Well, I had all but given up ever expecting to see the day of the great Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian football teams playing each other in a Scottish Cup final, never mind my longed for hope of seeing those wearing the green actually lift the trophy.
Like so many Edinburgh families, generations of Monteiths have come and gone without celebrating the Scottish Cup being taken down Easter Road. My grandfather and father, both born and bred within a stone’s throw of Easter Road stadium, saw many league titles and the occasional League Cup but never the Scottish Cup. Uncles and great uncles, friends young and old, have all graced this earth, become Hibbies and then departed in the same way. I say this merely to give a sense of the scale of history that is so daunting to Hibs supporters, that makes tomorrow’s game such an enormous occasion.
That particular monkey on our backs of the 110-year wait, the regular jokes (that I have found are best said oneself than let your opponents get the inevitable dig in first) have actually bred a rather worldly-wise resignation to dealing with defeat; a sanguine, we don’t care, we can “always look on the bright side of life” because we’re hardened and unbowed. It is, of course, what the vast majority of football supporters experience.
It’s easy to be the glory hunter and follow the Manchester Uniteds, the Barcelonas, and obviously the Old Firm, and experience winning trophies on a regular basis – but for most supporters the occasional battle against relegation, the near run thing to promotion, the maybe scraping into Europe and exiting at the early stage are the staple diet. Cold damp Saturdays, colder pies and damper feet are one’s usual lot – and I’ve experienced them all.
That’s why this week’s example of Manchester City grasping the English Premiership for the first time in their history and first league title since 1968 when more than half of Manchester was not alive – and beating their city rivals United in that chase with only three minutes to go – was enjoyed by all but the most partisan of their rivals’ followers. Could that close city rivalry be a portent, an omen for this Saturday?
This indefatigability of Hibs supporters that George Galloway would admire and our indomitability that Margaret Thatcher would be proud of is, of course what’s so unnerving to Hearts followers as the kick-off approaches.
For Hearts it would be another Scottish Cup, their third in not so many years, and it will tick the box that says “bragging rights” for another season.
But that’s all it will do; it will not give closure to the eternal Edinburgh debate about which team is best, which is the most in-your face physical and which the most graceful and entertaining – we all know that debate will simply go on.
And what could be worse for Hearts supporters than seeing Hibs break this now famous cup hoodoo by defeating their own team?
That’s why one half of Edinburgh is nervous for the game to be over and the other is quietly awaiting the start, both suspecting fortune might just favour the underdog.
For Edinburgh as a city, the Scottish Cup final has an altogether different role: it gives us a chance to show how Glasgow and its sometimes divisive culture is not representative of Scotland, that the way the Glasgow-based BBC often presents our country as Buckie, benefits and string vests is far removed from the truth.
It will, in short, will be Edinburgh’s day in the sun.
It is an opportunity to show not just Scotland and the UK, but the wider world, that there is a friendlier face to Scottish football, our behaviour and our social attitudes.
Maybe it is because Hearts and Hibs have not met in cup finals as regularly as the Old Firm that our city harbours fewer grudges between divided communities?
I like to think not, for in all my dealings with both teams’ supporters the post-match emotions have subsided relatively quickly and are not institutionalised in the way they have been on Scotland’s west coast.
In Edinburgh, you once were asked what school you went to to find out if your parents could afford a private education. In Glasgow, it was more often to establish your religious denomination. The difference being that it is far easier to move between social classes than it is to move between religions and thus Edinburgh has always been quicker to leave behind Scotland’s bloody and bigoted past.
Just like no-one blinks in Edinburgh if a Hibs man marries a Hearts woman – like my mum and dad did – supporters from both teams will be sharing trains on the way to the match without thinking twice about it. Sure, there will be chanting, singing and banter outside the ground, and after? Well, the victorious team’s supporters will stay on longer, but I expect both sets of supporters to applaud at the end.
Edinburgh should be the winner – I just hope it doesn’t go to penalties (although I reserve the right to change my mind if Hibs are losing).