Hibs braced for another emotional 90 minutes against Rangers but want to perform for Ron Gordon
Another emotional 90 minutes for Hibs is in store on Wednesday night when Rangers visit Easter Road on cinch Premiership duty for the first home game since Ron Gordon’s untimely passing last month.
The executive chairman and owner had been receiving treatment for cancer for much of the past 12 months and disclosed his diagnosis to supporters in a heartfelt open letter just weeks before his death in America.
The fixture list meant the first match back was an away trip to Livingston, where both teams paid tribute to the 68-year-old before and during the match. On Tuesday, a little over 24 hours before kick-off against the Light Blues, the Hibs family came together at the Mansfield Traquair to pay their last respects to their leader, the self-styled ‘little guy from Lima’. That particular building was chosen in a bid to house all those who would want to attend but even then, club chiefs were privately preparing for it being standing-room only – as it was at Ron’s funeral.
Long-time family friend David Settle said last week at the service in Virginia: “The thing I will miss most about Ron is that he was just a lot of fun to be around. But I also truly appreciated that, behind the self-described little boy from Lima, Peru this underdog was really a world-class entrepreneur who wanted to change the world. He was one of those rare people who had the vision, the passion, the confidence, and the charisma to do great things.
"It’s easy to say that he put in the work and he had the Midas touch, which of course is true, but in my opinion the key to Ron’s success is that he was a true leader. Ron inspired others. He brought out the best versions of themselves. It’s impossible to do everything yourself, but you can accomplish a lot when you get others to believe in your mission. This was Ron’s gift. Ron inspired the people around him. His presence, warmth, and charm made people feel things. While it’s easy to feel sad over the loss I will choose to feel honoured and privileged over the time spent with such a positive, passionate change-maker and friend.”
Virtually every other tribute, whether it has come from manager Lee Johnson, or other players, or staff at the training centre, the stadium, other football clubs, supporters of Hibs or other teams, has echoed those sentiments. When one considers the foundations upon which Hibs was built, it’s easy to see just why Ron and the Gordon family came on board so quickly. A lot has changed in Leith, and in Edinburgh, since the 1870s but that habit of leading others in the right direction and inspiring them still rings true. So too the ability to bring out the best versions of people; something he was trying to do with Hibs.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s memorial service, Chris Cadden said: “It's been an emotional couple of weeks. For Saturday's game we had a shirt with Gordon 68 on it in the dressing room, and we had the 68 on the shorts and the warm-up t-shirts as well. It was emotional then but it's going to be emotional on Wednesday being the first home game after his passing but we just want to use that. I think it can feed into the fans and we can use that for the event and focus on ourselves knowing that is what Ron would want us to do.
"He just loved Hibs and wanted the boys to do well, he was really positive as well. At the Player of the Year do last year I was there with my partner Caitlin, he was there with his wife Kit and he must have had a million people to speak to but he came over and sat with us and spoke to Caitlin for 20 minutes, asking her what she did for a living and how she was enjoying Edinburgh, stuff like that. I know she really appreciated it as well, and Kit did the exact same and I can only thank the both of them for that.
"They didn't need to do that but it made us feel more comfortable and more at ease with Hibs because we were still relatively new. It was little things like that, he was such a good person. My over-riding memory is that Ron was just a good guy. Hopefully we can beat Rangers and in doing so, pay a proper tribute.”
There are potentially a thousand stories like the one Cadden shared. Games between Hibs and Rangers are fraught encounters at the best of times but the underlying emotion will supercharge this fixture. Johnson believes that can give his players an extra ten or 15 per cent. On purely football matters Hibs have run Rangers close twice so far this season, drawing 2-2 with them at Easter Road and twice leading at Ibrox before running out of steam and ending up on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline.
Amid the tension, the emotion, the sadness, the intensity, the pride, the sense of loss, and a feeling of hope, a positive result for Hibs would not only be the ideal send-off for Ron, but a good indicator of the level to which he took the club and whether it can be a springboard for consistent success. We are starting to see signs of it on the football pitch as well as behind the scenes.
First and foremost the team needs to put in the sort of performance that would make Ron and the Gordon family members in attendance proud. When he took the reins in the summer of 2019 he laid out his five-year plan for the club and regularly spoke about Hibs closing the gap on Celtic and Rangers by being the best version of themselves. Hibs will hope Ron can inspire them one last time come 7.45pm on Wednesday.