THERE’S a magic in the air, and I can feel it . . . Certainly The Silencers try their best during the opening credits of Sportscene, although I’ve yet to feel it when the morose faces of Scottish football’s “talking heads” make their appearance and, like Dementors from Harry Potter, suck the life out of the most minor of sporting triumphs – and the viewers.
But, right now, can you feel it? Can you feel a certain charged atmosphere in Edinburgh? And is it any wonder, when it’s all so exciting?
Yes, that’s right, there’s an election just 14 days away, folks. That means there’s only two weeks left of getting a buzz from the intense political lobbying, an intellectual high from the courting of your vote, a good old laugh at all the mad promises on zany leaflets being shoved through your letterboxes. It’s almost unbearable to think it will soon be over.
But wait . . . you didn’t realise? You thought perhaps I was talking about the impending Scottish Cup final game of the century when the mighty Hearts take on the glorious Hibees at Hampden for the honour of coming back along the M8 with some silverware.
Well, I probably should be because, compared with the way the council election is galvanising people, the gulf between the two could hardly be wider than that between the presentation of Sportscene and Match of the Day.
Which is probably why every councillor in Edinburgh was delighted to be asked their opinion this week on whether the match to end all matches should be played here or in the Weeg.
For once their opinions were being sought on a subject people really cared about. Never mind that the candidates want to talk to voters about filling in potholes, changing the face of education, building more tram lines or the statutory repairs notice scandal, all anybody wanted to know was – Murrayfield or Hampden?
Immediately, party political barriers were felled, politicians who normally wouldn’t cross the street to acknowledge each other became supporters-in-arms, most declaring their allegiance to the home of rugby as the perfect place for the salt ‘n’ sauce cup final.
Never knowingly failing to jump on a popular bandwagon, the result was that councillors want Hearts and Hibs to work with them and the SFA to move the game east. It’s the spirit of non-partisan co-operation the politicos have been lecturing us about in their manifestos writ large.
But then it’s easy to drop party political tribalism when it’s about something which will never happen. Despite their best efforts and intentions, there is no way the final will not be played at Hampden. Like it or not, Scotland’s national football stadium is in Glasgow, the tickets for the game will be printed already with the venue firmly stated and, let’s face it, the footballers themselves want to play at Hampden.
Perhaps, though, this final really could be a political catalyst. If Andrew Burns (Labour), Steve Burgess (Green) and Steve Cardownie (SNP) can agree on this one issue, with what else could they find common cause? Similarly with Jenny Dawe (Lib Dem) and Jeremy Balfour (Con) united in believing the game should be at Hampden, perhaps they could discover similarities elsewhere that would bind them together?
Whether you call it co-operation, or consultation, or devolved localism, every party is pledging to make the council more accountable to the people of Edinburgh, to make the decisions it takes on budgets and direction for the city more relevant to those who live here. If something like football can kick-start that working relationship, then Bill Shankly was right about the beautiful game.
I just hope that, come cup final day, football fans too show a spirit of togetherness. Hearts and Hibs might be rivals, sometimes even bitter ones, but this will be an epic day for Edinburgh. Fans who do go to Glasgow will hopefully remember that they represent this great city and behave accordingly, no matter the outcome.
I’m sure they will show they can conduct themselves in a civilised manner and give the Old Firm a lesson in sportsmanship as well as football.
Cups and downs
THE last time I was at a professional football game was when Hearts won the Scottish Cup in 1998. Might as well go out on a high, I always think.
But the day was most peculiar. Spirits were full of hope on the bus to Celtic Park (long gone were the days when I accompanied my dad to games and he’d attempt to shield me from terrace banter by placing his hands over my ears) and a 2-1 victory over Rangers would mean, you might think, a rowdy old journey back.
Instead it was deadly quiet, as if we were too stunned by what we had witnessed. It wasn’t until we hit Edinburgh and people were out lining the streets, waving scarves and flags, that the eerie shock was finally shaken off.
And then the day the open-topped bus showed off the cup. Fantastic.
It’s just a shame this time round, no matter who wins, the sun will only shine on the silverware during a journey through Edinburgh’s back streets. Yet another thing to blame on the trams.