Football is enjoying rude health with two clubs in the city despite Wallace Mercer’s efforts at unity - Steve Cardownie

The recent coverage of the “Hands Off Hibs” campaign in this paper got me thinking back to my involvement in the protest.

Memories of the rally at Easter Road stadium are still fresh. I had just been elected to the Council two years previously in 1988 and had been invited to address the rally along with a number of other speakers, including the Hibs hero, Joe Baker.

I started off by declaring that I was a “dyed in the wool” Hearts supporter which was met with a crescendo of derision from the assembled thousands of Hibs supporters, which was just what I had predicted. I followed that up by saying that I was 100% opposed to Wallace Mercer’s bid to take over the club and was then afforded a much more respectful hearing.

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It was an emotional day all round as the threat of the takeover was very real and the campaign to resist was just kicking off. I noticed a number of fans from clubs other than Hibs at the rally and was pleased to see that Hearts supporters were also represented. I came from the point of view that Hibs were a club steeped in a history and tradition that should not be erased at the whim of a few businessmen. I felt that the city could sustain two successful clubs and that with the proper investment they could prove to be a greater force in Scottish football.

I was also mindful that the Edinburgh derby, which had brought me so much joy- and sometimes despair- would be consigned to history. I’m sure that most fans would agree that, although it is satisfying to beat provincial clubs such as Celtic and Rangers, it does not come close to the satisfaction derived from putting one over your city rivals.

I was also aware of the strength of feeling that fans had for their club. My father and his four brothers were all Hibs supporters and used to enjoy giving me a bit of a ribbing when they beat Hearts, which mercifully was not that often. I knew what Hibs meant to them and the thousands of other Hibs supporters throughout the city.

In my capacity as a Councillor, I met with Wallace Mercer on several occasions and during one such meeting I informed him that the Council had decided to offer to accommodate Hibs home games at Meadowbank should he be successful in closing Easter Road down. It was a potential lifeline for Hibs and added to the pressure on Wallace to abandon his quest.

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All told, the campaign was successful, and Hibs are alive and kicking to this day. I was pleased that the Council played a part in achieving this success and was more than happy to lend my personal support, for what it was worth.

Next season Edinburgh will have four teams in the SPFL, two of which will be competing in a European competition, so the game looks to be enjoying rude health in the city and long may it continue to be so.

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