vanished forever. This was over twenty years ago however – how much longer are Hibs fans supposed to feel grateful for merely surviving? I’m of the lobby that believes Sir Tom has done his own business prospects little harm – quite the contrary –  whilst holding the stewardship of Hibernian Football Club, not that I see a problem with that. I don’t necessarily go with the notion that the club is all that ‘available’ for sale. A man of Sir Tom Farmer’s huge business acumen could sell this club if he had a wish to, I believe. Mr Farmer is known as a benevolent man in some circles, my heartfelt request to him would be to at long last invest some of his vast wealth into Hibs. I’m a realist however and don’t see that happening.

 image   image

CEO Petrie and Sir Tom Farmer

This finally brings me on to the subject of Sir Tom Farmer’s trusty lieutenant, CEO Rod Petrie. I have never seen eye-to-eye with Mr. Petrie’s ‘vision’ for Hibs. It’s a fairly miserable bean counter’s attitude which has seen the fans long-suffering. We all understand the need for financial prudence – especially in these tough times – but this penny-pinching policy appears hardly ever to be relaxed. Others will argue that point and that’s fair enough as it’s all about opinions but I still feel that Hibs are often beaten back in their pursuit of good players by a flat refusal to push the boat out just a little, whatever the financial dictates of the era are. Time and again Hibs are too cautious and it has resulted in a blandness about the club which does not reflect a colourful, imaginative and oft romantic support This is one of the many reasons I have little optimism for Hibs in the near future. Sights are set too low and sadly, it has to be said, some fans’ expectations have fallen into line with that over the years. Hibs are truly a club that underperforms consistently and attitudes amongst all need to be seriously challenged.

Until that time, I’ll keep supporting Hibs as I’ve always done – hoping for the best – fearing the worst.

‘Glory Glory to the HIbee’ – at long last please?

Choose Hibs: Choose for Life

It was with great pleasure that I was able to contribute the following article for the return of the Hibernian FC fanzine, Mass Hibsteria, specially produced for the historic 2012 Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Hearts. History records that the quest for the Scottish Cup remains after defeat in the Final on May 19, 2012; I wouldn’t change a single word of the below however, the words and feeling are but magnified. And so it remains…

As I sit here and write with an MHHM deadline looming – a deadline I thought I’d never witness again – I’m attempting to comprehend the enormity of the historic occasion that approaches. The unimaginable has happened and we are (somewhat improbably) pitched against our oldest and most bitter rivals at Hampden Park in search of the Holy Grail of the Scottish Cup. You really ‘couldn’t make it up’ as they say.

The second semi-final day was a curious affair for me as I’d disappeared for the day out for a country walk, convinced that Celtic would do the needful and go on to meet Hibs in the final. I really should have known that an all-Edinburgh final was in the stars and the deeply emotional feelings that washed over me as I returned home to go online and find out the result will live with me forever.

As the planets slowly but surely move into line for this momentous occasion – probably the most important Hibs game of most of our lives – I’m drawn to thinking about a lifetime that led me up to this point of following Hibs. I’m sure it too is a pivotal moment in the thoughts of many other Hibees who are kind enough to read this.

There were hushed tones in the quiet Musselburgh household that early winter Saturday evening. The men of the house were holding what seemed like another post-mortem. I vaguely understood it was about football and football meant Hibs. All I knew at that young age was that the colours were green and white and that it was something our family ‘did’ – without question. School days were fresh and as a little time went on, and after a barrage of pleading, I was taken to Easter Road for the very first time by my dad. Memories of the game are few but some of the sights and sounds are etched into my soul. Walking part of the way from our town, stopping to view the dry dock with the little boats lying on their side and eventually turning the corner into what will always be to me the ‘heavenly boulevard’ of Easter Road. The lines of neat yet austere tenements seeming to draw us ever nearer to the source of the excitement beyond our view. An intricacy of smaller streets and my dad and I were inside this awe-inspiring place, inhabited by members of our family for generations. A small boy, I was in turns astounded, frightened and full of wonder at what surrounded me. A huge crowd, an even larger imposing terrace and a crackling of noise and anticipation filled my eyes and ears. We steadily picked our way to near the very top, me probably with my mouth open all the way. The smell of cigarettes, the laughter and banter, the tones of a distinctive dialect that is still in my head, wherever I may be.


A view of the old Easter Road stadium with the huge East Terracing to the left of the picture

Giddily peering down at the emerald green sward, yes, from my daddy’s brawny shoulders, I saw this phenomenon and cornerstone of my life for the very first time as the Hibernian players ran out to a huge cheer. There was never any going back. ‘This is what our family do son and this is where you belong’. The men in the beautiful green shirts with their smart white sleeves weaved their pretty patterns for us and I watched, enthralled.

Time moved on and so did our family, to the country of my mother’s birth. I was uploaded onto maternal uncles in a bid to quench my new-found thirst for football at the two Nottingham grounds. The men from the City Ground were exactly ninety places above Notts County who were in their annual bid to avoid the re-election process at the bottom end of the Football League. This family favoured the Magpies, the glamour club of the previous decade, the 1950s and imperious and idolised England spearhead Tommy Lawton but I was nonetheless introduced to both the red and the black and white sides of the Trent.

Something wasn’t quite right with my football world though.

Great excitement was forming on the south side of the River Trent and a dashing, brave and lightening quick centre forward was plying his trade in the Garibaldi Red number nine jersey. Former Hibs forward Joe Baker was leading the charge for the old First Division Championship for the provincial club against the might of Manchester United’s Best, Law and Charlton. History tells us that ‘The Baker Boy’ and his teammates or ‘Zigger Zagger’ as he was fondly known in Nottingham, narrowly failed in their quest. I didn’t care however; I had my own personal Hibs Hero playing just five miles away from our front door and I adored him. I still do.

Visits to the family ‘back home’ would be frequent and it was at these times I began to understand what I missed. A sunny early autumn stay back in Portobello, ‘Good Day Sunshine’ by The Beatles playing thinly on a nearby transistor radio and days back playing on the beach until the water finally, inexorably rolled in again for the day.

Then, inevitably, back to Nottingham.

It seems a little forlorn these days to say but my main contact in keeping Hibs and in some ways Scotland, alive in my life was through The Sunday Post which was not available in our local paper shop until Monday lunchtime when I would be sent to collect it. It perhaps appears a little funny to say in 2012 but I’d read it back to front and back again, devouring the pages word for word. Of course the sports pages always came first and the report on the Hibs game was the pinnacle of that.

It was all Stanton almost every week. The writers talked in wonder at his authoritative, composed and brilliant displays week in and week out. I almost knew what Jack Harkness et al. were going to say about him, along with their archaic prose of ‘onion bag’s and ‘stramashes’. I loved it. I also counted myself very fortunate to be taken to see the great man and his fabulous and exhilarating team on many, many occasions during our visits. If you’re asking me by the way, out of the many, I’d say Sodjer…

Pat Stanton

Darker days came along after the days of the Tornados, only punctuated by the incredible signing of Georgie Best who put the beautiful team in my heart firmly in the headlines in England. We all know the well-documented ups and downs of the Belfast Boy’s chequered time in Leith but just to say ‘thanks for the memories’ Georgie. I’m so glad you were one of us for a little while.

Life, relationships and jobs caught up with me, my parents passed on but still my deep feelings for Hibs and the family tradition endured, personally, privately. A grown man, I’d walk home on the dark nights after an evening out with friends quietly singing the old Hibs songs I knew to no one and sometimes in my head. In time, the younger team came along with a flow of ebullience, headed by the brash and confident talent of a young Johnny Collins. Stays back home ‘up the town’ by this time were punctuated by visits to Easter Road. In fact they were planned around them if truth be told.

A lull presented itself and the man who delivered me from the doldrums was Franck Sauzee. On first sight I really couldn’t take my eyes off the dominating quality of the great Frenchman who strolled around in the green and white adorned with a pair of black gloves, pinging 60-yard passes onto teammates’ toes. Thank you Franck, you brought me back from the wilderness.

Hibernian warrior: the iconic Pat Stanton

Of course by now the internet was making huge inroads into my relationship with Hibs. As a distant fan I could now keep much more in touch with my team and the people who surrounded it. First internet search: ‘Hibs’. First attempted download: a Hibs goal (which I gave up on after 45 minutes!) much more than this though it gave me some of the best friends of my life, back home as my relationship with Edinburgh happily travelled full circle, back into the fold of my own people.

As I sit here and write, my most recent emotions were over friends trying their very best to find me a gold dust ticket for our date with destiny on May 19th. Having all but given up any hope I was resigned to coming back to Edinburgh and travelling through to Hampden with the idea of standing listening from outside the stadium’s walls. I just wanted to be near Hibs at that time – ‘where I belong’. I know that my late father would have understood. He’s in these pages, with his dad too. They’ll be at Hampden.

A few days ago I received a message that brought completely unexpected news – I am to be there to witness the big day. A dear friend gained me that precious ticket to be with my team in their greatest hour. I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two. ‘My tears are drying’ though thank you, thank you – beauty and kindness. I’d like to also thank all my friends back home for just being there and an especial thank you to the MHHM team for their hard work and vision in providing this opportunity for a few of us ordinary fans to express ourselves. The hour approaches. To my fellow Hibernians – ‘I will be with you’.

I’ll end by repeating something I wrote a few years ago. It still holds true and always will.

‘It still remains a love like no other. I can’t ever imagine Hibs not being a cornerstone of everything I stand for and come from’.

See you at Hampden.

God bless the Hibs.

Hibs: Going home

It’s the day before catching the train back to Edinburgh for the Scottish Cup Final between Hibs and Hearts. I’m putting a few things in a bag – or trying to – I’ve been so distracted all week and hardly able to concentrate on anything bar this momentous occasion.

After a lifetime of following Hibs, this is the most important game of them all. It’s a mixture of emotions, pride, tension, joy, fear and everything in-between. To my friends: ‘Good luck’. To my ancestors: ‘You walk with me’.

I’m on my way.

God Bless the Hibs.


Have a few Hibs Heroes.

Gordon Bobby Lawrie










Hibernian appoint Colin Calderwood

It’s taken a little time in happening, as we knew it would, but Hibernian have finally settled on a new man at the helm to replace former boss, John Hughes. The usual cloak and dagger juncture that we anticipate from Easter Road in these circumstances has been a feature of the operation with few fans or media correctly guessing at Calderwood, at least until the very last day or so.

These times are always interesting of course and we are told that as many as 105 individuals have applied for a job which some see as something of a poisoned chalice of late. It is unfortunate to see that Easter Road has, like many other clubs, become something of a graveyard for managers in the past few seasons. Since the relatively successful and hugely entertaining tenure of Tony Mowbray, Chairman Rod Petrie has presided over the rapid passing of former Hibs stalwarts John Collins who walked out, Mixu Patalainen and John Hughes. Searching questions have been asked of Petrie, his board and their selection process which has allowed this state of affairs to occur. I for one am still questioning that process and the confines with which the men in charge at The Holy Ground impose upon it.

For many months Hibs have been a shambles on the pitch, in stark contrast to the fantastic advances in the infrastructure of the club. Of the latter, the superb new East Stand and outstanding training centre development at East Mains indicate striking progress for the club and I would be one of the first to agree how important these projects were for Hibernian FC’s future and to give credit.

Hibs are not a rich club by any means but financial prudence has allowed these developments to happen. It will be said in fairness that the bank balance in Leith is far healthier than probably most professional clubs in the UK. For a club with the modest attendance figures of the men from the Capital that is certainly a great achievement, but at what price?

There has to be balance and I feel that the club have not achieved this. For several years the fans have had to stand and watch many, many excellent players being sold off. This in isolation is not the fault of the board as modern footballers have a lot more say about where they ply their trade and Hibs cannot necessarily afford to pay them the salary they can demand elsewhere due to the fiscal framework at Easter Road. A more relevant criticism for me is that none or very little of the funds raised from selling excellent player after excellent player appear to be redirected back towards acquiring new quality replacements to the squad.

The same thinking appears to be prevalent when choosing and dealing with new managers. Let’s make no mistake, this position is absolutely pivotal to any football club, it’s the most important individual the club has and I don’t feel that Hibs appear to recognise this judging by their various managerial appointments. There is no significant investment in an individual that could potentially drag the club out of the reach of the rest of the also-rans of Scottish football. It would take bravery, boldness and imaginative thinking for that to happen and the sad thing is that the very innovatory influences the club has been famed for through its 135-year history no longer exist. Rod Petrie is an inveterate accountant and whilst his three-column approach to running a football club is admirable in some ways, his occupancy at Easter Road is not characterised by imagination or calculated risk-taking. His leadership is that of an artisan, not an artist, a Roundhead, not a Cavalier. Make your own mind up which is the better ‘fit’ in Leith.

Two managers ago, I felt Hibernian fell lucky in appointing John Collins, the former classy and dedicated Scotland midfielder. Collins splits opinion amongst fans radically with the chief criticism being of his mediocre signings. My answer to that is that again, millions of pounds worth of talent was sold from under him. Fair enough, it had to be, but it’s apparent that peanuts were given back to him to replace those players and guess what? The inevitable happened in spite of Collins insistence on discipline, dedication and trying to play the game the way it should be played. His forward thinking ideas were diamonds in a rough sea of mediocrity. The well-documented player revolt against his methods was seen to be most feebly backed by the board and Collins, realising he was kicking against the sticks at Easter Road gave in to the small-minded and penny-pinching thinking at the club and unexpectedly walked. A sad day in my view and a real opportunity lost.


Former Hibs boss, John Collins and Chairman, Rod Petrie

I digress but these events lead us to here via the generally poor eras under Paatelainen and Hughes. No doubt, two more ‘bargain basement’ signings but nevertheless easy to appease the fans with due to their past Hibs associations. On October 19, Season 2010/11, former Northampton and Nottingham Forest manager and Newcastle number two, Colin Calderwood has appeared abruptly over the horizon and into a 5.15pm press conference in which Petrie is, as usual, routinely and proudly introducing his new man, extolling his virtues and generally looking very pleased with himself. I’m not happy though, not in the least. Continue reading “Hibernian appoint Colin Calderwood”

Hibs: We need patience

Well tomorrow is the date for Hibs’ latest foray into Europe to end or alternatively continue in a blaze of glory. With a first leg deficit of three goals, for me it’s extremely unlikely that it will be the latter. I like to try and be optimistic but i feel this is a challenge beyond the men from Easter Road’s reach. Already many are calling for an ‘up and at

‘em’ type display in tomorrow night’s second leg but I’m not so sure. I feel I’ve seen this type of attitude on many an occasion previously and doubt it’s worth, romantic though it sounds.

It’s clear that Hibs need to play with a lot of drive, passion, determination and tempo to give them any chance at all but I sometimes think that the ‘throwing the kitchen sink at them’ approach is outdated and limited. Many times I have seen Hibs, other Scottish sides and in particular the Scottish national side adopt this and ultimately fail. It’s fine whipping players into a near-frenzy before they step out onto the pitch, and Scottish football is particularly adept at employing this tactic, but rarely does it seem to me that this momentum can be retained throughout a game. In the case in point here, if the ‘early goal’ that people say is crucial to Hibs doesn’t materialise, heaven forbid the opposition score on a breakaway, then it can be difficult to find a Plan B from there, when the wind has been taken out of the sails and the early huffing and puffing has subsided.

I’m just wondering if a more measured approach would be more appropriate. For Hibs to play their football, keep the ball and build up some momentum and pressure. I think too much emphasis as has been placed on the ‘early goal’ could actually serve to frustrate the players and distract them from their game if it doesn’t happen. I’m quite sure the NK Maribor boss will have drummed it into his players not to concede a goal early and that this will be their first major objective of the night. Hibs have ninety minutes to score three times and take this tie further. They’re going to need a little patience in order to surmount this huge task facing them on Thursday night.

Good luck to the men in green jerseys. We’re going to need it.

Hibs: Time for Change

I’ve only been able to see spits and spats of Hibs’ new campaign on the Internet so far but when I see some of the appraisals of the situation by people’s who’s opinion I respect, then I know something is gravely wrong.

Leaving the NK Maribor European tie aside for a moment, what we look for from pre-season games is performance and promise. We understand that players are not fully match-fit (that goes for both sides of course!) and whilst it’s always good to attain the winning habit in every game its understood that how the team plays is of prior importance. It’s clear that the team are in some disarray though and look extremely likely to carry this form into the opening games of the season. This leaves me very concerned about season 2010/2011.

I’m not normally a person that believes in chopping and changing managers for a ‘quick fix’. I think that can be quite counter-productive, but I think we have an exceptional situation here. In Hughes defence he has had little time to move things his way but I have to say the portents are not good. His is the type of nosedive that very few managers climb out of.

When John Hughes came to Hibernian I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the appointment. He was a popular choice with many fans though and looked a reasonable choice. Things progressed quickly and this lead me to bite my tongue on former reservations about him. Fair play to the man. Since that time however I think he has shown that his appointment was a huge mistake. He learns nothing from his previous mistakes and is stubborn in the extreme. Initially I warmed to his talk of his ‘vision’ and began to think he had good and progressive thoughts about the game. Actions speak louder than words however and I think his very regular and increasingly embarrassing sound bites in the media do not disguise the fact that he is basically clueless when it comes to managing a club like Hibs. He is out of his depth.

In some ways, we the Hibernian fans take our part in his appointment – as in two or three other ex-Hibby appointments in the past few years. There was a wave of enthusiasm to get those individuals back in the fold. Unfortunately it has been seen time and again that it is not a successful policy. Conversely, the unknown Mowbray was relatively successful and this tells us something.

Hibernian FC in 2010 is in most ways a thriving football club. A rarity in modern football. The club is financially sound, has an enviable training facility and the near completion of an impressive new stadium. I do feel that the same ambition is nearly always lacking where managerial appointments are concerned. The club need to spend serious money on getting the right individual – whoever that may be. Bringing in a popular former favourite is a cheap option it seems to me. I’d like the board to show the same ambition and forward thinking that they have in some other areas of the club.

On a final and familiar note I was dismayed to see our forty-goal strike partnership of Riordan and Stokes confined to the bench last week in Slovenia. that was the final straw for me. We can argue about tactics and formations ad infinitum but leaving those guys out in that game was ludicrous and baffling. I think the Maribor coach’s reaction best confirms that. The game is simply all about having the best players and they are two of our best and most effective. I’m sorry to say that I hope its now the last straw for John Hughes’ time at Easter Road.

Hibs: The State of Play

Dundee United 1 Hibernian 0

‘Our bubble is well and truly burst’

‘The Jambos and Dundee Utd. have much more character than us’

‘9 out of 10 for talking the talk, but you’re definitely on a downward spiral trying to walk the walk’ (of Manager John Hughes)

‘We are softer than a marshmallow’

‘No bottle No desire No belief No winning mentality No winners in the team’

‘If Derek Riordan isn’t dropped for the next game, I’ll begin to question Yogi’s sanity as a manager, as he was the laziest, gutless b*****d on the park today’

‘I’ve often suspected that Zemmama was a bit of a malingerer’

The above are just a few of the comments I picked up on the Internet after Hibernian’s 1-0 defeat at rivals Dundee United yesterday. It should be said that others held a more pragmatic view of the current state of Hibs however and that these were the angry remarks of post-game supporters. The game was a genuine four-pointer that’s for sure. To compound the disappointment, an opportunity to gain gain ground on Celtic who dropped two points at home to Falkirk was lost.

Continue reading “Hibs: The State of Play”

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 it’s early inception. The club’s name is most usually abbreviated to ‘Hibs’ by fans and media alike. The club sports an impressive 17,500 seat facility in Easter Road Stadium where they play their home games.

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 it’s 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. Further regular literary mentions also abound in Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus stories in which his assistant 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 green and white phenomenon since its inception? Let’s take a leisurely and enjoyable stroll the through the history book to find out a little more about its rich past. Continue reading “A Short History of Hibernian Football Club”

Hibs: Oh, Zemmama!

AS THE DUST settles on a typical Edinburgh derby game, I couldn’t help but notice how ineffective little Moroccan midfielder, Merouane Zemmamma was. The clever and inventive link man seemed totally unsuited to the fray of a blood and guts derby encounter and at times looked little more than a passenger.

I’m normally happy to field such a player as him in the side. He’s a schemer who can unlock a defence with a clever, insightful pass or a piece of trickery on the ball. Heaven knows there are few enough of those kinds of player around these days – especially on Hibs’ budget In these times of ever more common squad rotation at football clubs I’m more than beginning to wonder if there is not a very good case for leaving him out for these occasions.

Perhaps the return of  Kevin McBride, a sturdy, dependable and organised player, alongside him will make a difference, I’m not sure. The way things stand I’ll go against my normal ‘purist’ view and state that I really think Hibs would be better served with a good, honest grafter in his place for derby games, a player who’s not afraid to get under a few people and challenge heartily for every loose ball. Zemmamma can slot neatly back into his midfield berth when the game indicates a more favourable situation for his undoubted skills.

Hibernian Football Club: The Easter Road Tour

On a delightfully warm June day a few months ago, I had the good fortune to do something that had been on my mind for some time now, whilst back on one of my many sojourns to Edinburgh. How many wonderful days and night’s have I spent in Hibernian FC’s new and old stadium watching those bright emerald green jerseys with the white sleeves, yet never ventured much beyond the stands for that couple of hours spent supporting my team from boyhood?

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In truth, that’s not strictly accurate. Way back in 1978, whilst visiting with a friend, I wandered into the very different ‘ER’ of the day and was kindly taken on an impromptu tour by the then groundsman. My memories of that include an explanation of how the recent ban on alcohol in Scottish football had cleared the Easter Road match day aftermath of two skips full of empty bottles and cans. They also extend to a little tour through the players changing rooms and observing the Hibs youth team playing out a five-a-side training game. This tour was entirely due to one man’s hospitality but now things are a little different.

As you can see, a peek behind the scenes at the ‘new’ Easter Road was well overdue. With that I mind I was very happy to have my phone booking accepted for myself and my partner’s father, visiting from Canada, by the friendly and helpful club staff that June morning. A couple of hours later and we duly arrived to fulfil our booking and were ushered through to the man reception area where a group of people were already gathering for the Easter Road experience.

I was glad and happy to re-make the acquaintance of a friendly face in the tour guide Bill Bryson, something of an old Hibee friend by the good grace of the Internet. As we sat down for Billy to offer us his wide knowledge and intriguing stories about the club and its residence, it felt great to be ‘home’.


Of course the whole of the West Stand in which we sat was completely rebuilt and refurbished within the past decade. Space abounds in this new and modern facility and there was an airy atmosphere of potential for the numerous yet-to-used areas of this excellent resource. This is for the future however and we were there largely for history and plenty of it. Our friendly tour guide, Billy, did not disappoint in this respect. Continue reading “Hibernian Football Club: The Easter Road Tour”

Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (3)

Today: The third and final part of the trilogy attempting to compare and contrast Hibs’ lauded team of the 1970s’ with a selection of all-stars from the decades since. The respective managers take a hand too – one that is more than a little influential!

Striker: Jimmy O’Rourke (9) v Steve Archibald (9)

Jimmy is many people’s favourite Hibee and it’s not hard to fathom why. There was a certain spell when he couldn’t seem to stop scoring hat-tricks though a certain Edward Turnbullimage at times seemed blind to these deeds. Jimmy O’Rourke was a predatory natural scorer and with him buzzing around up front…well anything was likely to happen.

Stevie Archibald came along to a few fanfares direct from Barcelona and was maybe one of the most outright classy players I’ve witnessed in the green and white. Slightly imperious and dismissive of attitude at times, one had to accept this of ‘Archiegoals’ has he was a player who knew his own worth! He came along in an interesting time at Hibs when a few headline-making signings were being committed to the Hibs cause. It didn’t last but it was a heck of a good watch while it lasted.

Striker: Alan Gordon (9) v Keith Wright (8)

Alan Gordon was an intelligent footballer as his manager famously noted and was also a pleasure to watch the way he fulfilled his striker’s role. Like so many players under the spotlight here, it was difficult to hurry Gordon in to a move he didn’t want to make. His play was based around the way he wanted to play and let go the kind of shot or pass that he determined was the right one at the right time. At times it appeared somewhat languid. Alan Gordon was certainly one of those players who had the uncanny ability to be able to ‘hang’ in the air when rising for a header in the box. Of course we all know that this ability is all about split-second timing and it’s perhaps this that gave the Tornadoes striker such a feared reputation as an aerial threat.

Continue reading “Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (3)”

Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (2)

Continuing with the quest to compare the great Turnbull’s Tornadoes team with an XI selected from players gracing the green and white of Hibernian FC since those halcyon days. Today I look at the midfield contenders with some classic match-ups and confrontations derived from the last four decades.

Right midfield: Alex Edwards (9) v Des Bremner (9

Another complete contrast in styles but operating in the same area of the field. Alex Edwards was all about creativity and displayed a near-genius for spraying the ball around to his teammates all over the field. Sometimes accentuated and occasionally hindered by his naturally abrasive imagecharacter, opponents would often key on this strength/weakness in Alex’s game. With a man like Alex around though something was always happening – usually another penetrating attack set off by one of his sublime passes.

I’ve gone back almost to Tornadoes days to delve and find a worthy competitor in this area of the team and it’s the superb Des Bremer who has been pulled out of the hat. Perhaps Des’ greatest moments were with Aston Villa in winning the League and the European Cup but he was a great and consistent performer at Easter Road. Des’ trademarks were his surging, driving runs down the right wing and his tireless tracking back and work ethic on behalf of the team. Perhaps one of those types of players who tends to be a little overlooked by more showy performers, it’s no surprise to me that Aston Villa manager, Ron Saunders saw him as the man to tend his great Villa team’s right flank through their successful years. You knew what you got with Des Bremner. What’s more you’d get it every week too.

Continue reading “Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (2)”

Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (1)

It’s the eternal football argument – comparing the best of yesterday with the best of today. Along with the glittering and famed ‘Famous Five’ side, Eddie Turnbull’s famed ‘Tornadoes’ were arguably Hibs’ greatest XI. Can more recent players compare? In the first of three articles I examine and compare players since that time, man for man, with Eddie Turnbull’s exceptional side

Many of us long-time Hibs supporters enjoy a nice stroll down memory lane, recounting tales and waxing lyrical about Hibs’ superb, fluently talented team of the 1970s’, ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’. I often wonder how the younger generation feel about this, and consider how their own heroes would stand up to scrutiny and comparison with that much-lauded team. In fairness it cimagean be a little galling hearing time and again about a ‘great’ team from a previous generation – especially when one considers how much football has changed over the decades. It’s perhaps important in the case of this debate to remember the argument that, in spite of seemingly limitless talent, the Tornadoes achieved relatively little by way of silverware in that very entertaining era. A contributory reason for that is the fact that they operated at a time coincidental with one of the great sides in Scottish football of all time, Jock Stein’s Celtic.

So how do the Hibees of more modern generations compare? It’s tempting to say ‘not too well’. I must of course firstly admit to my personal bias towards Eddie Turnbull’s magnificent team. I was ‘that age’ in their heyday – an age when footballers seemed like gods. I hope to however select a team here that would provide a stiff challenge to those talented men in green. It’s an eleven selected from every team since those halcyon days of the 1970s’ and I happen to think would provide one heck of a football match.

The teams are formed into a 4-4-2 formation and whilst I’ve attempted to match individual for individual, that’s of course not always a fair or apt comparison. Bear with me though as we take an enjoyable and fun tour through the skills of some of the greatest modern-day Hibs players. Undoubtedly Hibs fans out there will have their own opinions on this one – I welcome your views!

Continue reading “Hibernian: A team to match The Tornadoes (1)”

Hibernian: The John Hughes Revolution

Well October is already well-aired and it seems such a while since I saw the Hibs play. When I say ‘play’ I mean in the flesh – actually watching from the seats at good old Easter Road or elsewhere. Watching on the television – and these days via the Internet, while a handy substitute, does not really cut it for me personally. I’d rather watch one live game than twenty on a screen.

It’s been a summer of revision of course. Erstwhile hero and former manager Mixu Paatelainen has left the club to be replaced by John ‘Yogi’ Hughes and big John has brought with him from his years at Falkirk, a rather large new broom to the club.


I have to confess that in the past, John was never a man I would have chosen to run the team I love. There were things I appreciated about his style sure, but I was quite a fan of the perhaps more sophisticated approach of John Collins, though I’m certain there will be many dissenters with that view. The point is that I hoped for a similar ‘modern’ manager at the helm and John Hughes with his apparent, rough around the edges approach to the beautiful game and life in general didn’t seem to fit my criteria.

Continue reading “Hibernian: The John Hughes Revolution”

Hibernian: Ten of The Best

I recently set my mind to the question as to who are the ten greatest Hibs players of all time. What a difficult job that is over 130 years-plus of history but here are the selections I came up with. In fairness to those great players that played in an era before mine, I’ve picked one or two on repute and and based those choices on reading, research and repute.

Ten nominations:

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Joe Baker
My personal Hibs Hero. Along with Lawrie a toss-up for the best Hibs striker of them all. Joe was world-class, make no mistake. Lightening-fast, a cannonball shot with both feet and a superb header of the ball in spite of his modest height. A feisty attitude on the pitch also made this man the complete centre-forward. A great man off the pitch to boot.

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Patrick Gordon Stanton
What more can one say about this man? A wonderful athlete and a player who had that gift of being unhurried and extremely composed on the ball. The perfect footballer

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James Dunn
A forgotten Hibs hero but surely one of the greatest of them all. Jimmy was an inside-forward for the great ‘Wembley Wizards’ and vastly talented as a big money move to Everton will testify. Noted as something of a ‘clown prince’ of his time and a great entertainer with his intricate ball skills. Continue reading “Hibernian: Ten of The Best”