Dumbarton no more, Greenock no more, Paisley no more. At long last, the Easter Road faithful were saying goodbye to the Championship and conveniently the Hibernian-supporting Proclaimers had written a song capable of being re-worked as a sign-off.
Back in August 2015, on the first trip into unfamiliar territory, one fan’s wail from a rattling train summed up the sense of disorientation and despair. “Where are we?” he cried. “I hate central Scotland. I need to see coast!” Hibs lost that afternoon to Alloa Athletic and would fail in two promotion bids. But yesterday they glimpsed the craggy headland of the big league again.
The supporters were desperate to get back to the top flight, weren’t they? Well, a snap-poll conducted by Scotland on Sunday before this game via a fansite featured much instant nostalgia for what one called the “honesty” of the Championship. Yes, Hibs had been mugged at Alloa, but weren’t the Wasp-burgers good? (Ingredients; black pudding, potato scone, bacon). Then there were Dunfermline’s steak bridies and the Ayr speciality of chips with cheese and curry sauce. Shame about those dire Somerset toilets, though.
The Hibee Nation had enjoyed visiting old-school grounds like Cappielow and Palmerston, many of them for the first time. They’d enjoyed standing on terraces and games being on Saturdays at 3pm. But they had better not tell Rod Petrie such tales. The club coffers need kick-offs disrupted by TV and the money that comes with them.
Win the game, win the league. Well, almost. Hibs needed Falkirk to flop as well. The Bairns have been the most disobliging of opponents these past three seasons and Hibbies reckon they’ll be glad to see the back of them. But fair’s fair, in the absence of Hearts they’ve provided a feisty rivalry, and after five minutes Peter Houston’s team followed the script by going behind to St Mirren. Hibs, who hadn’t done much, then did. An arrowed John McGinn free-kick and a sweetly arcing back-post header by club player of the year Darren McGregor.
Over the past few weeks opposition teams had battled Hibs keenly, occasionally ferociously. There were tackles in the games against Dumbarton and Morton suggestive of the Championship vainly trying to collectively drag the Hibees back into the swamp. The fleet-footed McGinn would be momentarily snared by a division-below hurdie, shaping like the tentacle of a slimy B-movie monster. “Don’t go!” the beast might have roared. “Hearts, Rangers and you guys. This league has never been such fun and now it probably won’t be ever again.”
There was plenty of pluck from Queen of the South,and almost a quick equaliser by ex-Hibee Stephen Dobbie. They weren’t going to be fluffers and were trying to prolong Hibs’ stay, at least for a few more days, but McGregor pounced for a second from a Jason Cummings corner.
Hibs had been so long in the Championship that scenarios were repeating. They were trying to beat Queens while wondering what was happening at Westfield, just like a year ago before the play-offs. But while Falkirk equalised in their match Hibs surged further ahead straight after the re-start through David Gray. Call me sadistic but I always enjoy a goal scored before the liggers and swiggers in hospitality return to their seats.
Hibs should have scored more. McGinn set up chance after chance for his team-mates. He is absolutely fundamental to the Hibee cause but the huge cheer on the hour was for his big brother Stephen for putting St Mirren back in front.
It seemed like time to try some party tricks. Jason Cummings took on a shot with his right foot. McGregor went looking for his hat-trick. Then the fan-turned-cup hero set off on a right-wing dribble. The fans got ready for a celebration, and possibly another pitch invasion. A couple of puny barriers were quickly erected. “What the f****n’ hell is that?” the East Stand cried. They stayed where they were to belt out Sunshine on Leith, content that their favourites were finally on the move.
Back from the steak bridie modesty, back from curry sauce obscurity, back in the Premiership, back on Sportscene, back in the big time.