Being a Weegie Hibs fan

When I went back to football in 2014, I had been thinking about it for a while. By this point I lived in Glasgow and I could have chosen one of many teams. But I had been a Hibs fan since I was a kid. I couldn’t just go and support anyone else. I went to the relegation play-off between Hibs and Hamilton Accies at Easter Road and with a penalty shootout Hibs went down to the Championship. Despite that I enjoyed being back at a match again. I found myself at Ibrox for Hibs’ very next competitive fixture in the Challenge Cup and at quite a few games after that, home and away. I was hooked. Even though I couldn’t get to see Hibs every Saturday, I got there whenever I could, managing leave and willing games to be moved to Sundays and weekdays. When my work pattern changed and I was off every second Saturday, I ended up with a season ticket. Each time the fixture list comes around, I sit with the work diary and put in leave and arrange swaps. Last season I missed two home fixtures at Easter Road. One was due to a conference, the other because of the lurgy. This coming season I have made sure I’m clear for all home fixtures until Christmas at least.

Glasgow is a football city and I’ve worked with supporters of various teams, mostly the Old Firm but occasionally St. Mirren, Dumbarton, even Clyde. I have endured good-natured ribbing and in turn colleagues have heard me rant about the footballing ills of the day. Football helps me talk to people, particularly men, though my strong opinions against Celtic and Rangers tend to be greeted with bemused silence. During the recent World Cup, of which I watched not a single minute, that bemusement became more pronounced as I couldn’t venture an opinion on any of the Galacticos playing over in Russia.

There aren’t many Hibs fans in the west of Scotland. There are some, there’s even a supporters club, I believe, though in recent months I’ve seen a lot more. The other night I was coming back from Edinburgh after a game and there were a few Hibees travelling all the way to Queen Street as I was. After a game of last season, there was a family in Hibs gear standing beside me in Central Station. Very often as I head to Easter Road of a Saturday there are fans of other teams heading to other games passing me in Glasgow city centre, sometimes Celtic or Rangers, occasionally Kilmarnock or Ayr United, accents from Aberdeen, Dundee or Edinburgh off on an away day. I am usually more subtle in my dress just in case going through Glasgow, shedding my jacket once I get on the Edinburgh train.

In Glasgow two teams dominate. I often start yelling at the STV News at 6 as Raman starts his report with the words ‘Rangers’ or ‘Brendan Rodgers’. That’s before I consider how I have to ignore so many of the back pages, Hibs only coming up when there’s a controversy or a player to be signed and whisked off to Glasgow. There are forty other teams in the SPFL, two other league teams within the city boundary before you consider the many more nearby. It is only part of the reason why I loathe Celtic and Rangers and extra motivation to enjoy a win over either of them just that little bit more.

One perk is that some away trips are very easy for me. I can walk to Ibrox though I tend to avoid it whenever possible. Celtic Park had me home within an hour, same with Firhill. St. Mirren’s ground is by far the easiest, a five minute walk to the train station, ten minutes on the train then across the road to the turnstile. Cappielow is also easy, reachable within about half an hour too. Hampden is also straightforward, a half hour on the bus, though I have even been known to walk it back from some of Hibs’ many visits to the National Stadium.

Some of my best Hibs experiences have happened here in Glasgow. Not just the Cup Final but the game one freezing February night at Ibrox when Lewis Stevenson scored. The 2-2 game at Celtic Park when Super John McGinn scored 2, Coolio did the half-time draw and I left with a very sore throat. Hopefully some more will happen this coming season.

I think I’ve become more of a Hibs fan the last few years despite where I live, maybe even because of it. Hibs are an integral part of who I am and they are a link to where I grew up and how I grew up. Even with all the bad days, all the cold days, it is still worth it for the bright days, the Cups, the shimmies and curling goals into the top corner. I wouldn’t give it up for a ‘big’ team. Hibs are my big team and that won’t ever change.

 

 

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Around the ground

Now and then on my other blog Walking Talking, I share some thoughts and ideas that haven’t made it into a full blog post. ERW I pretty much write to order, publishing whenever Hibs play and sometimes other times depending on what’s happening. I wanted to share some football things I’ve read or thought about in recent weeks.

Period poverty is an ever increasing problem in modern society. There is a campaign in place at the moment to encourage football clubs to provide sanitary products free-of-charge to women attending matches. On The Ball is led by three Celtic supporters and so far they have managed to convince their club, St. Rochs Juniors and Tranmere Rovers to support their efforts. I think this is great and should be far more widespread across football and wider society. Here’s a blog post from The Football Collective about the On The Ball campaign.

I also pay attention to what’s being discussed on various football messageboards and I came across a thread on hibs.net recently about provision for autistic people at Easter Road. There are some moves to establish a sensory room at Easter Road, following in the footsteps of Rangers and Sunderland, if I remember correctly, and there were a few folk on the discussion talking about their own experiences with autistic children as well as others suggesting that a sensory room might be used as a creche, which misses the point somewhat. Hibs do have a Disability Officer and the Hibernian Community Foundation do work with people with disabilities. There are always limits to what can be done because of what resources are available, time and money both. I can’t pretend to have any answers. I can only share my own experiences. My only wish for football more generally is that I personally would prefer more advanced information about what to expect at the game, particularly for new grounds, like plans, photographs or written information. As discussed previously, some clubs in the Premiership are better than others in this regard.

One blog I follow is called Pies on the Terraces and usually they have match reports from lower league and women’s matches, which is more than enough for me but they have also been writing about old football grounds in recent days, particularly the previous incarnations of Hampden Park and also Hamilton Crescent, the West of Scotland cricket ground which hosted the very first international football match between Scotland and England. Hamilton Crescent also featured on Alex Cochrane’s blog the other day as well. It’s great to see that there are other people writing about these fine places.

Hibs played well on Thursday against NSI Runavik, not really getting out of first gear for a lot of the game but doing well enough to win 6-1. Respect to Runavik and their fans who came all the way from the Faroe Islands, though, even with that disgraceful tackle on Martin Boyle. The second leg is this coming Thursday but unfortunately I can’t make it to Toftir, as much as I would like to. I’m hoping this coming weekend to try and get to see a Hibs XI turn out against Coldstream, which is almost an international trip, only a few hundred yards from the border.

Anyway, thanks for reading. That’s my ideas exhausted for another day. The next post here will be on Thursday and it will be about being a Hibs fan living in Glasgow. My other blog Walking Talking had a post yesterday about my recent visit to Abbotsford so go read that. Cheers for now.

Wee Red Book

The Wee Red Book is a football almanac produced every year by the Evening Times. It’s an institution, ninety years old this year, and unlike the Evening Times itself, it sells right across Scotland, even in Dunbar when I used to get a copy each year as a kid. For someone like me who inhales information, the Wee Red Book is essential, a blur of statistics, lists and fixtures. The lists of results for Scottish teams in European competitions and each and every player ever to have played for the Scotland team is terrifyingly precise. I imagine in years gone by teams of people will have worked for weeks on the Wee Red Book, in wood-lined, smoke-filled newspaper offices by hard-bitten pedantic hacks. Today probably one or two people update the whole thing on a computer, maybe as many as write the whole Evening Times.

I still get a copy of the Wee Red Book every year. Two years ago I smiled all day after I picked up the latest edition and saw right there in black and white under Hibs’ honours, Scottish Cup winners 2016, and a list of the Cup-winning team listed after all the others who have lifted that trophy. This year I was particularly to look down the list of Scottish internationalists and see Lewis Stevenson’s name after he appeared recently for the national team against Peru.

In this age where the most obscure statistics are available at the scroll of a smartphone screen, the Wee Red Book might seem archaic and redundant. The fixture list for the Premiership is already out-of-date because of the TV companies and Livingston’s entry lists their manager as ‘Vacant (at time of going to press)’ rather than their new player-manager Kenny Miller. Despite this the Wee Red Book is more crucial than ever, a quick reference when a fact eludes, a journal of record, a source of authority when certain results still don’t feel real. It is there to be thumbed through or avidly consulted at a moment’s notice, at least until the next one comes out.

Thanks for reading. My other blog, Walking Talking, had a post yesterday about my recent walk around the route of the Glasgow Subway. Tomorrow’s is about visiting Walter Scott’s hoose, Abbotsford.

Hibs in Europe

I don’t care who the opposition is, I just like those three words: Hibs in Europe. It might still be July, it might be the First Qualifying Round of the Europa League, it matters not. It’s Hibs and Hibs are in Europe. It begins tonight with NSI Runavik at home in the capital. I don’t know much about them except they’re from the Faroe Islands. There’s no room for complacency, to think that a place in the next round is a given. I’ve been a Hibs fan long enough to expect the unexpected at all times. Hibs in Europe. Love it.

As for Sunday, the play, at least in the first half, didn’t merit the scoreline. If Super John McGinn does indeed leave this week he can be proud of his performance against Blackburn, full of his bursts, turns and physicality. In the second half Stevie Mallan was half-decent, with early indications looking like he might fill the Dylan McGeouch role. the first Blackburn goal was a cracker, curled into the top corner by Craig Conway, while the Hibs defence and Ross Laidlaw made an absolute meal of Blackburn’s second. On a nicer note, Tony Mowbray got a nice reception and renditions of ‘Football’s Coming Home’ got a cheerful booing from the Hibee faithful. Paul Hanlon got a rendition of Sunshine on Leith and rather sweetly he abandoned his lap of honour to shake hands with fans in the East and Famous Five. That was a touch of class.

Hibs in Europe, then. However it goes on for, it should be fun. Plus it’s only a couple of weeks to go before the league starts. Let’s do it.

Football is good for you, it’s official

Professor Alistair Burns is NHS England’s clinical director for dementia. He’ll find he’s just got a new boss tonight but that’s beside the point. He was quoted in a Metro article today that started with saying how watching football is good for your mental health but then went far beyond that headline to go into its value for people with dementia. Scotland is a bit of a leader in this, with sporting memories part of the work of many groups to reach out to people with that horrific condition. A few years ago I worked in a library that had a sporting memories group, in fact it may have been an early pilot, and I was always amazed to look over the professionally produced materials prepared to prompt discussions about rugby, golf and football, as well as horse racing. I know that the Scottish Football Museum does a lot of work in this area, with the Hibs Historical Trust also involved in the east of the country, and it can only be good. That’s why I wanted to share this particular article tonight as it was inspiring about the effect football has on people, the overwhelming positive that far outweighs the negatives.

Professor Burns was also quoted as saying that ‘Although fans may not feel it this week [with England in the World Cup], football can be good for your nerves’. I thoroughly agree. I live with a chattering brain that doesn’t always stop. Going to the football helps. I’ve described it as being like therapy and it’s certainly as expensive sometimes. But it works for me. I was at Easter Road yesterday and my focus for the time was entirely on the game, albeit with a few glances at my phone when the action slowed. I won’t remember much of the game in decades to come. Indeed I barely remember some of it tonight but I will remember the walk up the slope into the East Stand, a feeling of homecoming after the close season, a walk done many times before and many times again I’m sure, to a place of sanctuary, joy and utter frustration, where life is kept removed even for ninety minutes, give or take a few.

 

Paul Hanlon

Today Hibs are playing. I’ve missed the first two pre-season friendlies and eagerly consumed the silent highlights on Hibs TV. Today Hibs are back at Easter Road for Paul Hanlon’s testimonial, played against Blackburn Rovers. Their manager is Tony Mowbray, Hibs manager during the Golden Generation when our club played some of their best football in many years, save a few performances in the Stubbs/Lennon years of today in which Paul Hanlon often played a key part. The other night I sat and watched back the Scottish Cup derby at Tynecastle where Hibs were two down only to get back to 2-2 in the 90th minute courtesy of one Paul Hanlon. In discussions of the Scottish Cup win, there’s often talk of Sir David Gray, Stokes, Conrad Logan, Liam Henderson delivering but less other heroes. Paul Hanlon and that goal kept us in the Cup and led to that replay at Easter Road when a Jason Cummings goal took us on.In the last couple of years, I’ve often breathed a sigh of relief when I’ve seen Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor line up in defence. They complement each other, Paul’s ability to play a ball coupled with Darren’s strength have led to many good moments. As much as I worship Sir Dave, I am reassured to see Paul also wearing the captain’s armband as he has during the great man’s injury.If Hibs are playing and I can get there, I usually make sure I’m in my place. The fact that it’s a glorified friendly today doesn’t deter me, just as the Europa League game against NSI Runavik on Thursday doesn’t either. I want Hibs to win and I want a good game. I’m going for that and to celebrate one of the finest players to ever have pulled on a green and white jersey. Paul Hanlon, he’s one of our own…


Thanks for reading. My other blog, Walking Talking, has a post today too, this time a Loose Ends post about Dunfermline.

McGeouch, the Europa League and goalies

Dylan McGeouch is gone. He is a Sunderland player tonight and while it was inevitable, from Neil Lennon’s rant at Tynecastle right through to his applause of the fans at the Rangers game, it doesn’t make it any less sad. I’ve said a few times that McGeouch was the heart of the Hibs team the last couple of years and in the coming few weeks Neil Lennon and the gang will need to shore up our midfield to deal with the loss of such a crucial player. His passes, runs and willingness to get stuck in will be missed at Easter Road. As much as I am a devoted Super John McGinn homeboy, McGeouch was more important to us last season. It’s why he got a deserved call up for Scotland and hopefully why he will go on to bigger and better things, either with Sunderland or elsewhere in England. It’s just a little gutting, that’s all. I sat and watched the 2016 Cup Final the other night and McGeouch was one of the best players on the park that particular day. He was one of the ever decreasing number of Cup Final heroes still at the club, with only Darren McGregor, Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon, Sir David Gray and John McGinn left of the starting lineup plus Marvin Bartley and Martin Boyle of the subs. McGeouch’s best performance in a Hibs jersey didn’t actually come on that day, but still at Hampden, his goal in the semi against Aberdeen the following year with a run up the left and in. Since we lost that day, I think that gets missed. All the best to him.

In brighter news, Hibs played at the weekend, a 2-0 win at Linlithgow Rose. I was working so couldn’t make it. Sadly I will also miss the pre-season at Berwick on Wednesday night. Thankfully I will get to the Cabbage’s next two games, both at ER, Paul Hanlon’s testimonial against Blackburn on Sunday and then the Europa League against NSI Runavik a week on Thursday. I can’t wait.

We will have a new goalie since Ofir Marciano is currently injured and Ross Laidlaw is recovering from injury. Just today Hibs signed Liverpool keeper Adam Bogdan on loan. Since I don’t follow English football, I don’t have a clue what he’s like but Neil Lennon rates him so that’s enough for me. Hibs have been fairly slow on the transfer front so far but it took a while last year for the squad to come together. It feels simultaneously forever and no time ago that we signed Marciano, Efe Ambrose, Simon Murray and of course Anthony Stokes, even less since Kamberi came on loan, I think on transfer deadline day back in January.

I can’t wait until Sunday. I don’t think many tickets have been sold for the testimonial, nor for Runavik next Thursday. That’s a shame. Paul Hanlon has been a steadfast servant over many years for Hibs. If for nothing else, he is responsible for that equaliser at Tynecastle. Like Lewis Stevenson last year, Paul is donating much of the proceeds to charity and that is commendable. Then we get to see him back in competitive action. Regardless the opposition it is Hibs in Europe. Hibs. In. Europe. Nothing would stop me being there, even just for the home legs. Dylan McGeouch might not be there but tonight I am confident for the season ahead, for Danny Swanson, Slivka and all the rest who might just come and surprise us, not to mention the signings that might soon come our way.