Hibs’ average home gates for league matches have hit a 43-year record – and chief executive Leeann Dempster has predicted they’ll soar even higher.
The Easter Road outfit’s first four Championship games have attracted more than 69,500 fans to the Edinburgh ground, the fixtures against Dunfermline, Morton, Ayr United and Dundee United each watched by an average crowd of 15,381, a figure not seen since the 1972-73 campaign when the gate averaged 16,100 throughout the season.
The rising turn-outs, insisted Dempster, are proof of the “sea-change” in attitude towards the Capital outfit since they ended their 114-year pursuit of the Scottish Cup, their victory over Rangers coming just days after Falkirk had ended their promotion hopes and in the wake of an earlier Hampden heartbreak when they were beaten in the final of the League Cup by Ross County,
She said: “People’s attitude towards the team has changed and there is a real sense of deep pride in what they have achieved. I think that comes from the nature of the way we were beaten in the League Cup final [a last-minute winner for the Staggies] and the way we lost to Falkirk [again in the dying seconds of their play-off].
“If the Scottish Cup win is the height of the best feeling in football, then that night in the Falkirk Stadium was the exact opposite. To go from that to winning the Scottish Cup was a rollercoaster.”
Dempster admitted the phrase “Hibs-ed it” once got under her skin, but now, she insisted, it means something entirely different. She said: “It doesn’t wind me up any more. It was something that was used as a real negative towards the club and people often used it in a lazy way.
“We are a professional football club with professional people and that kind of language absolutely got under my skin. People can use it as much as they like now as it is a very positive thing.
“There was a whole negative spin on the ‘Hibs-ed it’ thing, but if feels like that whole period is behind us. People can revisit if they want but we can just look back on it with a wry smile now.”
And the spin-off from May 21 is, said Dempster, all too evident. Speaking at the club launched “Time for Heroes,” a DVD marking their Scottish Cup win she said: “People said to me when supporters start coming back it will be noticeable in terms of numbers as well as an energy around the club.
“From that day forward we knew we’d have a cracking summer and we knew there would be strong season ticket sales. Our average gate is nearly 15,500 and I am sure we will smash that.
“If we keep giving people what they want in good performances and not just that but by winning, then HIbs can do what other clubs have done. Look at Hearts, They saw their gates go up – and good for them – and I think we are seeing that effect now for ourselves.