If they beat Ross County in the League Cup final, these Hibs players won’t know what’s hit them.
I’m speaking from experience because the day we brought the Skol Cup back to Leith in 1991 will live with me forever.
It was the only cup I ever won and easily the greatest moment of my career. The scenes afterwards were just incredible and I hope Alan Stubbs and his players get to experience something similar this weekend.
Almost 25 years have passed, but I still remember everything about the day we beat 2-0 Dunfermline at Hampden. I get asked about it all the time, especially in the lead-up to a game like Sunday’s.
Our victory was even more significant because the club was in such a mess just a few months earlier when we worried if we would even survive amid Wallace Mercer’s takeover bid. Nobody expected us to get to a final so soon after all that, but the manager, Alex Miller, did well to put together a new team and it all just snowballed for us.
It was my first cup final so it was a new thing for me to deal with. We were a pretty experienced team and, at 25, I wasn’t particularly young myself, but even then you still felt immense pressure in the build-up to it because we had done so much hard work to get there and we were hot favourites to win it.
Although I was really excited, there was also a huge amount of pressure on me because I was from a family full of diehard Hibs fans. I wasn’t just playing for Hibs, I was playing for my family and it’s difficult to handle that.
In the week leading up to the game, the manager felt it would be better just to have a normal build-up. He wanted to keep us close to home and have us going home to spend time with our families and sleep in our own beds. In some ways, that was difficult for me because I couldn’t get away from talk about the final. People were phoning up and talking about it constantly through the week.
I can see why Stubbs will have wanted to take the players away from all that by taking them to Spain this week. Having said that, I don’t think it matters a jot whether you go away or not. It’s just all about what happens on the day and which set of players can handle the occasion best.
As a team, we had lots of players with good temperament. The first half was dreadful because there were are a lot of nerves but once we got the first goal, we started to relax a bit and managed to see the game out.
What happened after that was just incredible for me. I was so proud to have won it for my family and, in particular, my father, Matthew, who was a massive Hibs supporter. He just wanted to see his son play for the club he supported, but to see me win a cup final was really special for him. Loads of people I was brought up with were at the game. It was just an amazing time for me.
I was overwhelmed by the number of supporters who came out afterwards when we got the bus back to the stadium. Everywhere you looked, all the way from Maybury to Easter Road, you could see Hibs supporters on the street. It was the most incredible sight I’ve ever seen.
By the time we got back to the stadium, you thought ‘there can’t be any more Hibs fans’ but then we went out into the ground and it was packed to the rafters. I think the fact the club had just been saved was a big factor in how many people turned out. I’ve never seen numbers like that before.
Although I’m teetotal, I had made so many plans for what would happen if we won the cup, but by the time we eventually got back to Easter Road and showed off the cup that night, I was too tired to take the celebrations any further. The occasion had taken its toll on me and I was absolutely shattered by the end of the night. The whole day passed me by and it wasn’t until a few days later that I really started to appreciate what I’d been involved in. The aftermath was mental. It was all anyone wanted to talk about for about three weeks.
In those days, you didn’t have camera phones, so I had to wait untiI the next day to buy the Evening News and the rest of the papers. My dad kept all the papers from the day and I’ve still got them now. There’s loads of them and I look through them now and then. It’s emotional to look back on them and see what you achieved. It’s so long ago that you can’t believe it actually happened but I still remember everything about it. Sometimes my sons will get the game on YouTube. They’re 20 and 11 so they weren’t born then but they’re both Hibs supporters and they’re proud of the fact I won a cup with the club. There’s not many Hibs fans who have had the privilege of winning a cup for the club. It’s an amazing feeling and it’s one I hope boys like Darren McGregor, another boyhood Hibee who I know well, get to enjoy.
After all the pressure that will build up before 3pm on Sunday, I’d love to see this Hibs team get the type of career-defining moment I experienced quarter of a century ago. The players will be aware that they’re going into a big game, but it won’t be until after they win it and bring the cup back to Edinburgh that they’ll realise just what it means to these supporters. They’ll be Hibs heroes forever if they can do the business.