And I find myself in the ‘wrong’ place at the top of the year. In truth, I wrestled with the idea of going home to Edinburgh for the celebrations but didn’t feel quite up to things emotionally after a difficult time this year and so chose a quiet, sometimes solitary time in Nottingham. I knew I’d have some regrets about this but didn’t know what else to do really. I hope for better times, times when I can truly enjoy myself with my many faithful pals in Edinburgh, in better condition to give a bit back to the people in particular who I’ve become very close to over the years.
I’ll miss my buddy and his partner’s house, the chat, the banter and laughs, I’ll very much miss my ‘little sis’, the People’s Republic of Leith, roaming down the shore. I can only think about past times at Easter Road for the moment and my dear home place of Musselburgh. Portobello’s esplanade and a run into the sea breeze along there lies in my imagination at the moment. A brisk stroll down Princes Street and a meander up the old town will have to wait.
There’s an Edinburgh derby game going on with my beloved Hibs taking on ‘them’ from across the city. Friends will be there and win, lose or draw it will all result in a blurry, long post-match amongst a gang of old mates and new. We are all one.
Not for me this year the Edinburgh Street Party celebrations nor a stool at the bar of the beautiful Cafe Royal or negotiating the revolving doors of the Guildford Arms and warm welcome of many other hostelries I’ve inhabited for so many years. There will be no house parties. It’s what I appeared to choose. All I could do.
People are not here now, things have changed and in their place just memories remain.
There’s no sorrow though in knowing that I will be back, hopefully in better fettle, not feeling weighed down by a ton of emotion laced with grief. Ready to move forwards again. I know those friends and that beautiful city will still be there.
As I write it’s too early for New Year’s wishes but my thoughts are with you all.
Here’s to a better 2015 and a hope that surviving will turn into flourishing and steady growth.
This is an article reproduced from my contribution the the www.hibs.net series Quote/Unquote. The series began as a collection of short interviews with famous Hibs fans in the public eye and is now continuing by gathering contributions from those of us who use the site and it’s forums to chat and exchange views about the team we love.
It’s a great and long-established site, one that I take a great pleasure in adding a small contribution to. I’ve had a lot of fun and interest there over the years. More importantly I’ve made some wonderful friends.
1) OK, before we start, it’s our round, what would you like to drink?
I’d like a very large Peroni please, thank you kindly! Generally I like the lighter beers such as Italian brews and Sol – that type of thing.
2) What is your first memory of Hibs?
Seeing dad head off to the games from Musselburgh. It wasn’t very long before I was joining him! For some reason a green and white rosette he used to wear sticks in my memory (and his grumpy mood when he came back if we’d lost!)
3) Can you remember the first game you attended?
Yes and no. I remember the first time I went but not who it was against. Dad and I walked part of the way from Musselburgh and I remember vividly walking by the docks at Leith and sitting watching the boats. Of course, like many others, my ‘Christening’ was up on the old huge terrace and what an experience that was for a youngster. The players seemed tiny from up there but the atmosphere was terrific and probably one of the big reasons I became a died-in-the-wool Hibby. I was truly one of those five-year olds ‘sitting high up on daddy’s shoulders’.
4) Who is your favourite player ever?
For Hibs it was always Joe Baker, though in unusual circumstances. I wasn’t of age to see Joe at his magnificent, dynamic and electric best in his original days at Easter Road but with my family moving to here in Nottingham not only was I brought up on tales of his exploits but was also able to witness them first-hand at the City Ground in Nottingham in the 1960s’. He had a quite an effect on me as a youngster as he did everyone who watched him I think.
I do have a non-Hibs player who is definitely my all-time football hero. A player not unlike Joe Baker in some respects in Denis Law. What a forward pairing they must have made at Torino!
5) Who is your favourite current player?
I always go for highly skilled players and until very recent times I was a big fan of Beuzelin who I thought was a tremendous and very classy footballer. Of the current team I’d have to go for Derek Riordan. He’s so atypical of what Scottish football is about these days, having a lovely soft touch on the ball. He strikes a ball with either foot better than most too. Marry these skills with a predatory instinct around the box and you have the sort of player I would pay my admission fee to watch anytime.
6) Favourite game attended?
Not that long ago! It was March 18 two years ago at Hampden Park to watch the Green Jerseys bring home the CIS Cup. I’ve never been in such a great atmosphere at any Hibs game ever. All around me grown men were weeping, me included. It was incredibly emotional and was just one of those days that served to repay so much of the hurt over the years for past failures. On a special note I was thinking about my auld fellah a lot that day and I have realised since then that many other fans had similar thoughts and emotions towards Hibbies no longer with us. A wonderful, perfect day in every way.
7) What’s your personal highs/lows following Hibs?
The answer to question six would have to by my highest high supporting the club so that’s an easy one to answer. On the negative side it was the general malaise under Bobby Williamson that hurt me a lot to see. I remember after one particular heavy beating by (I think) six goals I heard the comment of a friend who quoted that he had ‘just been watching my club die’. That summed up that era for me. There seemed no hope, the football was awful too and that’s a big issue with me. I really feared for our club at that time.
After saying all that, the truly worst time for any Hibby who had to go through it were those dark days of the takeover bid. I read it and was totally astounded – I just couldn’t seem to focus on the fact that the club I love and had been brought up with may be no more. I actually even get a little choked thinking about it now.
8) Is there any player who you thought would have made it to the top, but didn’t?
Not exactly but there have been a few who could have done so much better I believe. Most of those that appeared to fast-track themselves Westwards for example such as Kenny Milller. At a very high level I thought that Alex Cropley should have been a Scotland regular for a long time. Having said that he did have a great, if somewhat injury-blighted career.
9) What grounds did you look forward to visiting, and vice-versa, what grounds did you fear?
I always enjoyed a visit to Tynecastle. It’s nice to head into the Lion’s Den and whilst it’s not a particularly impressive ground, the atmosphere certainly can be.
I stopped fearing going to any ground after the last time I went to Parkhead and Ibrox. The apprehension wasn’t due to the football either. I doubt I will ever visit either of those grounds ever again. I’m a football fan and have no time for all that hatred.
10) Any grounds (long gone) that you miss visiting?
Being a distant fan, the vast majority of my games in Scotland over the decades have been at Easter Road. There is one Scottish football ground I miss however and that’s the ‘old’ Hampden Park. I just used to love the atmosphere of that place whether it was watching Hibs or Scotland. It’s a great shame to see the bland stadium it has become these days.
On another note I’ve always been curious about the old Third Lanark ground and fancied a snoop around there one time. If I had a time machine I’d like to visit somewhere like Logie Green too!
11) Favourite Hearts match attended?
Another game from recent times. The Gary O’Connor late winner derby with the good guys down to ten men – purely for that moment and the celebration with a good mate in the East afterwards!
12) Favourite pre/post match watering hole?
I’m probably in a minority but I had a lot of affection for The Cabbage and Ribs – warts and all. I think this was purely because I met so many Internet Hibbies in there, one or two who have become treasured and close friends.
I’ve always been a bit of a ‘roamer’ before the games though. I’d just as likely be found up the town in The Guildford Arms on a Saturday lunchtime before taking a brisk walk down London road to the Heavenly Boulevard for 3pm.
13) Do you have any pre/post match superstitions?
Not really though some have called me a lucky charm when I get back for a game in Edinburgh! I think the last three times I’ve been to see the Hibs we’ve scored four on one occasion and five on the two others! I’m happy to accept that mantle!
14) Should the East Stand be built soon/if ever?
Of course yes. I think the club is a little unfortunate in some ways with the recent financial climate as clearly plans were solidly behind redevelopment. As things are, I’d enjoy seeing Hibs finish off the ground when the recession eases a degree and the price of materials becomes realistic again.
15) Where do you see Hibs this time next year?
It’s so difficult to predict, what with the difficulties Mixu has had in establishing himself in the manager’s role. Two weeks ago it seemed like the end of the road for the big man but who knows, after two wins and dare I say a couple more things could be quite different. We football fans tend to be a fickle bunch. It depends so much whether he is still in the job having learnt from a few of the mistakes of the past or in the choice of a new man. I’d reasonably optimistic though as I do believe we have some decent players in the squad. This situation reminds me so much of one’s I’ve seen generally over the years in football – a team with practically every play under-performing can suddenly pickup some confidence and quickly everyone looks a player again. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this happened with Hibs.
16) East, West or FF – Where do you watch Hibs from now? In days gone by where did you sit, stand?
I’m a bit of a migrant these days and will tend to sit where friends are when I’m up for a game. My preference has always been up in the West though. For so many years in the old North stand I never went much place else and always used to find it reassuring to sit up there at the football, back home, with the cranes of Leith docks in one direction and Arthur’s Seat in the other. How many other places could offer such a magnificent view?
17) Dreamtime: In your playing days which player did you want to be?
Outside of Hibs, Denis Law – no question. I was also a huge fan as a youngster of Peter Cormack and Alex Cropley amongst a few others.
My big dream was to score the winning goal for Scotland against England!
18) Reality: In your playing days which player did you actually resemble?
Denis Law because I used to imitate him! I played up front in the main and scored quite a few goals at a good level of amateur football. I used to watch those two and notice how they would arrive in the right place at the right moment to be on the end of a cross or a through ball. I was pretty quick and a good dribbler with close control. My hour of glory was scoring eight times in a 13-1 victory one Sunday morning – mainly because one dafty kept playing me onside!
19) Everyone sneaked into ER at some point. What was your way in without paying?
I’m in the minority then! No, I don’t think I ever managed that feat. As a teenager though I had a job at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground and luckily it was the same gatemen on the turnstiles that operated at Nottingham Forest, Notts County and even Nottingham Race Course! I didn’t pay a cent for around two seasons and became pretty expert at slipping over a turnstile whilst the supervisor was looking the other way. They’re probably all passed on now but cheers lads!
20) Why do you follow Hibs?
The greatest question of all.
This is a magical thought for me because it travels much further than just football. Hibernian Football Club represents much of my family history in Scotland. The club is intertwined with the connection I have with the blood of my own up there and this will never, ever change.
I am in awe of those people who formed our club and the reasons they did it. I believe this makes the club very special. The thought of the poor and needy in those early days being helped and assisted by the kindly Canon and his dedicated helpers is a very humbling one. It’s an awful long time ago but I’d like to pay that little tribute to them here.
Finally, a few words that I passed on to a great friend on Hibs.net one day. If you understand this then you’ll understand what Hibernian means to me:
“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.”
I’ll stand by that.