Scottish Cup final: Army shows team spirit

ABSOLUTELY everyone is invited to the Capital’s biggest day out in 116 years – and not even the city’s homeless population will be left kicking their heels on the sidelines as the action roars on around them.

After a surge in interest in the cup final from destitute football fans, The Salvation Army has stepped in to screen the historic game.

Its Niddry Street drop-in centre will open its doors at 2pm, with spectators being served soup, sandwiches and even half-time pies and warm drinks to accompany all the drama from Hampden.

Staff at the centre, which is usually closed on Saturdays, will make room for more than 30 homeless or vulnerable fans to watch the game on their big-screen TV.

Lifelong Hibs supporter Richard Cheyne, 45, who is currently living in a Salvation Army hostel, will be one of the fans cheering on his side at the centre.

He said: “I’ve supported Hibs since I was a young lad, I used to go to Easter Road as a teenager and I still follow football. Before I found out it was on at the centre I didn’t have any plans.

“I could have gone to the pub but I don’t really drink and I don’t like being around people who are drunk.

“There will be a mix of Hearts and Hibs fans, but it’ll be a good laugh and we know there won’t be any violence.

“The Salvation Army have helped me out a lot and we’re very appreciative that they’re opening up just so we can watch the match.

“A lot of us from the hostel are going to come along. I know a lot of other people will be happy as well.”

Mr Cheyne, originally from Niddrie, is predicting a 1-0 or 2-1 win for his beloved Hibs.

“I’ll be nervous before the game – I always am when it’s a derby – but to win the cup would be tremendous,” he said.

“I’ll be out to see them on the open-top bus if we win.”

Alison Douglas, senior project worker at the Niddry Street drop-in centre, is among three staff members who are giving up part of their weekend to ensure everyone has somewhere to watch the game.

She said she wanted to ensure that everybody had a chance to share in the city’s cup final fever, no matter what their personal circumstances.

“The game might be at Hampden but it’s a cup final day for everybody across Edinburgh,” she said.

“Through getting to know the people who use our services we get an understanding of what is or isn’t on offer to them.

“We thought we would offer this and it’s been very well received.

“It’s all about social inclusion and giving people the opportunity to feel part of a big event.”

Flyers advertising the screening have been put up at hostels and homeless centres throughout the Capital.

The soup and sandwiches will be served at the drop-in centre as the fans take in the build-up from Hampden, before the half-time refreshments are dished out.

When not doubling up as a venue for a football party, the drop-in centre provides cheap breakfasts every day of the week and free advice and support.

Ms Douglas added: “The Salvation Army hopes that, as a culture, we will start viewing people who are homeless as people who have a contribution to play in our society.

“This is about providing people with a place to watch the final in a safe, calm environment with good food and good company.

“Everyone can benefit from an event like this.”