TODAY Hibs will bring home the Scottish Cup to earn a place in history – or see their dreams trampled underfoot by the lion rampant of Rangers.
If they raise aloft the trophy at Hampden Park this afternoon, it will kick off the biggest party Leith has ever seen as supporters flock to bars to toast their victory.
Easter Road will be engulfed in a sea of green as fans line the streets to cheer on the victory parade sweeping from the Old Town to the club’s heartlands of Leith.
And while Rangers remain firm favourites to win the clash, many Hibbies are daring to dream that this could be the year they finally lay to rest the ghost of old defeats – some 114 years after they last won the coveted cup.
Pubs across Leith revealed that they have drafted in extra staff today, with back-up bar workers on standby in the event that Hibs achieve a famous triumph that ensures the team become living legends.
I will keep making the pilgrimage as long as there’s half a chance of standing at the end of the game, green and white scarf in the air, with my own family and my Hibs family, singing ‘My heart was broken’.Gerry Farrell
And the Lord Provost Donald Wilson has offered to host a celebratory reception at the Lothian Chambers for the boys in green if they win, followed by a parade though the city with an open-topped bus.
It has been an up-and-down season for Hibs which saw them denied promotion to the top flight of Scottish football.
But Gerry Farrell, a lifelong supporter and marketing guru from Leith, is prepared to take a leap of faith that the team can bring back the cup to Easter Road – and has even offered up a prayer for victory ahead of today’s clash.
He said: “I dropped into St Mary’s Star Of The Sea in Leith where I got married two years ago. Usually the big doors are shut.
“But there was a mass on and I stood at the back and offered up a wee prayer for the team and the fans.
“At the Handshake of Peace, I swung round and there was Frank Dougan, head of the Hibs Supporters Club. ‘Glory glory’ I said, instead of ‘Peace be with you.’ If that doesn’t swing it our way, I don’t know what will.”
He added: “Sometimes supporting Hibs is like being water-boarded in your own tears.
“But I will keep making the pilgrimage as long as there’s half a chance of standing at the end of the game, green and white scarf in the air, with my own family and my Hibs family, singing ‘My heart was broken’.
“My Dad was a Killie fan who lived in Edinburgh. He watched Hearts one week, Hibs the next. A lot of guys his age did that.
“But neutrality isn’t for me. It’s all or nothing. As soon as I was old enough to be swung over the turnstiles at Easter Road, I was baptised into the Hibs family.”
Paul Edie, Liberal Democrat councillor for the Corstorphine-Murrayfield ward, described himself as a Hibs “sufferer” rather than a “supporter” after a number of near misses for the team over the years.
But speaking hours before the game, he urged on his team with a stirring rallying call and remains convinced they are in with a chance.
He said: “Today they have a chance to be legends and to have children named after them. If they win, the names of these players will be uttered over the baptismal font and plastered over skin. They just have to imagine holding that trophy aloft on an open-topped bus with cheering fans having scored the winning goal.”
The Mash Tun on Easter Road will host a cup final breakfast from 9am tomorrow morning and will host a “Big Hibs Party” until 1am if the team wins. But manager Grant McNeil said the mood wasn’t optimistic after last Friday’s painful play-off semi-final defeat by Falkirk.
He added: “I think people are not expectant to be honest. They are living in hope rather than expectation. The game last week put a downer on it but who knows? Hibs still might win.”
Emma Reid, bar supervisor at the The Persevere, also on Easter Road, said they were expecting one of their busiest days in many years today followed by another bumper day tomorrow if Hibs clinch the trophy. The pub will have ten staff members working today and seven on tomorrow, with reserves at the ready.
Emma said: “It’s a great atmosphere and excitement is definitely growing, and everybody who comes in has been asking us if we are prepared for the weekend.”
Meanwhile, ScotRail has warned customers travelling to the final at Hampden that trains will be busier than normal.
The train company will have extra staff on the ground to assist customers and, as with most major events, alcohol bans will be in place.
They will also add carriages to trains between Glasgow Central and Mount Florida/King’s Park – the closest stations to Hampden Park.
However, to help fans reach the appropriate stadium entrance as quickly as possible, there will be separate queuing systems in place at Glasgow Central before the match.
Extra staff will also be on hand to direct passengers to the right queue.
Fans travelling to Mount Florida at busy times will be directed to join the queuing area at the entrance across from La Lanterna Restaurant on Hope Street.
Those heading to King’s Park should anticipate queuing on the main concourse at Glasgow Central beforehand.
After the match, fans should be prepared to queue at Mount Florida/King’s Park for their return journey.
Customers travelling from Edinburgh should also be aware that queuing systems may be in place at Waverley Station beforehand to help manage the anticipated crowds.
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We’ll be using every train at our disposal to add extra carriages to services between Glasgow Central and Mount Florida/King’s Park. However, trains are expected to be very busy.
“Make sure to check your train times on our website or app and leave plenty of time for travel.
“Be aware that queuing systems will be in place at key stations throughout the day. Buying tickets in advance will help reduce your queuing time.
“Fans travelling through to Glasgow should bear in mind the Queen Street improvement works and check how their journeys are affected at www.scotrail.co.uk/QueenStreetTunnel.“