In the end it was the fans who Hibsed it. Turning one of the club’s most momentous occasions on its head and casting shame on the Easter Road side as they invaded the pitch, attacked Rangers players and coaches and pulled up the Hampden turf.
Having waited 114 years for their club to mend broken hearts, some supporters decided that the best response was to break the goalposts and wreak havoc, forcing their own players to scurry for the safety of the dressing room, delaying the trophy presentation and seeing police officers and horses struggle to regain control as the decent fans demanded the rogue element “off, off, off”.
The mindless actions denied the reasonable supporters the chance to hail their heroes, as the authorities prevented a lap of honour. You have to feel for them. How many times have they left the national stadium, head bowed, disappointment etched all over their faces?
This time the players and staff rose to the occasion with an accomplished performance that showed no nerves and plenty of gumption. It was the fans who let themselves down.
A ‘TIME FOR HEROES’ banner had greeted the players as they headed out of the Hampden tunnel. Not just a heroic performance with another unhappy ending but heroes; the kind that defied alleged curses and carved their names in the club’s history. The type of heroes who could turn nightmares into dreams and provide proof that miracles do happen. The way brave knights turn up just in the nick of time to rescue damsels in distress, they had to find a way to save a season that had promised so much and, until yesterday, had failed to deliver.
But they had a sense of purpose from the outset yesterday and even when Andy Halliday scored to see Rangers overhaul Hibs’ early lead, heads didn’t go down. If people had feared for the Easter Road side’s bottle, there was no evidence of it crashing. These were guys playing a match rather than an occasion and they took it by the scruff of the neck and seemed unwilling to totally relinquish their grip. There were rousing cheers from the players as they gee-ed themselves up and even though there must have been a gut-wrenching sense of familiarity to the way matters were unfolding, the fans stayed put too. They all hoped and in some part believed that they could claw it back.
Hibs fans have been crushed by a boot to the proverbials before and this season they have already been doubled up in agony twice as both the League Cup final and promotion slipped from their grasp. But they have stuck by the club, with season tickets equal to this time last year and briefs for the Hampden final sold out swiftly.
The victory, then, was a reward, the silverware and the knock-on bonus of the Europa League next season bolstering the mood as well as the coffers.
When they finally climbed the steps to collect the prize, the Hibs players were decked out in T-shirts emblazoned with ‘#Persevered’, a nod to the Leith motto as well as the spirit in their ranks. And the magnitude of the achievement cannot be understated. Many, many, many players had come and gone, having tried and failed to win this competition. Even the Famous Five came up short and it has been a blunt instrument with which the club has been brutally bludgeoned.
In the same way most people are force fed the times tables, most Hibs fans must have, by now, been able to recite the long, long list of things that have been invented and discovered in the 114 years since the Leith club last took possession of the Scottish Cup. Now, though, it will be the names of this team, and their manager that will be rattled off with ease. The fans asked for heroes and they got them. Miracles do happen.