Just before Christmas, at our annual SEX (Self-Employed Xmas) party, full of the joys of the season and more than a few glasses of Chablis, I threw myself into the charity auction for St Columba’s Hospice with more gusto than good sense.
So it was that I, a lifelong Hibby, bid £98 for a day out at Tynecastle. I had read and been entertained by Aidan Smith’s excellent bestseller Heartfelt – Supping Bovril From The Devil’s Cup, an account of his attempt to spend a whole season transferring his loyalties from Easter Road to Tynecastle. A volume which no less a Hibster than Irvine Welsh described as “the best book I’ve ever read about football”.
My day out at the Big Pink Bus Shelter kicked off in Ryrie’s at 12.15. The place was full of Motherwell supporters behaving like five-year-olds hopped up on Haribo – Mark McGee is one of those managers who’s full of hype. He gets the fans all worked up and then lets them down with a bump. The scent of malt and hops on the Edinburgh breeze usually makes my flesh crawl – it means I’m too close to Tynecastle for comfort. But this time the bouquet that wafted up my nostrils was from an excellent pint of Flying Scotsman Ale.
My host was David Reid, a fresh-faced youngster just out of uni when I first met him at The Leith Agency in 1987, now sporting a beard as grizzly as Leonardo DiCaprio’s in The Revenant. He predicted 3-1 to the Jambos. I thought there might be the odd goal in it. As we left for a bite to eat, I had a flashback to the last time I walked out of Ryrie’s.
I was 16 and heading for Tynecastle just two weeks after the famous 7-0 drubbing. I was considerably refreshed. I had my Hibs scarf held aloft and I was literally floating up the middle of Dalry Road singing “Glory Glory” when I felt my feet literally leave the ground as two stone-faced Seventies polismen hoisted me in the opposite direction, whispering in my ear that I was “gonny get a wee doing”. Luckily, my perfect cousin Kevin from Nottingham was with me. He trailed them and then talked them out of their dark threats, saying he’d look after me.
This time I was on my best behaviour. After pints, we stopped off at First Coast – fish cakes and venison burgers with extra chips – then made our merry way down to Gorgie. Walking into the Wheatfield Stand felt wrong on many levels. People’s clothes were a funny burgundy colour. All the paint was the same shade. The Jambos didn’t hold their scarves aloft, they tied them to their wrists and twirled them. Weird.
I have to admit that Tynecastle has some atmosphere. The stands are steep, the opposing team’s players can hear every insult. Scott Wilson has no rival for the crown of best stadium MC. I actually love it when he plays This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us on derby days.
Did I mention that Hearts played well? Better than a pub team. Like Aberdeen the week before, Motherwell had no answer to their pressing and their long balls down the channel for eager runners. Did I mention they scored six goals with no reply? I was definitely the odd one out, sitting hard on my hands with a wee lemon smile as the folk next to me chanted “bring on the Hibees”. We nipped off a couple of minutes early to make sure we’d get served at the Diggers and missed goal number six.
I still can’t believe it – I went to see the Jam Tarts at Tynecastle and had a thoroughly good time.