It is the biggest game in the club’s history – and fittingly Spartans are expecting their biggest ever away turnout for tonight’s crucial Scottish Cup clash as their chairman declared: “All roads lead to Berwick.”
Up to 1000 fans from the Capital – many wearing T-shirts featuring the Twitter hashtag #BeThe12thMan – will descend on Shielfield Park for the fifth round replay against Berwick Rangers – more than 20 times the average.
The winning team will go on to play Hibs on Sunday, March 8 in a game to be broadcast live by Sky.
Whoever progresses stands to collect a windfall of around £100,000 from TV rights and a share of the gate money at Easter Road, giving an added incentive to prevail for both clubs.
Club chairman Craig Graham predicted it would be the “biggest turnout in the club’s history”.
He said: “People have been given something to look forward to and focus on. Parts of north Edinburgh are tough to live in but this has brought a smile to people’s faces and a spring to their step.
“All roads lead to Berwick. We estimate that there will be between 800 and 1000 supporters going down. It’s a fantastic turnout. On a normal Saturday we have nothing like that.”
The average home game at Ainslie Park hosts between 100 and 150 supporters, while the average away game is attended by just 50.
Previously, the most popular away game for Spartans was the 2006 clash against St Mirren when more than 900 pitched up at Love Street to see the Saints win the Valentine’s Night replay 3-0.
The coaches, which have been subsidised by the club to ensure a bumper crowd, will take 530 cheering fans to Northumberland. The rest of the Spartan Army are expected to make their own way to the game via train, car and minibus.
A large contingent will be children and teenagers from the youth academy, particularly because the game falls within the half-term holidays.
Cameron Hobbs, the club’s media manager, said: “This gives us the opportunity to travel somewhere new for a place in the last eight of the Scottish Cup. This is by far the biggest game in the club’s history. We have made it to this stage twice before but we were up against top league opposition.
“This is a real chance to make it to the last eight. We are massive underdogs in the game but we are one win away from an exciting prospect of playing Hibs at Easter Road.”
Supporter Garry Betts, 52, who is travelling down on one of the 11 coaches, said he was “buzzing” and doubted he would be able to sleep ahead of the game.
Michele Macnab, youth section manager, said the game would be a “fantastic opportunity” for the club to showcase their style of football.