League Cup final: Hibs ‘have come back to life’

Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster
Hibernian chief executive Leeann Dempster
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Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster believes the Easter Road club is about to erupt “in the most positive way”.

And Sunday’s League Cup final against Ross County may just be the spark to ignite that explosion, the Edinburgh outfit’s potential underlined by the fact that more than 26,000 fans – and possibly up to 30,000 – will make the journey to Glasgow hoping Alan Stubbs’ players can lift the trophy.

Hibs have come a long way since those dark, dark days of relegation nearly two years ago, Dempster arriving at that critical point in the club’s history to oversee a revolution both on and off the pitch.

On it the players are producing a brand of football supporters want to see. Off it the wounds have healed, a healthy togetherness between club and fans rather than the suspicion and distrust which had enveloped Easter Road.

But as far as they might have come, Dempster is adamant there is still a long journey to be made with the over-riding priority being promotion back to the top flight of Scottish football, a step which must be made not just for the sake of pride but Hibs’ financial well-being.

Throughout these two seasons in the Championship Hibs have continued to run with a Premiership budget, resulting in heavy losses so, in that regard at least, the League Cup run allied to making the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup have made a welcome contribution to the coffers.

Dempster said: “When you are compiling your budget not many clubs have a lot of cash at hand. Budgets are contingent on the performance that year, perhaps transfers and what have you.

“You never really plan for cup success, maybe two rounds – one in the League Cup and one in the Scottish. But beyond that the whole thing this season is promotion, we are all happy to have the cup final but ideally we want to be in the position where we can create more income so we can budget with more certainty.”

A massive travelling army marching on Glasgow and more than 19,000 for the recent Scottish Cup victory over arch-rivals Hearts are proof, insisted Dempster, of a growing feelgood factor around the club. “I genuinely feel what is in the past is in the past.

“It’s building every week, every game there are more supporters coming back, season tickets are being bought and there are perhaps people who have not been for a while are coming back which is good to see.

“It supports the team on the pitch, it supports us in what we need to do. We want to be invisible, to be in the background making the club successful, but from the back office.

“Every time someone buys a season ticket, buys a ticket or comes through the gate helps us. The cup final is magnificent for the supporters and team but also from a business perspective it’s the place to be.”

All talk of finance and even the Championship itself will be put on hold on Sunday as everyone hopes and prays for victory, Dempster admitting: “For me it’s a day of celebration with supporters coming in family groups or with friends.

“One fan last week asked if we could help a family group and friends of 50 or 60 travelling together and wanting to sit together. That’s someone making the effort to collect everyone’s money, getting the tickets and making all the arrangements. It’s going to be a massive day out for them, but there will be loads and loads of people like them.

“It doesn’t surprise me, but I’m absolutely over the moon at being able to help. That’s what we are all here for, to make it easier for supporters to come to games, to buy tickets. There will be many people like him, we’ll have a strong, strong number of Hibs supporters through with us and hopefully it will be a great day.”

“Any club qualifying for a national cup final is an achievement in itself and I think everybody at the club should be rightly proud of that. It’s never an easy thing to do and when it comes around we will enjoy it.”

Dempster, though, is determined such days won’t prove to be a one-off. She said: “We came into this and said getting back into the Premiership when it happens is not good enough for us. We need to be at the top end, the European stage, getting to the latter stages of national cups on a regular basis.

“That’s something we should be achieving and I think supporters would want us to deliver that. The size of club we are, that’s something we need to take on board, something we need to do.

“I can absolutely say to supporters that every part of the club has come to life. Hopefully we can go further an deliver but let’s get this one out of the way first. Focus on this one, hope it goes the way we want, celebrate and then it will be over and on to the next thing, the next game.”