Hearts paint the town maroon

IF you win it, they will come. By train from the west. By car from the east. They waited at bus stops. And they walked. A trickle becoming a torrent as they neared Gorgie.

By Gina Davidson
Monday, 21st May 2012, 1:00 pm

Flags fluttered on canes and scarves were unwound from necks as the temperature rose thanks to a sun which many had hoped would just shine on Leith, but which instead chose to bathe the whole city in summer.

And everywhere there was maroon. It seemed to be the chosen colour of young girls’ skinny jeans, it was in the henna hints of women’s hair, on the suitcases of tourists exiting Waverley Station, even in the foliage of bushes and trees in gardens. But mostly it was on the T-shirts, the football tops, the hats, the scarves and the flags of hundreds of thousands of Hearts supporters.

From the High Street to Tynecastle around 100,000 men, women and children turned out to cheer for the boys in maroon and their success in winning the Scottish Cup for the third time in 14 years. They would have filled Hampden twice over. Instead, they filled the city’s streets.

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Some stood on telephone boxes or climbed statues looking for vantage points. Others hung over bridges, dangled from the Dalry cemetery precipice and out of tenement windows. All just wanted a glimpse of the glorious Hearts on their Scottish Cup winning parade.

For 42 years their team had failed to win the coveted trophy. Then in 1998 demons – and Rangers – were finally vanquished and they brought the silverware back to Edinburgh. They did it again in 2006 against Gretna, and on Saturday once more – perhaps even more importantly for many, given the opposition.

Not surprisingly, there were few fans of Hibs to be seen yesterday. One brave man working on the scaffolding in Waverely Station began to sing his team’s anthem “glory, glory to the Hibees” as Hearts fans alighted from a train. Their reaction? To point and laugh. He soon became quiet.

Another, perhaps even more courageously, took on the Hearts team from his window as the parade bus passed by. He too was soon silenced by the jeers of the players – and the odd hand signal. The majority of Hibs fans, though, must have been, as the Hearts fans sang, “in their beds”. There was no green and white to be seen. Tumbleweed, if it was native to Edinburgh, would have been rolling down Easter Road.

But who could blame them when the city was ablaze with maroon and white, and the Hearts were “having a party”? Standing outside the City Chambers, where the parade was due to begin at 2pm, fans were pressed up against metal barriers, desperate to see their heroes and the silverware freshly inscribed with their team’s name once again.

They had watched the players arrive for their civic reception with new Lord Provost Donald Wilson – their white polo shirts as dazzling as the fans’ smiles – and laughed uproariously as Rudi Skacel had his bottle of beer confiscated by the police after he tried to hide it beneath a maroon and white wig.

Happiness and anticipation were in the air. Every few minutes the quiet chatter was shattered by chants of “Hearts, Hearts, Glorious Hearts”, “When the Hearts Go Up to Lift the Scottish Cup” and “Paulo Sergio”, in tribute to a manager whom, despite the travails and turmoil his team have faced off the pitch, had led them to a cup final win. Steven McLeod, a 31-year-old landscape gardener, had watched the game on television, but had been determined to be at the parade. “I was here in 1998 and 2006 so I would never have missed it today,” he said, hoisting his girlfriend’s daughter, six-year-old Bailey, on to his shoulders. “This one is a bit more special though because we beat Hibs. Edinburgh was always going to have the cup after the semi-finals, but if we’d lost I’d be in my bed right now. When Hibs scored I was terrified that was going to be it. But what a game.”

Banker Steven Scott had driven in from Musslburgh with his 11-year-old son Matthew, a Burgh Primary pupil, who was waving a flag bought at Hampden the day before. The 43-year-old was still basking in his team’s triumph. “I was content to just go home last night, have a few beers and watch it all over again,” he grinned. “Even though it’s the third time we’ve won the Scottish Cup we’re still not a team which is used to winning, so it’s just fantastic. There’s been a lot of investment in the club and I think it shows when you start winning trophies. The first one in 98 was a big one but this is great because we beat Hibs. There was so much riding on it – nobody wanted to get beaten.”

Matthew, who said Skacel is his favourite player, added: “Dad says I was at the 2006 game but I can’t really remember it. Yesterday was brilliant, though, especially when we scored the first goal.”

In the midst of the maroon crowd, two men stood out in their luminous orange boiler suits. “We’re working on Waverely station,” said one. “We shouldn’t really be here but we wanted to see it. We’re from Irvine really and Rangers fans, but we’re glad Hearts won. This is amazing though, the crowd are brilliant.”

And then it happened. The skirl of the pipes playing the Hearts song were heard, and blonde piper Louise Marshall Millington appeared through the arches of the Chambers.

But they weren’t there to see her. And when Paulo Sergio and the Lord Provost emerged holding the Cup aloft, the cheers drowned out the bagpipes. Indeed they could have raised the roof of St Giles’ Cathedral. As the players and staff boarded the bus, delight was painted across every face. Alan Moodie, a 26-year-old caterer with Virgin trains, who could barely speak after the previous day’s singing, croaked: “It was the biggest game of my life It’s been brilliant. The score was absolutely unbelievable.”

The bus began to rock as the players danced to the fans’ songs, but driver Shine Tom Varghese, wrapped in a Hearts scarf beamed from ear to ear. “I couldn’t get a ticket for the game, but to drive the team to Gorgie, it’s a great honour,” he said.

On the open-top bus the players sang and danced, Craig Beattie and Rudi Skacel leading from the front. A sombrero was tossed to the crowd, eagerly snatched up. Life-long friends Neil (Hunt) Hunter and Garry (Scoob) Finlayson – who have followed Hearts for 47 years, since they were pupils at Royal High – hugged as the bus set off towards Tynecastle.

Taxi driver Neil, wearing a T-shirt with the face of Heart’s 70s legend Drew Busby on his chest, his arms covered in tattoos – another soon to be added – said: “At our first game of football we took juice bottles to get in. Now we’re here celebrating with bottles of Bud. It’s been the biggest game in our lives, because it was the Hibs.”

Garry, who flew from Stornoway for the match, laughed: “It should have been eight or nine, we went easy on them. They should have brought on Gary Locke for the last 15 minutes.”

As the bus moved on and the crowds began to disperse, bemused tourists sat at their outdoor restaurant tables and began to eat. A gent wearing a Panama hat leaned against the railing, a suitcase at his side.

“This hat is pinned with badges from 98 and 2006 and European games,” smiled David Orr, 57. “I came up from London for this game as I’d been a season ticket holder for years. I wanted a nice easy game, and that’s what we got. My hat’s falling apart a bit now but there’s still plenty of room left on the band for more.”

London, Stornoway, even Florida, Tunisia and Australia . . . the Hearts fans came. And there was no doubting which team had conquered.