“Gentlemen, to bed! For we rise at dawn!” exclaims Coogan before the pair have fun - “For we rise at 9.30-ish! … At 9.30 for 10! … For a continental breakfast!” - with a line from an actual battle film, 300 starring Gerard Butler.
The 300 Spartans who took on the might of the Persians in 480BC have been celebrated for evermore. How special, though, would 300 Hibernian fans have felt, this being the select few who for a brief moment were to be allowed into Hampden on Saturday along with 300 St Johnstone supporters?
Privileged? Self-conscious? Guilty? Smug? Would they have recognised the uniqueness of the occasion and have stories to tell about the strangest Scottish Cup final there has ever been? Or would they have become bar-room bores on the subject, eventually losing all their friends?When I heard about the drastically small limits to be placed on the “crowd”, I said to myself: “I should be one of those bores.” Based on near-lunatic devotion to the cause, I reckoned I deserved a ticket.
After all, I witnessed Hibs being dumped out of the cup at East Fife, under floodlights so dim it was as if the players had been beaten up down a dingy close. I was there when they succumbed in the fourth round at Clydebank who would take the victory to the grave. I saw my team escape from gale-battered Gayfield with a draw and, determined the replay would have an altogether different outcome, lose.
And what about that time I gave up my ticket for Scotland vs England at Murrayfield so I could be at Tannadice for Darren Jackson trundling a shot under Andy Goram to end another cup campaign? That was March 1990 and I think we all remember how the rugby went.
And what about those occasions when Hibs fell at the last but one hurdle? They say that no one remembers beaten semi-finalists but I’ve got vivid recall of trudging away from Hampden in April on 11 separate occasions.
In 1974, the night before Higher History, I abandoned my cramming for a replay at Dundee. The Hibees lost and I failed the exam. Two years later I was at all three games against Motherwell resulting in another fifth-round failure. I was at all three games of the War and Peace final, Rangers triumphing with a glorious diving header (Arthur Duncan o.g.).
Surely, then, these credentials were bad enough to be good enough for exclusive membership of the valiant 300?
Well, my record is not spotless. There have been tournament lapses. I missed us being mugged by Stirling Albion and Raith Rovers twice, both times at home. And at half-time in the 2013 semi-final, three-nil down to Falkirk, I was all for joining the stampede back along the M8. I’d had enough of the Scottish bloody Cup; it was never going to happen. But I was talked into staying, for a perfect, behind-the-goal view of Leigh Griffiths’ screaming winner, by my six-year-old son.
Maybe there would have been more deserving recipients of the gold-dust tickets. The fans at Queen of the South in this season’s third round who circumvented Covid to watch atop a shoogly ladder. Diehards like my good friend Ivan, the humanist minister, who kept the faith when I didn’t, whose tales of enduring rotten Hibs sides at the old Broomfield, rain falling on him through a hole in the stand roof the whole match, cause me to shudder with guilt even now. (Some of those lapses, you see, lasted entire seasons). And others who should have got to go included Pat Stanton and the rest of the surviving Turnbull’s Tornadoes, the finest Hibs team never to win the cup.
Then there were Craig and Charlie Reid. Just imagine: as the Proclaimers you compose the greatest football song of them all. When Hibs at long last smash the curse it’s sung with such passion, such poignancy for those who couldn’t quite hang on long enough and, yes, such exuberance that crossbars snap and clumps of turf lift from the pitch. There’s more: “Sunshine on Leith”, your anthem, travels right round the world on social media, causing spines to tingle and tears to fall among newly signed-up honorary members of the Hibee Nation who never experienced 5-1 or clapped eyes on Jarkko Wiss, Rowan Vine or Alan O’Brien, the latter paid a comparative fortune after the sweeties offered Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson and wasn’t, after all, the fastest man alive. And yet you couldn’t be at Hampden because you’d arranged to play a gig in - what the heck? - Salisbury. That’s properly Hibsing it.
I was there six years ago and maybe in my mind I still am. Maybe for me that was enough: no dad alongside me but brother, son and longest-suffering Hibee buddy, and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to drift back to the deeds of Conrad Logan, Liam Henderson and “Sir” David Gray. Saturday will either cap Hibs’ greatest season since the Famous Five or St Johnstone’s greatest-ever but it won’t beat 2016 for drama, longing and a Hollywood-engineered last ten minutes. How could it?
I had my fun and don’t want to be greedy. Darren McGregor, another hero of 2016, doesn’t want to be greedy and hopes Ryan Porteous plays instead of him. Maybe a relentless winner like Alex Ferguson would disapprove but while I hope my favourites lift the cup again I don’t need to be there, one of the now-dashed 300 at a final like no other.