Lee Currie used to walk the short distance from his home in Lochend to Easter Road with Sean Welsh every morning, the boyhood pals dreaming of the day they’d pull on Hibs shirt as first-team players.
They came close, part of the Hibs Under-19 squad which lifted an unprecedented League and Cup double eight years ago, but sadly for them their dream was never to be realised.
But now Currie is returning to Easter Road hoping to make history as Berwick Rangers prepare for their first Scottish Cup quarter-final in 35 years when, coincidentally, Hibs provided the opposition, Ally MacLeod’s goal enough to separate the sides after a no-scoring draw at Shielfield Park a few days earlier.
There’s no doubting the sense of occasion among the League Two outfit’s players, who have battled hard to get this far, easing their way past Formartine United, East Fife and, after replays, Albion Rovers and Spartans, and now with their fingers firmly crossed that they can cause an upset against a Hibs side rejuvenated under Alan Stubbs.
Midfield linchpin Currie said: “You can feel a wee bit of a buzz about the boys. It’s a big game for us, not everyone has played a Scottish Cup quarter-final and some of us might never get there again. Going somewhere like Easter Road, playing against a side like Hibs in front of a big crowd and live on television – it doesn’t get much bigger than that.
“It’s been a great achievement for us and financially for the club it’s great. I’m sure the chairman would have been rubbing his hands when he heard it was Hibs although, at that stage, we still had to take care of Spartans.”
Currie admitted he was well aware that, as world darts champion Gary Anderson prepared to make the draw for the last eight at Hampden, the other seven clubs in the hat saw Berwick as the ideal draw. But, he insisted, that wasn’t taken as an insult.
He said: “It was just everyone being realistic because we were the only League Two team left in the competition.
“Anyone we got was going to be hard for us. I also know being from Edinburgh that a lot of people wanted it to be Hibs and Spartans, which would have been a unique derby. I think they got much more of the press than us, but we kind of liked that, being able to fly under the radar.”
But while acknowledging a Hibs side which has suffered just one defeat in their last 19 Championship matches will provide formidable opposition, Currie was adamant that none of Colin Cameron’s players will be overawed by the occasion – and claimed it could bring the best out of them.
The 25-year-old said: “Easter Road is obviously going to be very different to most of the grounds we play on, but we went to Ibrox in the League Cup last season and that gave us a big lift, so I expect it will be the same on Sunday.
“It will be a good surface, a big pitch and, to be honest, that will suit us. If we can get the ball down, pass it as we are capable of doing and get it out to our wide players early then we can maybe cause Hibs problems. But we’ll have to acquit ourselves well from the first minute to the last, hopefully not make any mistakes and look to sneak a goal.
“Hibs sometimes aren’t at their most comfortable when they’re down as favourites. Both Alloa and Arbroath got the first goal against them in the previous rounds, so I’m sure the fans will get a bit nervous if we can take any chances that come our way on the day.”
Although he’s played at Easter Road in the past, this will be the first time Currie has tasted first-team action as it will be for fellow midfielder David Gold who was released by Hibs only last summer, just one of the many victims of that wide-sweeping cull which followed relegation.
Currie, on the other hand, left almost four years ago and has since become a stalwart for the Borders club but, even so, he admitted he’ll find pitching up at Easter Road for Sunday’s lunchtime start a touch strange.
He said: “I was at Hibs for 13 years – I’m a Hibs fan – and every morning Sean and I would walk up to the ground for training. We had that great team that won the league and the cup, Kurtis Byrne scoring seconds from the end away to Motherwell to clinch the title and then doing the same at Hampden with only a few seconds left when we beat Rangers to lift the cup.
“With Callum Booth going the other week there’s none of us left, but that’s the way of football, things change right, left and centre. Paul Hanlon was also in that squad at the start of that season but he got his step-up to the first team. I still speak to him, he’s done well in clocking up more than 200 appearances for Hibs at such a young age.
“It’ll feel a bit weird for me going back, but it’s also going to be a great occasion. A few of my family will be coming along – but they’ll be 100 per cent behind me.”
While there will be their support and that of some 1200 Berwick fans, at Currie’s side to face the likes of Scott Allan, Dylan McGeouch, Fraser Fyvie, Scott Robertson and Liam Craig in the middle of the park, will be his 42-year-old manager Cameron, the former Hearts and Scotland star still capable of bossing a game as he did in the replay against Spartans.
Currie said: “I’ve seen the Hibs v Hearts games on television and the Rangers match at Ibrox the other Friday and they’ve got a good team. Scott Allan looks a great player and I’m looking forward to going up against him. You want to test yourself against the best so hopefully I can put in a good performance.
“The middle of the park is probably where Hibs are strongest when you look at the others in there, while up front they’ve got guys who are scoring goals. We’ll have to be on our game, but the gaffer has plenty of experience. He’s great to play with. That’s maybe what we were lacking for a few games but he’s come back in and his experience, he’s played in cup finals and for Scotland, is good to have.”
Currie himself can prove to be a threat from midfield having scored eight goals so far although he’s some way short of last season’s 18, a fact he’s hoping to help rectify come Sunday.
He said: “I’ve not scored a lot compared to last season, but we’ve a few games left so hopefully I can keep getting on the scoresheet and one this weekend wouldn’t go amiss.”
It was his impressive goal-scoring which led to a surprise approach from Hearts last summer as new coach Robbie Neilson set about rebuilding the Jambos but, unfortunately for Currie, it came to nothing.
He said: “I was with Hearts for a couple of weeks, went down to England with them, played in a few friendly games, but it was not to be. I’m wanting to get back into full-time football so it was a good experience for me, but one I had to take on the chin. I came back to Berwick, spoke to the gaffer, and although I had a few other options, I felt staying with Berwick would be the best thing for me.”