'It hurts me a bit' - lack of Hibs invite perplexes David Duff as he eyes return to club with special gift in hand
David Duff is planning to return to Hibs following a near 30-year exile and intends to donate John Collins’ first international shirt to the club where he was chairman for three years.
Breaking his long silence in an exclusive interview, the former chairman has opened up about the exacting period when Hearts owner Wallace Mercer launched a takeover attempt for Hibs, announced thirty years ago this week.
Duff, now 66, has not been back to Easter Road since the board was restructured after Tom Farmer bought the club in 1991. He is most firmly associated with the controversial episode when Mercer came close to merging Hibs with Hearts. Along with Mercer, Duff bore the brunt of the fans’ displeasure during an emotional few weeks but resisted selling his shares to thwart the Hearts owner’s intentions to create an “Edinburgh United”.
He wishes no ill will on the Easter Road club or its supporters. Quite the opposite. The boyhood Hibs supporter would like to present the club with Collins’ international shirt, which the then Easter Road player gave to Duff after he scored for Scotland on his debut in a 2-2 draw against Saudi Arabia in 1988.Duff believes Collins presented him with the shirt to acknowledge the respect with which he was treated while at Hibs before being sold for £1 million to Celtic in July 1990.
“It should really be taking pride of place at the club,” says Duff. “I got it framed. I have loved having it. It is a prized possession. But I have always thought that one day it should go back to where it belongs, to its home. It is part of Hibs’ history. John re-signed when I was there and when in any other case he would have left Hibs. He showed great faith in us. He got good wages, a good signing-on fee and came back as manager.
“I am more than happy to return it. And another time I might give them some other things.”
Duff also has an Andy Goram international shirt, again gifted by its original owner, and trinkets from a memorable trip to Hungary when Hibs made their return to the European stage against Videoton in 1989. This was one highpoint in a three-year reign that also saw Hibs sign Steve Archibald from Barcelona.
Duff is certainly due a return to Easter Road. He walked out of the ground following his last board meeting in the summer of 1991 and has not returned since. Months later Hibs defeated Dunfermline to lift the League Cup, their first major trophy in nearly 20 years.
Duff watched the game in a bar in Blackpool. He watched Hibs finally end their Scottish Cup hoodoo against Rangers four years ago in a London pub. There are clearly unresolved issues with Farmer, who sold the club to Ron Gordon, a Peru-born, United States-based businessman, 12 months ago.
“I have no reason to think that the guy who has taken over has any connection with the old regime other than he got the shares,” says Duff. “I know nothing about him. If he were to invite me up, I would be more than happy to come up and see him.”
Duff is bemused as to why he has not been invited back at any point in the three decades since leaving the club. He has never met Rod Petrie, who was the man in charge at Easter Road for so long before being appointed SFA president.
“I am not an egotist, but it hurts me a bit with what my family went through that I have never been invited back to Easter Road,” Duff says.
“It surprises me because I am part of Hibs history. I don’t think anyone who has a reasonable attitude could not say I did not make sacrifices for Hibs, whatever else they think.
“And it surprises me that in 30 years I have never had an invitation back. Because it was an exciting time at Hibs. It was an exciting three years. And it could have turned out differently.”