100,000 Hearts fans celebrate famous triumph

THE Scottish Cup has returned to Tynecastle, carried triumphantly through a sea of 100,000 Hearts fans by a team made instant legends thanks to a crushing defeat of their bitter city rivals.

From early yesterday morning, supporters had already secured vantage points atop Gorgie bus shelters to drink in the victory parade and when the team’s open-top bus left City Chambers at 2pm, a procession of 10,000 supporters trailed behind their heroes.

The behaviour of both sets of fans throughout the biggest weekend in Edinburgh’s footballing history earned praised from the police chiefs of both forces monitoring Saturday’s game and Sunday’s celebrations, with Strathclyde Chief Superintendent Andrew Bates expressing “delight” with their conduct.

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Pub owners in Gorgie reaped the rewards of Hearts’ demolition job, with staff at one favourite supporters bar pouring around 8000 pints on cup final day.

Kevin McGhee, publican of the Athletic Arms – known as The Diggers – said it was the busiest day the bar had ever seen, but said he would have swapped the cash boost to see his beloved Hibs parading the trophy down Easter Road.

“From a business point of view it was fantastic, the busiest day we have ever had it,” he said. “I have just been saying that Hibs might have been posted missing on cup final day but our regulars certainly weren’t. I’ve been taking a bit of a ribbing about the result, but I have to take it on the chin and take their money!”

Despite drafting in door staff for the first time, the 32-year-old said there had been no trouble at the bar.

Across the city, Mike Riley, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Club, said despite the result there was a celebratory atmosphere as hundreds of fans drowned their sorrows in the Sunnyside hub.

But he called for an SFA investigation into the penalty awarded by referee Craig Thomson which he felt turned the tide against the Easter Road club.

“Everyone was a bit annoyed when we got back and saw on the TV that it was definitely not a penalty,” he said. “It sounds like sour grapes but it’s not. When you’re beat, you’re beat, but Craig Thomson’s record against Hibs is terrible. We will be back and hopefully back at Hampden next year.”

He added: “The club was very busy after and there was a bit of celebration with people singing a few Hibs songs, probably to help get it [the defeat] out of our system, so it was not all doom and gloom.”

Despite the numbers involved, arrests were kept to a minimum. On Saturday, police in Strathclyde arrested just 22 people in and around Hampden – ranging from breach of the peace and drunken behaviour to sectarian and racial disorder – while in Edinburgh just eight arrests were made for assault and breach of the peace as celebrations raged long into the night.

Yesterday, one supporter was treated for minor injuries after falling from a wall near the stadium.

There was a brief commotion as one Hibs fan baited rival supporters from his Dalry flat by singing Sunshine on Leith moments before the victory bus passed. Hearts players responded with chants of 5-1.

Taxis were in high demand and short supply from around 10pm on Saturday, with evidence that some companies had to refuse cash bookings entirely for long periods.

One black cab driver, who had been working through the night, said: “This has been as busy as Hogmanay but with fewer drivers because many have taken the day off to enjoy the match.”

He added that hour-long queues were commonplace in the city centre from around 1am.

The huge numbers of revellers swarming city nightspots marked a stark contrast with the city centre on Saturday as the game kicked off in Glasgow. Princes Street saw only a trickle of shoppers taking advantage of the mass exodus of football fans from the city, while Gorgie and Easter Road were all but deserted.

Steve Cardownie, deputy council leader and Hearts season-ticket holder, said fans of both teams had been a credit to themselves and he had particular praise for the Hibs support.

“The parade was fantastic but so was the game which, during the 90 minutes, I didn’t hear any sectarian singing at all which is tribute to the fans,” he said.

“It showed how finals could and should be. Both sets of fans deserve credit. I also think for getting beat 5-1 Hibs fans showed a great deal of courtesy and good manners. It must have been difficult for them but they reacted very well. They did their club proud.”

Among those celebrating Hearts fans was goal-scoring midfielder Rudi Skacel, who was pictured inside Dickens Lounge in Dalry wearing a “Winners” T-shirt shortly after midnight.

Skacel’s future at Tynecastle is in doubt while team coach Paulo Sergio, right, has expressed unhappiness with his own position in the managerial hotseat despite the victory.

The manager is now out of contract, and with no offer forthcoming from Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov, he is poised to return home to Portugal to await developments.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be here or not,” he said. “Everybody knows I would like to stay but until this moment I don’t have anything.

“What I have to do is to book a flight and return home and see my daughters.

“That’s what I’m going to do. I’m here, people are here, but nobody has said anything until this moment, so it’s not to me that you have to put the question.

“I’m not happy with this situation. I’m happy with our supporters, with our players, with all we did together in this season in hard conditions.”

Summing up police operations over weekend, Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, divisional commander for the City of Edinburgh, said: “I am delighted by the manner in which members of the public conducted themselves. Both sets of fans were a credit to themselves and their clubs as they travelled to and from Glasgow and while they watched the match, either within the stadium, at home or in licensed premises.

“Detailed planning was carried out to ensure the public were aware of all key issues, including transport arrangements, local bylaws and planned activities for both clubs.

“Significant police resources were in place to assist fans as they made their way to watch the match and to deal with any issues that arose. The feedback from officers has been extremely positive.”

ScotRail managing director Steve Montgomery echoed these sentiments.

“We are delighted that the Scottish Cup final was such a great success, with thousands of supporters using ScotRail trains to attend the match,” he said. “Everything went smoothly, with both sets of fans a credit to their clubs.”