The other morning Glasgow woke up in a state of delirium. Celtic triumphed stupendously in Europe and then a few hours later Rangers followed suit. In Sauchiehall Street, a member of the Copland Road cognoscenti spotted an aesthete in a hooped shirt. They sprinted towards each other, chest-bumped, fell over, picked themselves up, counted their sovvy rings, hugged passionately – then the Rangers man cradled the face of the Celtic man, stroked his cheek tenderly as he would a babe or a pitbull pup, and sighed: “I love you, you love me, whae’s like us, by the way?” OK, maybe not, but the victories in the Europa League were real, thrilling and deserving of acclaim. Meanwhile at the exact same moment Edinburgh woke up in a state of delirium but a different kind. Not the delirium of ecstasy and rapture but the delirium of dementedness and derangement.
Just as it’s difficult to recall another occasion when the Old Firm achieved near-simultaneous nirvana, so it’s a challenge to think of the last time Hearts and Hibernian were conjoined in managerless misery. Celtic and Rangers have achieved stirring Euro victories in the same week before, just not on the same night. The Edinburgh clubs have both been rudderless at the same time previously, just not while they were helping each other prop up the league.
Thus, while the back pages resounded to headlines like “The Gold Firm” and “This game will live with me for ever” and “Fans rock Ibrox on epic night” and “We can be Euro Ntchamps”, so it was that you thumbed a long way back in the journals, almost to where the stairlift ads and unbeatable offers for gentlemen’s beige slacks reside, to find there was no update on the situation at Tynecastle and this from Easter Road: “Now you see him… and now you won’t.”
Hibs’ multi-millionaire owner Ron Gordon has entered the drama down Leith way, surveyed the chaos and discontent following the removal of Paul Heckingbottom… and just as quickly exited again. Dubbed the “Invisible Man” for his low-key if not subterranean stewardship thus far, he finally broke his silence to say he’d be leaving the search for a new manager to chief executive Leeann Dempster.
Maybe Hibs fans shouldn’t be surprised. After all, what expertise can Gordon possess for picking the right candidate? Everybody watching games knows better than the manager at least 27 times during the course of 90 minutes, but it is a specialism being the guy in the dugout. Apparently Heckingbottom interviewed brilliantly. And all of the players he recruited spoke glowingly of the Hecky “sell”, persuading them to swap Forest Green Rovers and the like for the first club to wear green. Hibs might want to dial down the gush next time round, with Dempster – after Hecky crashing at the wheel, after the Neil Lennon jump-or-pushed farce – under huge pressure to get this one right.
You wonder what Gordon, pictured, is thinking right now, beyond the bland message delivered last week. He can’t have expected a crisis this early. If that’s the case, though, he doesn’t know football, and he certainly doesn’t know the Hibees. As one pressbox wag put it as Heckingbottom began to flounder: “Only Hibs could be taken over by a multi-millionaire and get worse.” Why get involved in the first place? This is Scotland, not “the Prem”. Gordon does not seem to want the glory – conspicuous by its absence when Christian Doidge plays the lone striker, inconspicuously – and nor does he want to be quoted as much as Wallace Mercer, that much-missed legend-in-his-own-lunchtime of the Edinburgh scene.
The Hibs supremo does not want to demonstrate his keepy-uppy skills like Michael Knighton, or show the egomaniacal tendencies of Robert Maxwell, or have the pleb masses wave to him in the directors’ box like he was a bonkers South American dictator, fond of firing his gun from the palace balcony. He may want his name on the mooted indoor training complex, just as Aberdeen vice-chairman Dave Cormack has decided that club’s new facility will honour him, but Gordon won’t be revealing his “strategic plan” for Hibs until next year. It’s not too early in the stumbling-drunk shambles of this season for both capital clubs – when they were tipped to be battling each other for Euro places – to wonder what their status will be by then.
You wonder too if Gordon has been on the phone since Celtic’s stunning conquest of Lazio to inquire: “That guy Lennon, didn’t we used to have him?” That seems a while ago in Hibs’ ambition, doesn’t it? The element of the Easter Road support not devastated to see Lenny go – utilising the highly scientific formula of “Ya boo sucks!” – would if they were honest have him back in a heartbeat, though they would be right to suggest that he was always going to get bored with Hibs eventually.
So where are Hibs and Hearts going to find their latest saviours? The same names are carried on the breeze from Leith to Gorgie and back again. Before they’re confronted by a choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the Edinburgh football public will have hoped for a far livelier contest than the one being offered by bookies and pals of out-of-work managers. Of course the clubs may have totally different men in mind, but left-field men? Hearts went down that route with Ian Cathro and it didn’t work. Hibs post-Heckingbottom may decide that if the leaves are falling it’s too late in the season to throw their supporters a curve-ball, especially if he’s another who doesn’t know Scottish football and appears complacent about its challenges.
Meanwhile in this tale of two cities, the Glasgow giants march on. The duopoly, temporarily suspended, is back with a vengeance. The most famous occasion when the Old Firm were this smug at exactly the same time was the week in 1967 when they participated in the finals of Europe’s premier competitions. Where were the Edinburgh teams that season? Hibs managed fifth and Hearts a lowly 12th, both below those other Glesga titans Clyde. Just as well the Bully Wee aren’t bullying anyone right now.