Frank Boyle tackles football in new exhibition

Hibs announce that Elton John is to play a concert at Easter Road.
Hibs announce that Elton John is to play a concert at Easter Road.
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IT’S a fair bet, should you happen to follow the beautiful game and hail from these eastern edges of the Central Belt, that if you didn’t laugh you might be prone to sudden outbursts of howling at the moon and setting fire to your replica strip.

Whether you wrap yourself in maroon or green, head down to Easter Road or along to Tynecastle and the Gorgie Stand, the only guarantee is that, at some point during the season, the joke will be on you. Throughout 13 years as the Edinburgh Evening News cartoonist, Frank Boyle has witnessed plenty of football ups – and, unfortunately for fans on both sides – substantially more downs, to provide vital ammunition for his daily Boyling Point offering.

Whether it’s giving Hearts owner “Vlad the Bad” a hilarious makeover as a blood-drenched Dracula after bats were found roosting in the Tynecastle main stand, or lampooning Hibs’ lack of glittering silverware, Frank’s given us all something to laugh about.

Now, a selection of his finest football-themed offerings – cartoons to make both sides of the city’s football divide unite in laughter – are about to go on display for us all to savour once more. Frank’s original cartoons, often featuring lavish background detail and typically dripping in satire and wit, have been enlarged from their real-life A3 size into giant posters, which will hang on the walls of the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the Royal Mile from tomorrow.

Together, they make up a unique snapshot of critical moments in the city’s recent footballing history – such as Hearts’ Scottish Cup win in 2006, marked by a cartoon depicting a Hibs’ fan’s attempt to recreate illusionist David Blaine’s week-long entombment in a water tank in a desperate bid to avoid gloating rivals’ jibes.

If that had the Jambos sniggering, then their Hibee foes must have enjoyed Frank’s take on then Lord Provost and self- confessed Hearts’ fan Eric Milligan’s visit to Rome. Bowed in deep respect before the Pope, he pleads for a wee prayer for his beloved Tynecastle squad only to be dismissed with a pious “I don’t do miracles”.

Falkirk-born Frank, 59, pictured above, says his affectionate digs at both Edinburgh clubs are accepted as an extension of football terracing banter largely because he has no affiliation with either side. “They wouldn’t go down well if I happened to be known as a Hearts fan or a Hibee,” he grins. “But I don’t support either, so I get away with it.

“I doubt it would be like that if the cartoons appeared in a Glasgow paper and were about Rangers or Celtic!”

Frank joined the Evening News in 1999 when his original black-and-white cartoons arrived in the newsroom by fax. Now he works in colour, sending by e-mail his daily comic reflections on whichever top news or sports story appeals most to his sense of humour.

While some on the receiving end of his pen might be less than flattered at his shrewd eye – First Minister Alex Salmond recently gave Frank a light-hearted ticking off for making him too plump – others who find themselves lampooned by his ingenious pen seem delighted with the results.

“I’ve ended up depicting Hibs’ chairman Rod Petrie as some kind of Scrooge character, just because there’s this general feeling that he’s a bit ‘tight fisted’ with money,” says Frank.

“He’s probably just careful with how he spends it, but the Scrooge character has stuck.

“There was one time when Hibs were taking ages to find a new manager and it was just at the time Kenny Richey was arriving back in Edinburgh after years on Death Row in America.

“So I drew Rod Petrie on the phone to Kenny Richey, asking ‘how desperate are you for a job?’ But Rod Petrie doesn’t seem to mind – he’s actually bought quite a few of the original cartoons.”

Frank on Football runs at the centre for three weeks when it will make way for a second exhibition, this one featuring the pick of Frank’s Boyling Point politically-themed cartoons.

But it’s the football cartoons that are most likely to unite the city across its historic sporting divide, with gentle jibes at Hearts, Hibs, the international squad and even Scottish allegiances to foreign teams whenever they play England all part of the fun.

Asking Frank to choose his favourite might be a bit like demanding a mother pick her best-loved child.

If pushed, he’ll point to a 2009 cartoon that coincided with a museum exhibition of Russian Romanov treasures – a heaven-sent opportunity to revisit the Gorgie Road owner once again and, just for extra fun, slot in a reference to former chairman Chris Robinson, captured in a glass case alongside a glittering Faberge egg “pie holder”.

Football – it is, indeed, a funny old game . . .

• Frank on Football is at the Scottish Storytelling

Centre from Saturday. An exhibition of Boyling Point political cartoons will then run from Friday, May 11.