I have been to a few interesting places recently so there will be a post about some of those in the coming days. Plus one I wrote a while ago about the mighty Irn Bru. Tonight’s post is about a little journey I went on this afternoon, not quite in search of the Holy Grail but in the lead up to possibly getting it.
Hibs play Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final on Saturday. That particular competition, as much as the game itself, fills me and most Hibs fans with dread. For as we are constantly reminded by kindhearted folk from Gorgie and commentators working for BBC Scotland (often one and the same), Hibs haven’t won the Scottish Cup since 1902. To put that into perspective, there are teams that no longer exist who have won the Cup more recently than us, Third Lanark and Airdrieonians, to name but two. We are onto our fifth monarch since then, our 22nd Prime Minister, 19th US President, 11th Pope and 31st Hibs manager (though that total may be added to shortly).
We have come close. Of course we also came close to winning the League Cup in March but that was different. It wasn’t the real thing. We have won the real Cup twice, in 1887 and 1902. They were against Dumbarton at the second incarnation of Hampden Park (the present ground is the third) and against Celtic at Celtic Park respectively.
I work part of my week just ten minutes walk from Hampden Park and when I finished at lunchtime, I decided to saunter across, partly to exorcise any demons and trauma from past visits and the last Hibs result early. Preparations for the Final were ongoing around the ground. The signage people were outside the South Stand, with no less than a commercial abseiler being employed to do the job, though naturally for the one person on the cherry picker, four were watching. Half of the Hibs badge was on the frontage of Hampden, I’m glad to report, though not the side with the harp. The cooncil were also out putting up signs telling local folk not to park between 12 and 6 on Saturday.
The second incarnation of Hampden is now Cathkin Park, just at the back of the North Stand. I have been to Cathkin a few times before and indeed I have written about it here before so I will try not to repeat myself. I sat on a wall and ate my lunch thinking of past and future glories, though unfortunately steak bake number two fell into a smattering of leaves mid-bite. Not glorious at all. There were a few school lassies sitting on benches chattering and eating across the park as well as dog walkers and a couple of guys standing blethering at the back of the terracing. It was still just as atmospheric as ever.
It was while I was at Cathkin that I hatched the plan to go on a wee tour of places where Hibs have won the Scottish Cup. Luckily Hibs have only won the thing twice and both times were in Glasgow. I thought 1902 was at Ibrox though a quick Wikipedia search enlightened me that it was in fact at Celtic Park. A quick Traveline app later saw me standing outside Toryglen Asda waiting for the 90 bus. Every city has a bus that takes a grand (or not-so, depending on your point of view) tour of the city, taking in everywhere. Edinburgh has the 30 from Wester Hailes to Musselburgh and Glasgow has the 90, which goes from Partick to Braehead, as the crow flies a couple of miles but by bus goes via Govan, Battlefield, Rutherglen, Dalmarnock, Parkhead, Springburn and Maryhill. In short, half the bloody world. Due to being a masochist, I have always wanted to go on it and today was my chance, albeit a 20-minute slice from Toryglen to London Road. I had never been to Rutherglen in my life and it was all right. It has an old-fashioned library, from what I could see.
Celtic Park is of course the home of Celtic Football Club, recently reconfirmed champions of Scotland. I have never been there before and was only going today just to be nosy, plus of course on a quest for the Holy Grail. The place is absolutely huge and you can see it from across the city. What you can’t see is the fact Celtic are big on exterior design. As I walked up Janefield Street, all I saw was this massive panel with the word ‘Paradise’ above a collage of different Celtic players over time. Hibs have been a bit more subtle than the lesser greens – our name and badge is now on the West Stand and there are some stones dedicated to supporters outside the East Stand. When I went on a tour of Easter Road in January, the club have really made the ground our own. The last time I was in London, the train went past the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal have done much the same thing. Celtic really went to town on the whole thing, though, culminating in the front of the Main Stand which features massive photographs of various key parts of Celtic’s history plus the statues of their founder Brother Walfrid, famous manager Jock Stein and one of his more famous players Jimmy Johnstone. The whole thing was slightly nauseating but then again I am hardly sympathetic. What I did like, though, was the quote on the Jock Stein statue:
‘Football without the fans is nothing’.
No arguments here. I was deeply tickled also by the green traffic cones around the forecourt outside the Main Stand. I have been to Ibrox and not even they have daubed their traffic cones in red, white and blue (I don’t want to give them ideas either). I pity the poor soul who had to paint each of those cones green.
So that was the Scottish Cup tour. The game is of course on Saturday and I am dreading it. That it is the Scottish Cup Final and it is Hibs, who just last week lost in the playoffs to get promoted. As Hector Nicol sings:
‘And now we’ve got a younger team I dinna want to brag
I only want to see the Scottish Cup in the bag’.