'I was in Bobby Madden's ear' - John Doolan on 2016 final, the aftermath, and going the extra mile for Hibs fans

Asking John Doolan for a few stories from the weekend of May 21/22 2016 is risky, because the former Hibs first-team coach has so many tales to tell.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 12:30 pm
John Doolan with the Scottish Cup ahead of the parade

Some are tinged with regret while others sum up the man, and the club, such as getting off the bus with the cup to take it over to supporters at Leith Links who had missed out on seeing the trophy.

The Scouser jumps from story to story as he remembers bits and pieces from the weekend. There’s a bit about the tactics in the final; how he feared Hibs had scored too early when Anthony Stokes netted after just three minutes; his emotions following the loss of his father.

"When Andy Halliday scored after 64 minutes for 2-1 there’s a bit of you thinking, ‘Here we go again’ but I glanced up at the sky, took a drink of water, looked at the clock and realised we had loads of time to score,” he recalls.

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"We had Rangers on the ropes. We battered them. I’ve watched that game back so many times and we had chance after chance. Stokesy could have scored a hatful. He hit the post, had so many shots, saw a few saved. Jason Cummings was the same.

"Everyone thinks Rangers were unlucky but we played really well. We battered them. We were the better team by far. We deserved to win that cup.”

Doolan also recalls pestering the fourth official after David Gray’s winner, desperate for referee Steven McLean to end the match.

"Towards the end of the game I’m having a laugh with Bobby Madden saying ‘Come on Bobby, get the ref to blow the whistle’. This is after Dave’s scored and I’ve sprinted up the touchline, slid on my knees into the fans. I think Stubbsy turned round thinking I was going to jump on him but I’ve already gone.

Hibs fans gather at Easter Road to welcome the team bus back from Hampden

"I was away up the touchline like the Flash, sliding on my knees into the fans thinking of my dad, my family, the lot. And then composure sets in: We’ve still got minutes to play.

"I remember Barrie McKay getting the ball in front of our dugout and trying a crossfield pass but it runs out for a goal kick as I’m on the side shouting, ‘Get out, get out, get out’.

"Then we got a free kick but everyone thought it was their free kick. Liam Henderson did brilliantly to roll the ball back to Conrad Logan and eat up a bit more time. For such a young man at the time he had an old head.

"Anyway, Conrad takes the kick and I’m at Bobby’s ear again – ‘Come on Bobby, blow the whistle, blow the whistle’ – and he’s saying, ‘John, let me do my job’.

"I’m telling him to hurry up and he tells me how many minutes are left and I say to him, ‘They’ve waited 114 years, blow the whistle Bobby, come on!’

“He starts laughing and then the whistle goes. I go to hug Alan, tell him ‘that’s for your dad’ and he tells me the same.

"Then I just had a burst of emotion, and wanted to be with my wife Suzanne.

“I’m running up through the fans, stepping over everyone like I’d jumped into the crowd after winning Wimbledon but unbeknownst to me, as I’m going up she’s heading down on the other side so we missed each other. I got to where she was sitting and our Sam’s there and I ask, ‘where’s your mum?’ and he said, ‘she’s gone down looking for you!’

"I caught up with her down the front and we had a hug and I was in tears because of all the emotion. Just the best feeling ever, the best day ever. Superb.

"My son Joe – who never gets a mention – was in Spain that day with his friends and he had his Hibs top on in the bar and was absolutely gutted because he’d been at the League Cup final but he’d booked to go away over the cup final. So he was absolutely made-up, buzzing, but at the same time gutted not to be there.”

Over the course of our hour-long chat, Doolan repeatedly insists that he’s just a fan like everyone else. We could fill pages with his stories but one sticks out.

“I’d been at the after-party with my younger brother, and he was going to take Sam home so I walked them out.

"There were a few people hanging out the windows in the flats, asking for a picture.

"One of them ran down to the street. We took a few pictures, I’m chatting to him and he can barely speak for emotion – ‘You don’t know what you’ve done, my grandad and my great-grandad never got to see this’.

"They were amazed I was talking to them, but they told me they were going into the nearby off-licence because they’d ran out of beer. I said, ‘why don’t you come to the party?’ and one of them asks me if I’m messing them about. Of course I wasn’t, so eventually we walk over to the stadium.

"I brief them on the way: ‘Listen, I don’t really know you but go in, enjoy yourself, it’s all free, just don’t make a show of me’.

"Fifteen minutes later I looked round: one was talking to Rod Petrie, one to Leeann Dempster, and the other to Kezia Dugdale.

"They were having the time of their lives. We still keep in touch; they sent letters and messages thanking me but I’m just a normal fella.

"I’m like every other fan. It’s just a natural thing to do; it was just instinct. I just thought, ‘it’s your club, it’s your party’.”

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