BACK in February, I stood, post-match pint in hand, trying to wrap my head around what I had just witnessed.
Hearts had thrown away a two-goal lead at Tynecastle, against Hibs, in the Scottish Cup.
A friend said: ‘Can you imagine if this is the year Hibs win the cup and we blew the chance to stop it?’ It sent a chill down my spine
The sentence still doesn’t make much sense to me. It goes against everything I’ve come to expect from following the maroon side of Edinburgh. As I tried to look on the positives, there was still a replay after all, a friend of mine grumbled: “Can you imagine if this is the year Hibs win the cup and we blew the chance to stop it?”
It sent a chill down my spine. The thought was almost unimaginable. Ever since 1998, the Hearts support has partially defined itself by the club’s success in Scotland’s premier cup competition combined with Hibernian’s continuous failure. We didn’t fancy that coming to an end.
Yesterday Hearts fans were confronted with the nightmare. When David Gray’s header sailed into the back of the net it was over. Hibs had ended their 114-year wait. And yet, there was no resentment, at least not on my part. I looked out from the press box at the 20,000 or so Hibs fans enjoying the single greatest moment of their football lives, and a smile spread across my face. It was the kind of drama, at the end of a terrific match, that reminds us all why we love the sport. Besides, I had friends among the crowd. I later saw pictures of a very close pal on the Hampden Park turf – not one of the ones attacking players or fighting with Rangers fans, I should add. He had such a look of blissful happiness on his face. How could I begrudge him that? I’ve been there before, when the full-time whistle blew on Hearts’ victory over the same club in 1998, a win that, similar to Hibs prior to yesterday, few supporters thought would be possible.
I’ll admit that I may be in the minority among Hearts fans. It’s certainly true that when you follow every team in the country instead of just one, the zealot inside you dies, or at least recedes into the background. I wouldn’t be much of a journalist otherwise – insert your own joke here.
However, the majority of Hearts fans I spoke to looked at it in much the same terms. We were scared more by the idea than the reality. Hibs won the Scottish Cup, and do you know what? They bloody well deserved it.