In exile

I write occasionally here about supporting Hibernian Football Club, currently one of the form teams in Europe and sitting second in the Scottish Championship on goal difference, behind The Rangers. There are many teams who play closer to here than Hibs, most notably the aforementioned Rangers, whose ground I can walk to from here. But I remain a Hibee who goes to games when I can and who indeed became more of a fan since I moved west. Why?

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This shows full time at Easter Road following the recent 2-1 win over Rangers on 1st November.

The simple fact is that I can’t stand either of the Old Firm, the two teams which dominate this city, with their mutual paranoia and arrogance undiminished by both being on their uppers. Not to mention the songs and attitudes which all stem from religion and an island across the sea. As much as I am a very proud Glaswegian, the Gruesome Twosome give me the boak.

That left Partick Thistle and Queen’s Park but I couldn’t convince myself to support any team that I didn’t have a history with. Hibs and I have a history. I first saw them just shy of twenty years ago at an away game at Motherwell, which we won 2-0. I used to go with my auntie when I was a kid then lapsed as life moved on, still paying attention to the score but not knowing many of the names in the team. I had seen several good Hibs teams with names like Franck Sauzee, Derek Riordan, David Murphy and even briefly Chic Charnley, but things were different.

When Hibs finished 11th in the Premiership in 2013-14, they went into the playoffs against Hamilton. I toyed with going to New Douglas Park, having been thinking of getting back into football for a while. My team were in trouble and I wanted to be there. I ended up going to Easter Road the following Sunday instead, sitting with 18,000 others to see our team get relegated in a penalty shootout.

Rather than be discouraged, I went back again. I liked being at a football game again, even if the game wasn’t great. My next game was at Ibrox, complete with chucked coins, juice and pies in the general direction of the away end from the generous Rangers fans in the Broomloan and Govan Stands. I was then at Easter Road to see our goalkeeper Mark Oxley score from a goal kick against Livingston.

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The view from the Away end at Dumbarton, in April

Last season, I managed to get to quite a few games, mainly in Edinburgh but some closer to home, including one in Dumbarton where I was able to walk to the game from work. I had two favourites, watching us win against Hearts 2-0 on a gorgeous April day and being back at Ibrox on a cold February night to see another 2-0 win, the second scored by my favourite player, Lewis Stevenson. I just like his workrate. (That night was also memorable for another reason. Rangers had not long put their manager Ally McCoist on gardening leave. To avoid bother, Rangers traditionally keep Hibs fans back a while to let the home fans disperse. One of the groundsmen went out onto the pitch on his wee tractor and the cry went out ‘Ally, Ally, gie us a wave’.)

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Derby day, 12th April.

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Sunshine in Govan. We did get beat but at least it was warm.

This season I have mainly been able to go to midweek games in the League Cup or on Sundays, mainly against Rangers since they tend to be on the telly. I have managed two away trips, though, one to Ibrox when I walked to and from the ground and evidently my neutral mode of dress made the steward ask ‘Are you sure it’s the away end you want, pal?’, and the other to Stark’s Park in Kirkcaldy about a month ago, one of the few grounds in the nation where you can trainspot if the game is dull (what used to be called Recreation Park in Alloa is another). My visit to Stark’s Park (shown below) reacquainted me with a very old-school pleasure, flat Irn Bru served in a plastic cup, something they also do at Alloa, where they also do a roll and sausage. Some other time I will write about the joys of flat Irn Bru.

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Stark’s Park.

Hibs have been, for better or worse, a constant in my life and they can’t be moved, even if I can. They don’t always play well and there are times when I wish I supported Barcelona or Gala Fairydeen instead. But the current Hibs team, led by Alan Stubbs, is my team and I feel a greater affinity for them than any other I’ve watched, maybe because it was my choice to go back or because it was returning to being a kid, which is never bad in small doses. My next game should be, again, at bloody Ibrox just after Christmas and then the following Saturday at ER against Raith Rovers. I am looking forward to them already.

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