JUST when the Hibbies thought it was safe to return to the terraces – Rudi Skacel is back.
The Hearts hero won’t be on the pitch during Sunday’s Edinburgh derby, but is still set to cause pain to thousands of Hibs fans after a huge image of the Czech playmaker was plastered on an advertising billboard just yards from Easter Road.
If the sight of Skacel wasn’t bad enough, the poster depicts him celebrating one of his two goals in the Jambos’ historic 5-1 Scottish Cup final triumph over their rivals at Hampden Park in May.
Hibs fans have hit out at broadcaster Sky Sports following the marketing blunder, warning that the poster was likely to be vandalised and could even incite violence ahead of the weekend’s highly charged fixture.
Hibs season ticket holder and Labour Leith councillor Gordon Munro said: “Sky have shown their usual sensitivity. It’s inappropriate and could inflame passions.
“I don’t condone vandalism but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some, although, I think that the pies at Easter Road might be too expensive to be used to deface a hoarding.
“I do think we need to instil a bit more heart in the players, but this isn’t what I had in mind.”
Referring to Skacel, who is yet to sign for a new club after his Hearts contract expired at the end of the last season, he added: “It’s insensitive to both sets of fans – it reminds Hearts of what they can’t afford.”
Lifelong Hibby Steven McDonald said he was “furious” after walking out of the Easter Road club shop to be greeted by the giant image of Skacel, alongside the Sky Sports slogan “every goal matters”.
“Somebody really has some balls putting that up there for all the Hibs fans to see – it’s right outside the Famous Five stand as well,” he said.
Of the cup loss, he added: “It was an awful defeat and it’s just rubbing salt in the wounds.”
Meanwhile, Hearts fan Rebecca Blyth branded the broadcaster’s advert “hilarious”.
“Maybe the person who put it up was a Hearts fan,” she said.
When contacted by the Evening News, Sky would only say the design was part of a nationwide campaign and that Skacel would be replaced by players from other Scottish clubs over the coming months.
It did not reveal whether it had received any formal complaints about the location of the poster, which showed signs of damage yesterday, leading to speculation that a fan had already tried to tear it down.
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman did not comment on the poster, but urged fans from both clubs to behave responsibly on Sunday to ensure the derby was “fun, safe and family- orientated”.
BACK OF THE NET
@ajball01: GET RID OF IT!!
@SuperTortolano: It’s a disgrace and I am seething @WelshIrvine will be gaun bugsy.
@rabbitheadal99: Brilliant Billboard outside Easter Road. God celebrating!
@CalumHelm: That won’t last 5 minutes
@1sparky7: Even though I’m a Hibby, the billboard of Rudi Skacel is decent, and outside Easter Road is funny stuff! #banter
@terryhammy: Must go! No havin that. C’mon lets beat Jambos this Sunday, REVENGE!
@ThatManGray: Guaranteed the bill-poster was a Jambo
@DaleBarrett1888: Surely it won’t last the nite
@SparkybhoyHH: I think this is what one might call, insensitive?
@splatoutofluck: Massive credit to Sky for the ultimate bit of Hibby-baiting.
@jamiekborthwick: Sky are taking the **** with this billboard placement outside Easter Road, aye?
The Hibs are in their beds . .
Pranksters were rubbing further salt in Hibs’ wounds ahead of this weekend’s derby after sending out party invitations.
Hearts fans are expected to be on buoyant form when they visit Easter Road after last season’s defeat of their rivals in the Scottish Cup final.
Yesterday fans on Twitter were posting this image, inviting Jambos to a party at Easter Road and warning that visitors would have to bring their own cups, as “the venue doesn’t have any of their own”.