Just as Hibernian persevered against Rangers to create history back in May, the club’s feelgood factor could not be derailed by a cheeky youngster yesterday at the launch of an ambitious trophy tour to celebrate their momentous Scottish Cup triumph.
Officials from the club visited Hermitage Park Primary School, little more than a stone’s throw from Easter Road, to begin a journey that will take the coveted silverware round 114 venues – one for every year Hibs had to wait to prevail in the tournament.
If the excitement at the Lochend school is repeated elsewhere, Hibs may succeed, as chief executive Leeann Dempster hopes, in “turning Edinburgh and the surrounding areas green”, but at least one pupil was unmoved yesterday. In front of the whole school, the boy induced sniggers as he got up to tell striker Martin Boyle: “My granddad is a Rangers fan.”
Borrowing from the motto of their Leith heartland, the “Persevered” tour is targeting 40,000 children, students and supporters in primary schools, juvenile football clubs, universities, businesses and local employers, stretching to the Lothians, the Borders, Falkirk and Fife.
Though the core message to all involved will be to “persevere – to never give up, to go the distance, to stop at nothing”, just as Hibs did in finally getting their hands on the cup for the first time since 1902, the tour is undoubtedly also an attempt to build on the success that led to an estimated 150,000 lining the streets of Edinburgh and Leith to hail the long-awaited triumph.
“For us, it’s about a celebration of winning the Scottish Cup and taking it on the road to try to build a pathway for new Hibernian supporters,” explained Dempster. “We want to get children interested in football in general. We are aware that everybody isn’t a football supporter, but we would like them to be football supporters. We’d like them to be Hibernian fans as well.
“We’re going to 114 [venues]: primary schools, we’re going to be visiting businesses, we’re doing freshers’ weeks and we’re going to go to as many boys’ clubs as we can to take the celebration of winning the Scottish Cup and to try to recruit some new Hibernian supporters for the future.”
The current mood is in stark contrast with May 2014, when relegation sucked the lifeblood out of a long-suffering support already tired of taking too many blows. Dempster made it her aim on her appointment that summer to re-engage with the fans and with the local community, and she believes the cup jubilation has finally allowed some to forget past tortures.
“There is an energy around the place that we have not felt for a long time, there is a happiness around the place that we’ve not felt for a long time,” added Dempster. “That’s mainly due to the fact that it takes people a wee bit of time to buy into your plans.
“Let’s be absolutely honest, the Scottish Cup has tremendously helped us. For those who are Hibernian-minded in the Lothians and beyond, the feeling around that cup win was euphoric and it hasn’t disappeared. That has allowed us to put some of the events of the past behind us and look properly to the future.”
Four wins from four league games so far, putting the team on top of the Championship table, will also have aided the cheerful atmosphere and for that Dempster believes new manager Neil Lennon and assistant Garry Parker, and their work on and off the pitch, deserve great credit.
“Retaining and building the squad has been important for supporters as well, having a continuity of squad,” she went on. “We have done a number of things in this transfer window but, importantly, we have also managed to hold on to the players we wanted to hold on to.
“We are saying to supporters that we are genuinely trying to build a team, a team that you will love and enjoy coming to watch.
“We won’t be forced into doing anything. The supporters are enjoying that and enjoying what they are seeing on the pitch.”
l Details of the trophy tour can be found at a dedicated website, www.persevered.co.uk.