Capital’s clubs set up a historic cup final

QUEEN Victoria’s reign became the longest in British history, the Glasgow Subway was opened and the first modern Olympics were held in Athens.

It was 1896, and for the first and so far last time, the Scottish Cup final was held outside Glasgow, as Heart of Midlothian beat Hibernian 3-1 at Logie Green in Edinburgh.

The players and spectators at that game are long gone. The ground, on the road from Canonmills to Leith, is now covered in housing. But at last, 116 years on, the two Edinburgh teams are back in the final, after a dramatic weekend at Hampden Park.

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The capital match-up was the least probable outcome from the semi-finals, according to competition sponsors William Hill, but was confirmed yesterday, as Hearts beat Celtic 2-1 thanks to a last-minute penalty. A day earlier, Hibs had defeated Aberdeen by the same score.

The 1896 win was the second time Hearts had won the cup, and they have lifted it another five times since, most recently in 2006. Hibs, who had also won it once before, would be victorious again in 1902 – but since then have known only disappointment, losing eight further finals, most recently in 2001.

In all the time since the clubs last met in the final, the closest they have come to a rematch was a semi-final six years ago, when Hearts won 4-0 en route to beating Gretna in the final.

That semi-final went ahead at the national stadium in Glasgow, with a noon kick-off on a Sunday, but only after a prolonged campaign to have the game played at Murrayfield.

And last night, a new campaign began to have the all-Edinburgh final on 19 May played at the Edinburgh venue.

“Cup Final MUST be at Murrayfield,” Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray tweeted. “I’ll be writing to SFA, SRU and William Hill first thing tomorrow. Email or DM me for support.”

The Labour MP was backed by prominent Hearts fan Derek Watson, chairman of the Hearts Supporters Trust. He argued that the game should go ahead at the home of the Scottish Rugby Union, not only to avert a mass journey to Glasgow, but also to enable more people to see the game – at 67,000, Murrayfield’s capacity is about 15,000 greater than that of Hampden.

“It should be at Murrayfield, because there’s no point in taking 50,000 people along the M8,” Mr Watson said. “A cup final between the two Edinburgh teams has not happened since 1896, so we can let an extra 15,000 people see it by keeping it local.”

Rugby’s governing body deferred to its footballing equivalent, but appears eager to do business. “This is very much a matter for the Scottish Football Association,” an SRU spokesman said. “However, should they wish to stage the Hearts v Hibs cup final in Edinburgh, then we would be happy to explore making Murrayfield available to them, providing there is no conflict with our core business.”

The SFA was not available for comment last night, but senior officials are understood to be vehemently opposed to playing the final anywhere but Hampden. That stance has the backing of both clubs.

“Hampden is the home of Scottish football, and that’s where the final should be,” Hibs managing director Fife Hyland said.

A spokesman for Hearts said: “The Scottish Cup final is one of the sporting jewels of the sporting calendar, and it is only right that it is played at the spiritual home of football in this country.

“We have no intention of looking at any other option.”

Hearts goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald added his weight to the pro-Hampden lobby. “I understand why they are saying Murrayfield, given that it’s an all-Edinburgh final, but Hampden is the home of football in Scotland,” he said soon after the match.

“From the fans’ point of view it would make sense to play in Edinburgh. But as a kid you don’t grow up dreaming of playing a cup final at Murrayfield: it’s all about playing at Hampden.

“It’s 1896 since there’s been a final like this, so I think the bulk of the players will want it here.”

Both British Transport Police and Lothian and Borders Police said they were unable to comment on policing the event, as no decision had been taken.