His testimonial match will have left Hibs skipper Ian Murray with plenty of happy memories, playing alongside French legends Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires from the Arsenal side he has admired for years and to see so many former Easter Road stars gather to pay tribute to his decade with the Capital outfit.
But for Hibs youngster Dean Horribine it produced a moment he’ll never forget, the day the little 18-year-old replaced the great Vieira in what will undoubtedly remain the most surreal 24 hours of his footballing career. The previous day the midfielder had been playing for Hibs’ Under-19 side, scoring along with Danny Handling and Phil Addison in a 3-0 win away to Kilmarnock in the surroundings of the Kilwinning Sports Club, then finding himself rubbing shoulders with not only Vieira and Pires but Easter Road greats such as John Collins, Russell Latapy and Keith Wright among many others.
Today the Pilton kid admitted he was stunned to find himself switching places with World Cup winner Vieira, the 35-year-old Frenchman having been his boyhood hero. He said: “It was unreal, I’ve grown up trying to play like him and there I was taking his place in the Hibs team. I’m a Manchester United fan but I always liked the way Vieira plays, his passing and the way he always tries to get forward. He’s won virtually everything there is to win in the; just to see him in a green and white shirt out there on the pitch at Easter Road was unbelievable.
“I’d been told at half-time that I’d be coming on for him after an hour but even so it was a special moment, one I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
“I’d only ever played at Easter Road in the East of Scotland Shield before, this was my first time in front of the new stand and part of the first team set-up so, Vieira apart, it was fantastic to find myself playing against guys like John Collins, Russell Latapy, Keith Wright, Craig Brewster and so on.
“It was a huge difference to the previous day when I was playing for the Under-19s against Kilmarnock, I could hardly have dreamt of what was going to happen.”
As well as granting the Hibs support an afternoon of nostalgia as more than 20 former Hibs players returned to their old stomping ground, Murray’s testimonial also afforded them a glimpse of the future with Horribine just one of eight Easter Road teenagers given a precious few minutes alongside such luminaries of the game.
A friendly it may have been, but Murray, himself a product of Hibs’ much-envied youth programme, insisted the experience will stand the likes of Horribine, Scott Smith, Scott Taggart, David Gold, Ross Caldwell, Lewis Horner, David Crawford and Paul Grant in good stead for the future. He said: “If some of our young kids make it now or even if they don’t they can look back and say they played with Patrick and Robert.” ”