EXCITEMENT is reaching fever pitch as the Capital gears up for Scotland’s biggest football match in decades.
A sellout is expected at the 67,000 capacity BT Murrayfield as Hearts take on Celtic in tomorrow’s lunchtime kick-off League Cup semi-final.
The Evening News reported yesterday how 200 police will keep rival fans apart – with Celtic supporters funnelled to the west of the ground and Hearts to the east.
That means the streets and bars of Dalry and Roseburn are expected to be swamped by a sea of maroon ahead of the 1.30pm game.
Publicans yesterday were busy stocking fridges and cancelling staff leave as they geared up for what could be their busiest day of the year.
Thousands of Hearts fans are expected to converge on their heartland of Dalry before the game. Coaches transporting out-of-town Jambos will be parked up in streets around Tynecastle, including Wheatfield Road and Wheatfield Place.
Supporters are then expected to make their way to Murrayfield on foot – perhaps via one of the popular watering holes in the area.
Among them is the Athletic Arms in Angle Park Terrace, known affectionately as Diggers because it was a regular post-work stop-off for workers in Dalry Cemetery.
Landlord Kevin McGee told the Evening News: “It’s potentially the busiest day of the year. It’s the biggest football game in Scotland for 20 years and it’s great Hearts are there and the fans are behind them.
“We’ll be open from 11am as usual as it’s only places with entertainments licences that can open earlier.”
A Hibby running a Jambos pub, Mr McGee expects plenty of banter from regulars... should they overcome the Hoops.
“I’m a Hibs fan but I wish them all the best,” he laughed. “I think the SFA made the right decision to move it from Hampden.”
And as the day fast approaches, Mr McGee said he was confident the Diggers will be able to quench even the strongest thirst.
“We run a pretty tight ship here so we’ll have as many staff as we can behind the bar and enough stock,” he said.
Mr McGee backed the police operation in place for the game with 30,000 Celtic fans expected.
“The police have been in the premises and advised extra security so there’s a bit of apprehension as well,” he said.
“But hopefully the fans are kept apart as much as possible. We’ll be full of Hearts fans only and have the maroon and white up.”
Hearts fans making their way down through Roseburn may find themselves heading into the Roseburn Bar for a pre-match tipple.
Assistant trainee manager Lynn Mouat said: “We’ll be busy. We’ll have extra beer and we’ve got a big bar so we’ll have plenty in stock.
“We’ll have extra staff on as well – there’ll be 15 of them. Some will be supporting Hearts and some Celtic, they’re a mixed group.”
With full searches on the gate, anyone deemed too drunk will be refused entry, police have warned.
Smoke bombs and flares, meanwhile, have been added to a list of prohibited items which includes picnic hampers for Murrayfield’s usual clientele.
Once inside Murrayfield, fans can expect a few additions to their half-time pie or hotdog – with venison burgers and fish and chips among options.
A Murrayfield spokesman said: “It’s pretty straightforward in terms of the hospitality, given the time we had to get it together.”
Given the significance of the game, some Hearts fans have pushed the boat out and opted for VIP seats.
At a price of £150-per-person, the Thistle Suite offers private tables for eight to ten people with smaller groups sharing. Open from 11.30am, the package includes a champagne reception with all-inclusive beers, wines and soft drinks pre- and post-match.
No prawn sandwiches, but a breakfast brunch with a viennoiserie – or pastries – laid on, as well as half-time and full-time tea and coffee.
The hospitality also includes watching the action from the West Stand close to the halfway line.
Those Hearts fans not quite stretching to the full VIP treatment can enjoy all the match build-up in the Tennent’s Up & Under sports bar.
Located in the south west corner of the stadium and open from 11.30am, the £59 tickets include breakfast rolls, free tea and coffee, cash bar and the chance to watch the other semi-final live on the big screen.