I woke up on Monday morning to find Leith shrouded in a pall of haar, not a glimmer of sunshine. It was the perfect metaphor for the way Hibs supporters felt the day after our team blew the League Cup Final. Hungover, disbelieving, sick as parrots. The green-and-white funeral cortege that wound its way at a snail’s pace through Glasgow’s useless traffic system should have been a mobile M8 victory parade. How did it feel? Like losing your wallet with all your holiday money in it. Like being dumped by the girl whose name’s tattooed on your bicep. Like coming back to work the day after your honeymoon and getting the sack. That’s how it felt.
Sunday dawned brightly. There was sunshine splashed all over the pavements of Leith. At every major junction knots of happy Hibs fans were waiting for their lifts and their buses. My son Ally had come up from London. My brother Michael, heroically volunteering to drive, had motored down from Fife. Others had flown in from Australia and Dubai. It didn’t matter that it was the Diddy Cup. We were going to win it. Daylight robbery by the Highlanders hadn’t even crossed my radar.
Maybe I should have taken heed of the omens. My brother had a flat battery before he left the house. Then at the Barnton roundabout where he picked me up, a woman with a wean started pulling faces and pointing at the car. A flat battery followed by a flat tyre. No panic. We soon had the space-saver on and joined the hopeful Hibees en route to Hampden.
Lunch at the Battlefield Rest, just ten minutes from the National Stadium, was jolly. The wine was flowing in three colours, white, red and rose. Our cheeks were white, red and rosy too. Some of the cute kids in shiny new Hibs strips looked young enough to still be in nappies. There was Malcolm Ross from Orange Juice grinning like the 20-year-old he was when they were in their pomp. And my goodness, there was some demented clown, ever-so-slightly refreshed, leading the restaurant in a chorus of “We’ve got JONES, always believe in Rob Jones”. It was me.
And oh the noise at Hampden Park. We raised the roof: “We’ve got John McGinn, Super John McGinn, I just don’t think you understand. He’s Alan Stubb’s man, he’s better than Zizdane, we’ve got Super John McGinn.” Another omen if I cared to look; because the melody we sang to those lyrics was Achy Breaky Heart and the Hibees lost no time in breaking ours. Kevin Thomson was a slow square-passer when he first played for Hibs under Tony Mowbray. This time round, with Ross County looking toothless, he square-passed straight into the path of man-bun-wearing Jackson Irvine who fed it to Gardyne. Marvin Bartley looked to have made a goal-saving tackle but Gardyne got the break of the bobble and sportingly stayed on his feet to put the Highlanders ahead.
At that stage, I felt fine. I couldn’t see us not equalizing and sure enough, right on the stroke of half-time, Liam Fontaine spun and fizzed a shot in at Woods’ right hand post. Cue dancing, hugging, singing and shouting. Oh and pies, lots of pies.
The game restarted optimistically and as the clock ticked to extra time, I still felt comfortable. We would do this. Then with only their fourth attack of the entire game Ross County got a decent cross in. Tragic Liam Fontaine stuck a leg out and the word GOAL jumped about on the big screen. Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.