I know my nerves are frayed, while so many thousands of Hearts supporters are in exactly the same boat – but that will be magnified in the team hotel tonight as the players prepare for the biggest game of their lives.
Everyone always wants to be involved in the last game of the season, regardless of what competition it is, but the fact it’s the Scottish Cup final, the showpiece game of the campaign, makes it so much more special. The focus of the whole country is on Hearts and Hibs and it’s the type of game players relish.
The Hearts players by now will be entirely focused on what they have to do to bring home the Scottish Cup. The defenders will have had the threat posed by the likes of Griffiths, Doyle and O’Connor drummed into them. Ian Black and Darren Barr will be hoping they can take control of the game in the manner that they’ve done in other matches this season, with Barr working his socks off and Black taking responsibility for the creative side of things. The front area of the starting XI is the department that’s hardest to second-guess in terms of team selection. You’d probably say at this point in time that Rudi Skacel is the only one of the front four certain to start. Given that the team doesn’t necessarily pick itself this time, there will have already been some nervous energy used up by those fretting over whether or not they will start. Those who have been told they are starting will be thinking about how they can be the match-winning individual for Hearts on the day.
Although everyone is already on tenterhooks, I think the nerves will really start jangling for both the fans and the players when they set off on their journey to Hampden tomorrow. Everyone will have a read of the Saturday papers and then the reality of the size of the game will really hit home when they set off from their various locations on their way to the ground.
Myself, I’ll head for the gym and go for a wee run to get rid of some of my nervous energy, have a bit of breakfast and then pick up my friends and then drive everyone through to Glasgow on the minibus. No alcohol will pass my lips at any time before the game and I’m not even sure that I’ll have a drink afterwards because I think this is a weekend that just needs to be savoured. As an Edinburgh boy, a diehard Hearts supporter and someone who has professional dealings with Hibs, this, for me, is an occasion that just needs to be soaked up and enjoyed as much as possible.
I have no idea how the game is going to unfold. There was a huge amount of pressure on Hibs in front of a big crowd in their SPL game against Dunfermline recently but they responded wonderfully well to come out and blow their opponents away early on. If they rise to the occasion tomorrow, then it will be an even tougher game for Hearts than it already looks. Make no mistake, there’s a lot of pressure on Hearts because of the expectancy level. However, there is always the chance that Hibs will be intimidated by the fact Hearts have the upper hand in the recent derbies.
There’s so much nervousness about, which I think has made it hard for a lot of people to really enjoy the build-up as much as they could if we were playing, say, Aberdeen. But hopefully come 5pm tomorrow, there are maroon and white ribbons on the Cup and everyone of a Hearts persuasion can really enjoy what could be the most memorable weekend of their lives.
Most importantly, I just hope that everybody has a safe and enjoyable day out and that we’re not talking about anything negative at the end of what should be a truly incredible weekend for Edinburgh football.