ON the pitch, the 1902 Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Celtic offered little to get excited about – a windswept Parkhead where neither side created much of a flap among a subdued crowd.
Even when Hibs broke the deadlock and scored, setting them up for their second Scottish Cup victory, the crowd barely roused itself from its slump.
Yet although Hibs’ last Scottish Cup win offered little for football historians to get excited about, the victory parade back home was quite spectacular.
Long-suffering Hibs fans nowadays would gladly settle for a match that ticks the “job done” box, just so long as the scoreline results in the chance to dance and sing in the streets like their great grandparents did in 1902 – the last time the cup sat in the trophy cabinet at Easter Road. And sing, dance, tip their hats, wave their handkerchiefs they certainly did.
Hibs had made the final despite a disappointing league campaign that offered little to suggest they would become a deadly force in the Scottish Cup. Sixth in the ten-team First Division, just three away wins to their credit and the misery of having watched their Gorgie rivals scoop the cup, the previous year meant few were tipping the “Edinburgh Irishmen” to take the season’s top honour. They were wrong.
The road to the final was littered with goals – Hibs had scored 16 and lost just two, booking their place with a 2-0 triumph over Rangers. The scene was set for a thrilling chance for an Edinburgh side to scoop the honours for a second year in a row. Except that the countdown to the kick-off would be marred in the worst possible manner. The cup final was to be held at Ibrox. Seven days earlier, however, Scotland had played England at the ground before a crowd of 80,000. Tragically, the game had just kicked off when a part of the flimsy wooden terracing collapsed, 25 fans were killed and more than 500 were injured.
It was a sobering and painful chapter in Scotland’s football history. The cup final was rearranged for a couple of weeks later at Parkhead but the heart had been sucked out of the event, filtering through to the players on the pitch.
Certainly, newspaper reports of the game scraped new depths when it came to finding words to describe how lacklustre it all was. “Dull and spiritless,” shrugged The Leith Observer report. Like a “charity club season final” groaned the Evening Dispatch.
Part of the problem was a gale force wind, spoiling any chance of a footballing spectacle for the 16,000 supporters, many of whom had shied away from taking up position on the wooden terraces, mindful of events a week earlier.