Fans at fever pitch for cup showdown

IT is a dream come true for fans on both sides of the Capital’s football divide.

Thanks to yesterday’s dramatic late winner at Hampden, Hearts will meet Hibs in the Scottish Cup final for the first time in more than a century.

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The all-Edinburgh final has sparked football fever across the city but there is one setback – the clash will take place in Glasgow.

Now supporters, politicians and celebrities are pushing for the May 19 showdown to shift from its traditional Hampden home to Murrayfield, with the move having already won backing from Hearts-mad councillor Steve Cardownie, deputy leader of the city council, and Paul McLellan, the Hibs-loving leader of East Lothian Council.

Fans say Murrayfield – with a capacity of 67,000 compared with Hampden’s 52,000 – would allow more supporters to witness the match, as well as saving thousands of families large travel costs.

According to the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, a cup final in the Capital could generate “tens of millions” of pounds for the city.

Councillor Cardownie, a Hearts season ticket holder, said if the majority of fans were in favour of the move he would ask the Lord Provost to send a letter to the Scottish Football Association requesting that the final be played in Edinburgh.

“There will be a buzz about the city now right up until the final,” he said.

“A Hearts and Hibs final is a dream come true and hopefully it will take place at Murrayfield. I think we should try and lobby for it.

“There would be less expense for the fans travelling to the game. It is a family occasion and I think if it’s played at Murrayfield there would be more families because they wouldn’t have to go all the way through to Glasgow.

“I can’t anticipate what the SFA will say, but the SFA should listen to the fans.”

The last time the two Edinburgh clubs met in the final of the Scottish Cup, the game was played at Logie Green – the first and only time it has been played outside of Glasgow.

It was not a straightforward decision to move the game, however, with the decision only taken after considerable pressure was put on the football authorities of the time. The Scottish Association, as the SFA was known at the time, “yielded to the pressure brought to bear upon them” after Hibs and Hearts reached the final.

In the end, though, only 17,340 supporters turned out to watch the match at Logie Green, which prompted the Evening News to remark that “we have a ground in Edinburgh capable of accommodating the biggest shilling-a-head crowd we seem able to muster, and we need never hope of robbing Glasgow of the state occasions while we have to be content with a ‘gate’ of well under 20,000.”

Both clubs have already backed the game going ahead at Hampden, with Hibs boss Pat Fenlon saying: “Hampden is the home of Scottish football and that is the right place for the game.”

A spokesman for Hearts said: “The Scottish Cup final is one of the jewels of the sporting calendar, and it is only right that it is played in the spiritual home of football in this country. We have no intention of looking at any other option.”

The SFA was not available for comment, although it is understood it is strongly opposed to playing the final anywhere but Hampden. Furthermore, if the clash was to move to Murrayfield, the SFA would have to pay the Scottish Rugby Union for use of the stadium.

However, that hasn’t stopped scores of people from taking to Twitter to push for the move, including Ian Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, who said: “Cup Final MUST be at Murrayfield. I’ll be writing to SFA, SRU and William Hill first thing tomorrow.”

Radio Forth presenter and avid Hibs fan Grant Stott believes the chances of the SFA switching the cup final venue to Murrayfield are slim.

“It would be nice but I don’t think it will ever happen,” he said. “I don’t think there’s even a chance of the SFA handing an event like this over to the SRU. It would be great from an Edinburgh point of view for it to happen and it would be a lot easier for all the fans, but I just cannot see this happening because of the politics involved.”

Meanwhile, Tony Capaldi, 54, from Penicuik, who has been a Hearts fan for 45 years, told the Evening News: “Murrayfield would be ideal. Why have all these people trekking along the M8 when they don’t have to?”

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said holding the final in Edinburgh could generate “tens of millions” of pounds for the local economy.

He said: “It would certainly be helpful to all those legions of fans from Edinburgh and it would be good for Edinburgh businesses, too. As last weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final showed, you can see how the city gets a lift from these great occasions at Murrayfield.

“I can’t see the Scottish Cup final coming to Murrayfield but, if it did, it would certainly be a great occasion and would generate tens of millions of pounds for the local economy.”

Graham Bell, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “If the final was held at Murrayfield, you can expect of course that the great majority of people would be coming from not very far away, so unlike rugby league cup finals, you don’t get hotel bills. But people would be turning out, having a few beers and a meal, and you would also get the focus on Edinburgh as a place to be.

“The bigger value is in the kudos for the city, the sense of pride and bringing people together, and I think this is an ideal opportunity for it.”

The Murrayfield bid comes after similar calls in 2006, when managers from both teams joined fans in expressing dismay at the SFA’s decision to force 50,000 fans to travel to Glasgow for the Scottish Cup semi-final between the clubs.

Hearts won that tie 4-0 and went on to lift the trophy, while Hibs haven’t tasted cup glory since 1902. Hearts also won the 1896 cup clash 3-1.

Meanwhile, First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the prospect of the first all-Edinburgh cup final since 1896, which came about after Hibs beat Aberdeen 2-1 on Saturday to reach the final, while Hearts triumphed over Celtic by the same scoreline in the semi-final at Hampden yesterday.

Mr Salmond said: “Congratulations to Hearts and Hibs on their Scottish Cup semi-final victories over this weekend. We now have the exciting prospect of an all-Edinburgh cup final – the first since 1896 – and I look forward to it.”

1896 AND ALL THAT . . .

WHEN The two Edinburgh clubs last did battle for the Scottish Cup, it was a very different time – perhaps highlighted best by the fact that entry to the match cost just a shilling.

It was the year Queen Victoria surpassed King George V as the longest reigning monarch in British History, the world’s first motoring fatality was recorded in London and the first modern Olympic Games were held.

For the thousands of football supporters in the city, however, there was only one story of interest and for those looking to find out about the match, a copy of the Edinburgh Evening News would have set them back one half penny.

Away from the football, plenty was changing in the city – 1896 saw the foundation stone laid for the North Bridge and a new observatory was opened on Blackford Hill.

It was also the year that the Burgh of Portobello was incorporated into the city of Edinburgh by Act of parliament.

And on April 13, 1896, moving pictures were shown in Scotland for the first time at the Empire Palace Theatre in Edinburgh.

On Twitter . . .

@scottiewilson: Now the fight begins. Two Edinburgh teams, a city with a world-class stadium. Why travel to our 2nd city? Bring the cup final to Murrayfield

@reallorraine: So who thinks Murrayfield for the Scottish cup final? Would make more sense for the fans. Yes, Yes, Yes!

@ScotFootBlog: Hampden? Murrayfield? Now that the game is actually happening I don’t care. Just a distraction. Play it at the Meadows if you want.

@MichaelMacLeod1: Should they hold the #EdinburghDerbyFinal at Murrayfield? Everyone’s already had their Hampden day out.

@IanMurrayMP: Cup Final MUST be at Murrayfield. I’ll be writing to SFA, SRU and William Hill first thing tomorrow.

@BigWelshy: A genuinely interesting Scottish Cup Final. Will definitely watch it. They should move it to Murrayfield though.

@johnthedirector: No. Murrayfield is for rugby, Hampden is the home of football so we should not discard our history.

@glasgowroad: Murrayfield is for egg-shaped balls and prawns! Edinburgh Police will say no chance.