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Hibernian’s Hampden Horrors

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I wasn’t aware of it at the time, and I suppose it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but later I realised that the highlight of the day actually came very early on. This turned out to be the rather tasty curry and chips we bought at one of the vans outside the ground as we made our way up the slope to Hampden, these turned out to be a steal in comparison to the lukewarm, weak coffee that we later purchased for the same price inside.

In my 50 odd years as a Hibs fan this final against Ross County was, the 10th time I had made my way to Hampden along with around 30,000 other Hibbies, and it therefore seemed a good time to reflect on my experiences in this supposedly “world class facility”, the home of Scottish football.

I probably should have realised this relationship wasn’t going to work out from an early age, given my inauspicious start. As a 12 year old in 1968 I went to see Hearts in the final against Dunfermline with my big brother (who was a Jambo) and his mates.

When Hearts scored I got knocked over and trampled on by lots of great big yobs, (including my brother) and so for the first time got a “doing” from a bunch of Jambo fans (even although they didn’t realise they were doing it at the time). I spent the rest of the game desperately holding onto a barrier praying Hearts wouldn’t score again (which thankfully they didn’t as the Pars gubbed them 3-1).

The next visit was a 6-1 trouncing from Celtic in 1972 when Dixie Deans tore us apart, my main memory was that it was like standing in some kind of building site/war zone where the terracing was really just made of rubble, when we scored early on huge clouds of dust rose up covering us all, so causing significant breathing difficulties for the rest of the day.

At that point I really should have learned my lesson and known not to return, the pain it would have saved.

So then I had some time off, discovering that there was actually more interesting things to do than following the likes of Alex Millers’ boring teams during the 1980s and 90s. I moved abroad and then down to London, but a few years later with my own kid now growing and realizing the dangers of him acquiring an English accent I realised it was time to go back home.

Anyway by now the past was forgotten (plus by then I’d missed a couple of league cup wins, so it couldn’t be that bad, could it?) and on top of that there was now a spanking new Hampden, surely things were on the up and the bad memories were now in the distant past.

By now the little kids in the family were ready for one of these big match special events so off we trooped to a 3-0 cup final gubbing by Celtic courtesy of Henrik Larsson, soon followed by a truly dire League cup semi defeat to Ayr United during Sauzee’s short dismal managerial reign, and then to see FBob Williamson’s team get stuffed 2-0 by Livi in a League cup final.

I’d now watched four Hibs defeats in a row, could it be that this Hampden thing is not such a good idea after all?

By then my boy was old enough take a real interest in football so we started to return regularly just in time for the beginning of the Tony Mowbray years with his great young team (which could have been so much better if he had decided to play with a goalkeeper) who were actually worth supporting, we enthusiastically got season tickets and really started to believe again.

Surely Tony could turn things round and at last we would have some Hampden glory. But no – a 2-1 cup semi defeat courtesy of a couple of late goals from Dundee United and then a 4-0 thrashing by Hearts now brought the score to Hampden 6-0 Hibs with the goal difference now standing at two for and 18 against – maybe we could even get relegated from cup competitions at this rate?

Then at last it arrived–a victory. With John Collins now as manager but with Tony’s team we had that glorious day against Killie. We even discovered that Hampden actually did have some decent seats in the upper part of the BT stand and with it all topped off with that emotional rendition of ‘Sunshine on Leith’, surely now the comeback was on; surely the only way was up?

Unfortunately no, the next couple of visits brought us back down to earth with a bang, firstly the embarrassment of the Hearts 5-1 annihilation, and then another 3-0 tanking from the Celts.

So with the score now at Hampden 8-1 Hibs we arrived at Hampden to watch the Ross county game hoping for a victory.

On the walk up to Hampden for my 10th visit I had a realisation that it was not only the results that made these days such bad experiences it was the place itself as well as the whole supposedly big match day experience that it offered.

Okay Hampden starts with several disadvantage – it’s in an awkward part of Glasgow to get to, parking’s limited, add to that the fact that the stadium was built on the cheap and two thirds of it mirrors the original terracing bowl shape which in turn means the angles are wrong and views are poor.

The foods expensive and mediocre and the bogs can’t handle the numbers, it’s not even really a football stadium as you are so far away from the pitch and if you are at one end you have no chance of really seeing what’s going on at the other (in fact I went to one athletics event during the Commonwealth games and it actually worked fairly well as an athletics stadium).

Given these disadvantages you would imagine that the SPFL would do their utmost to enhance the whole experience and one therefore one has to wonder what process goes into the planning and decision making around such an event?

So after the Ross County defeat my score is now Hampden 9-1 Hibernian – where do we go from here?

A couple of years ago at the time of the Terry Butcher relegation debacle I wrote an article for this website, which put forward the theory that Hibs had a cultural problem. The theory was based largely on the work of sociologist Malcolm Gladwell and the basic premise was that Hibs “soft centre” which we have all seen so often before was due a cultural norm being set due the social conditions of those who initially created the club during the latter part of the 19th century.

Our Hampden experiences have done little to dispel this theory and I would argue unless someone can come up with a better one it still stands in terms of trying to explain Hibernian’s generally poor performances.

Will I return to Hampden given the chance? Of course I will, still in the hope that we will overcome our 114 year cup hoodoo. At the time of writing we have just reached another winnable semi-final however before we all get too over exited there is possibly a case to say that the tides of history are still not in our favour.

I’ll end with this sobering thought.

Charles Edward Stewart, the young pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie as he is better known, died as a fat alcoholic in Rome in 1788. In his lifetime he was closer to Hibernian’s last Scottish cup win as we are today.

Here’s hoping that one day we get a better result than he did.

Written by Bill Haddow | Featured image by Patrick McGuire

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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