HIBS fans don’t know how to behave. By that I don’t mean they’re hooligans, rather that they’re unsure of the appropriate response in certain situations. Such a situation would be – don’t laugh, we’ll make the jokes – winning the Scottish Cup. Another would be the demise of our dear rivals.
On fansites the latter scenario is causing some Hibby angst. After waking up to the news that Hearts’ upcoming game against St Mirren might be their last, ever, one supporter proposed that Hibs stage an emergency derby benefit match with all proceeds going straight to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs who’ve fingered the Tynecastle club for a £450,000 unpaid tax bill. But the fan admitted his motives for the gesture were unclear. “I can’t work out,” he said, “whether I’m trying to be nice or I want Hearts to be always in our debt.”
Others in the green and white, it should be pointed out, were not displaying any angst at all. “Serves them right,” they muttered. “Hell mend them.” At the time of writing, one poll – inviting supporters to choose between Hearts ceasing to exist, surviving but playing in a lower league and “Don’t care” – was firmly in favour of the signs going up for a new land development opportunity in west Edinburgh within easy reach of the airport but with no football club whatsoever in the vicinity. Swinecastle no more. Hearts no more.
Which is ridiculous. How can the Hibs contingent want that? Come on, guys, we’re supposed to be smarter than the average bears, more considered in our outlook than your typical rabble. Hibs needs Hearts, as they do us. Rivals define who you are, or more specifically, who you’re not. Without Hearts, we cannot pretend to be the flair team, just as if Rod Petrie hadn’t been such a balance-sheet demon these past few seasons and we were the ones in peril, Hearts couldn’t pretend to be the big team.
Hibbys, I ask you to imagine a fitba futurestate sans Jambos. In the dead days of summer there will be no checking the fixtures for the derby dates the minute the list is published because, quite obviously, there will be no derbies. No derbies – analyse that. On New Year’s Day it’ll be Inverness away or Kilmarnock if you’re lucky. No big build-up to the only game that really matters – no anticipation, excitement and, just maybe, delirium. On every other Saturday you won’t be able to check the scores in the hope they’ve been beaten. Mondays to Fridays, no merry banter across the computer terminals. This kind of negates the purpose of offices and indeed the whole concept of work, but there will be no getting away from it: your life will have a big, Hearts-shaped hole in it. Bigger than the “old castle rock”, as the jaunty Jambo signature tune goes. Bigger even than Christian Nade.
There will be jokes (there was one just there). Hibs fans will argue this is permitted, given the ridicule they’ve endured since a quarter to five on 19 May. So the big team are now the beg team. It’s HMRC versus HMRC (Her Majesty’s etc and Heart of Midlothian Rugby Club). “It’s not all bad – next year Jambos can have two Remembrance Sundays.” And so on. But the wag who must have worked through the night on a complete re-write of the Hearts song to reflect current events (“Hearts, Hearts, tore up in parts/It’s down at Tynecastle they died ... ”) has to accept that it’s the Jambos’ continued existence which provides him with inspiration and, who knows, maybe even a reason for being – just as Hibs always being there as the deadly but all-in-good-fun rivals on the other side of the city fulfil an absolutely vital role for the Gorgie faithful.
In the interests of balance and fairness, I should allow some jokes against Hibs. Hearts have the Scottish Cup; we’re the current holders of the best book-keeping statuette made from imitation teak and real plastic and one more win and it’s ours forever. Some Hibbys are now demanding a replay of that 5-1 mauling but I fancy we’d lose again. I’m also worried that, if this season’s fouth-round clash happens, a never-say-die Hearts would triumph. And, yes, my lily-livered attitude says as much about the differences between us as anything. Long may they still matter.