According to my dad, my first ever Hibs game was a pre-season friendly in 1998. “Probably against West Ham. Frank Lampard played that day.” he states. I was three years old. Not only was my inaugural match at Easter Road the start of my Hibs-supporting life but also a blessing for my parents. My dad won the ‘Happy Hibee’ and claimed a substantial cash prize – something him and my mum desperately needed at the time. I was therefore decked out in every child-sized green and white themed piece of merchandise the Hibs shop had to offer and paraded around like the Lucky Leprechaun of Leith. Maybe I was the charm that was so desperately required. Hibs were promoted back into the SPL from the First Division that season at the first time of asking. A good start.
The first game I truly remember attending and feeling the emotion of was the 2004 League Cup final. Hibs famously came back to beat Celtic 2-1 at Easter Road in the quarterfinals to set up a meeting with the other side of the Old Firm. Somehow, someway we beat them 4-3 on penalties. I don’t remember the 120 minutes of play. I don’t remember the penalties. All I remember is watching my dad leap off his seat like Tigger on a trampoline, shouting “get fucking in there!”, turning to me and calmy saying “we’re going.” Who knew that watching a man fail to hit the back of the net from twelve yards could cause so much elation, excitement and promise. I was nine. I’d soon learn.
The day of the final arrived. I’m staunchly dressed in green and white. We’ve left the house early to catch a supporter’s bus through to Glasgow. I’m buzzing. I don’t even understand what I’m buzzing about. I’m a nine-year-old watching a flurry of men drink frothy pints and singing the names of my heroes. Derek Riordan, Garry O’Connor, Scott Brown, Kevin Thomson and Daniel Andersson were personal favourites of mine. I felt the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the excitement and the expectation – my first true experience of a major football match. I was here and I was living it. THIS is football. The game was nowhere near kicked off and we’d already won it. I was about to witness history! “It’s only fuckin’ Livi!” they chortled. I was on a collision course back down to Earth.
Hibernian 0-2 Livingston.
Hibs bounced back. I would get my first taste of real success in 2007. A 5-1 thumping of Kilmarnock was the culmination of what the Hibs brand was at the time. A young, eccentric and fast-flowing team took centre stage at Hampden and played Killie off the park. THIS is what Hibs are, I thought. Purring over talents such as Benjelloun, Zemmama and Steven Fletcher. A fledging Lewis Stevenson and lightning quick Ivan Sproule epitomised the Hibs way. But so does my dad turning to me and stating “We’re going to fuck this up.” as we conceded to make it 3-1 in the 77th minute. That taught me that you could never be comfortable supporting Hibs. It’s like being on the Pepsi Max in Blackpool without a safety railing. There will be some parts of the ride where you’ll be sitting perfectly fine in the seat and having a great time. There are also times where you’ll be plummeting into the lager-stained concrete below.
Seasons came and went and my desire to continue playing football myself took focus, leaving me limited to time to attend Easter Road. My support continued from the sidelines though as I slowly started to see my beloved club regress. The teams of 2011 onwards failed to entertain me, were dross to watch and were ultimately, shite. However, a beam of light emerged from the depths. We were in the Scottish Cup Final. Against Hearts. HEARTS. H-E-A-R-T-S. A chance to break the Scottish Cup hoodoo. Against them. Boring football, mass frustration and waves of uninterested loan players would be forgiven if we could win this one game of football. The derby to rule all derbies. I didn’t have a ticket though. However, any fan attending the Hibs – Dunfermline relegation scrap was entered into a ballot to win one. Me and my dad went, watched Hibs win comfortably (somehow) and still came home disappointed. We didn’t get the priceless pieces of paper to get into Hampden. My pal did though, and he already had tickets. What were the chances?! We gladly took them off his hands.
Fucking wish we hadn’t though. Imagine watching your team in a national cup final, which is broadcast across the world. Imagine watching your team getting absolutely humiliated and run off the park in a gutless performance. Imagine walking back to Mount Florida and getting asked by an inquisitive ‘Weegie what the score was. Imagine having to reply that you’d just been beaten 5-1. Imagine it. Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Hearts fans are right by the way. It should have been ten. My dad left after 4-1. I stayed to the end – flopped in my seat like a wet balloon thinking that someway, somehow, I’d learn something from this experience. I remember catching the gaze of my pal who had won us the tickets sat a few sections away. Bastard. I watched him come over to watch the last ten minutes with me. We sat in complete silence and watched as Hearts passed the ball sideways, effortless in their movements. We watched our team give absolutely nothing. We were numb. Hibs, eh?