IT was a day which started full of promise, and ended once more in the misery of defeat.
Hibs’ wait to lift the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1902 goes on after losing to Celtic yesterday. It was a defeat which was played out in front of more than 20,000 Hibs fans, who had made the trek to Hampden to sing their hearts out along with thousands more in bars and living rooms across the Capital decked out in green and white.
For diehard fans, the result was a bitter pill to swallow.
James Bell, 26, from Leith said: “I’m not happy at all. We were beaten by the better team on the day but I was hoping for more from them. Some day it will have to happen, won’t it?”
The exodus from Edinburgh had started early in the morning as thousands gathered to board special train services and more than 200 coaches ahead of what they hoped would be a historic breakthrough in the club’s
111-year wait for cup final glory.
In the main bar of the Hibs Association Supporters Club HQ in Sunnyside, early on the mood was one of quiet optimism mixed with nervousness. Despite the side’s stunning comeback against Falkirk in the semi-final, fans knew the boys in green were up against it.
In an indication that the Edinburgh side enjoys an international fan base just like its Old Firm rivals, Hibbies waiting for coaches outside the club building were joined by supporters Karl Oevensen, 48, founder of the Norwegian branch of Hibs followers, and his sister, Hanne, 50.
The pair had travelled to Edinburgh from Oslo and Telemark in southern Norway.
“I’ve been a supporter since 1975, when I chose Hibs as the Scottish side I would support because their strip matched the green and white strip I played in for my local team,” said Mr Oevensen.
“Overall, I would say it is less tense because last year it was more realistic to think they could win. I don’t think anybody’s expecting them to go out there and lift the trophy this time, and that may help them play more freely.” But as coaches set off at around 11am, nerves began to build.
On one bus heading for Croftfoot bowling club in Glasgow for a pre-match meal and drink, there was little singing or chanting.
William McFarlane, 41, a joiner from Telford who helped organise fan coaches, said: “To be honest, I think a lot of people are not aware of each other right now.
“Everyone is nervous, anticipating the game. It’ll be difficult for us – we have to take the game to Celtic.”
But once out of the coaches, the Hibbies began to unwind and let rip with repeated
refrains of “Allez Allez Allez Oh” and “Green and white army”, as smaller groups joined up to form a huge river of supporters heading towards Hampden.
Back in the Capital, the Hibs pubs were packed out as fans filed in hoping to see their cup hoodoo finally resigned to the dustbin.
Pre-match optimism was rife in the bars of Easter Road and Leith Walk, with many safe in the knowledge that even if things were to go against the Hibees, it could never be as bad as last year.
Christopher Regan, 28, from Restalrig, said: “I intend to have a good day no matter what happens.”
In the Constitution Bar in Constitution Street, home to “one of the biggest screens in the city”, Hibbies both young and old settled in.
The fevered atmosphere beefitting such an occasion was slightly lacking as Leith had early that morning purged itself of coachloads of fans.
Those who remained were no less clear in their intentions though, as cries of “C’mon the Hibs” greeted the kick-off.
The first five minutes saw their side take the game to Celtic. Eoin Doyle’s seemingly goal-bound header saw fans expectantly leap from their seats only to be brought back to earth by Fraser Forster’s pointblank save.
Bar staff stood idle as fans looked on entranced by the game and its possibilities, but the bubble was burst by
Hooper on eight minutes. With this the mood changed – men gesticulated wildly at the Hibs defenders on TV while wives and girlfriends began quietly nattering among themselves.
By the time Hooper scored his almost-carbon copy second, the bar staff were back in action.
Supporters were now slipping outside for cigarettes, each one all too aware of last year’s scoreline.
The crowd within the bar was noticeably thinner after half-time, with a little more elbow room for those to cry at the screen: “Don’t they know we are two down?”
On 80 minutes Joe Ledley made it three and those who had been toying with the idea now began traipsing out.
All that was left were the hardcore – those Hibbies who knew only too well the sting of another chance missed to break the curse. As the game finished optimism turned to disappointment. In the Easter Road bar The Office, was Joe McGowan, 50, who has been a Hibs supporter for 45 years.
After watching the action on TV, he said: “They played well in the first half but the goalkeeper made two mistakes and the second half was terrible.”
He added: “Let’s see what next season brings and how far into their pockets they [Hibs] are going to dig so we can buy in some fresh talent. The only problem is they don’t really have any money.”
His wife, Angie, 46, who works for Edinburgh City Council, said: “Of course it’s a shame but we can still celebrate all the same. We did well to get this far. We are going to enjoy the rest of the night out, we aren’t going to let this ruin our night.”Ashley Ford, a lifelong fan said “I’m a bit deflated, but there is always next year. I suppose I’ve got used to disappointment – we go through it every year.
“There was hope in the first half – we were looking pretty good – but after the first goal against them they sort of gave up and it went downhill from there.”
But back at Hampden, Hibs supporters impressed
opposing fans with upbeat singing and chanting throughout the match – and long after defeat seemed inevitable. Minutes after the final whistle, at the Clockwork craft brewery down the road, dejected Hibees nursed their sorrow over pints but remained proud of their side’s achievement in making it to two Scottish cup finals in a row.
Hibs boss Pat Fenlon was disappointed to lose a Scottish Cup final for a second year running but had nothing but praise for the players and the massive Hibee following, saying: “We are bitterly disappointed that we lost a cup final but I can’t ask any more of the players and the supporters today. They were tremendous”.
However, if there are characteristics that Hibs fans show in spades they are resilience and undying loyalty. Optimism remains, after all there’s always next year.