Hearts pub boss revels in rivalry as diehard Hibby

It's chucking out time for publican Kevin McGhee

It's chucking out time for publican Kevin McGhee

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FOR a diehard Hibs fan, it sounds like the job from hell.

Pulling pints in the lion’s den of your fiercest rivals just yards from Tynecastle Stadium wouldn’t be the ideal calling for most devotees of Easter Road – especially with a do-or-die cup final derby on the horizon.

But Kevin McGhee, publican of the famous Athletic Arms – nicknamed The Diggers – insists that although he might have nailed his colours to the mast of the wrong ship, his time at the helm of the staunch Hearts boozer has been mostly smooth sailing.

The 32-year-old Hibbie, who took the over the reins two years ago, previously worked as area manager for the pub where he had a clause in his contract guaranteeing time off to attend home games at Easter Road.

He has now drawn up two rotas for the aftermath of the Hampden final to allow either him or his bar staff time off to celebrate, depending on who wins on May 19.

“I definitely have divided loyalties,” said Mr McGhee. “My heart says one thing and my head says another. It’s good for the till if Hearts win, but it’s great for me if Hibs lift the cup after so long.

“I have got two rotas prepared for the week after the cup final: one if Hibs win – when I will be posted missing for a week – and another if it goes to Hearts, where I’ll be working double shifts to cover for two members of staff who said they are taking a week-long holiday.”

Despite running one of the most renowned Hearts pubs in the city, Mr McGhee said his allegiance to Easter Road has not provoked any great fuss among his maroon-tinted regulars, save for the occasional cutting banter.

“I’ve got quite a few ribbings from regulars with the way results have been going for Hibs, but hopefully we can flip that round on May 19,” he said. “The previous licensee was a Hibs fan as well so it’s not caused a stir.

“There’s never any trouble in the pub over football, we get a lot of respectable fans.

“It’s all banter with no animosity or bullying – just good slagging.” Born in Leith, Mr McGhee has a family association with Hibs through his uncle, Alex McGhee, who played for the club through late 1970s, and once scored in a 4-1 drubbing of Celtic.

But despite strong ties to the north-east of the city, The Diggers licence-holder has forked out for a supporters bus to take his Hearts-supporting regulars to Hampden.

“I’ve paid for one of their buses to Hampden,” he said. “But I’m hoping they have a miserable journey home.

“I might even bribe the driver to put on a bit of Proclaimers for the trip.”

Pub regular Murray Davidson, 39, said: “He’s great with the Hearts supporters and very accommodating. There’s some good banter and occasionally he will wear a green tie to wind people up.”

ACTION STATIONS FOR BIG DAY

HIBS and Hearts fans travelling by rail to the Scottish Cup final are set to be kept apart by catching trains from separate stations, it has emerged.

It is understood that Hibs fans will be asked to board trains from Waverley and Hearts supporters from Slateford.

A source close to the talks revealed that the plans are being considered by both clubs, police, rail chiefs and council officials.