News yesterday’s game was definitely, maybe on seemed to spread by word of mouth. Rumours of the granting of a temporary occupation certificate created a discernible buzz in Edinburgh’s west end howffs on Saturday night.
It was almost as if some knock-kneed urchin might fly in through the doors to interrupt the carousing and end the suspense: “The men from the city council, they say… yes!” This ‘yes’ was still dependent on another inspection early yesterday morning, as Hearts took the opening of their new £14 million main stand to the wire. Opponents Partick Thistle’s patience was clearly fraying.
They had gone to bed expecting a game the following afternoon but knowing that, even at this late stage, nothing was guaranteed.
Nicky Campbell, the big name hired by Hearts to interview owner Ann Budge on the pitch in the expectation that all would be sweetness and light, sought to smooth things over with the travelling band of fans. These supporters were unwilling to give Hearts much credit for getting a game on more than a month after the date originally scheduled for the grand opening. This hold-up was due, among other factors, to forgetting to order seats.
The news of a further 15-minute delay to kick-off was met with derision from Thistle fans. “You don’t know what you’re doing,” they chorused.
Campbell, the former Wheel of Fortune presenter, thanked them anyway for being part of such a special day. Budge was in spikier mood, as might be expected following a series of sleepless nights. “I thought they wanted to play a football game,” she said, after being given a less than rousing reception from the visiting fans. She was clearly irritated by the press release from Partick Thistle before the match calling for an SPFL inquiry into the saga.
Proof of Budge being very much on site throughout these stressful recent days came when Hans-Peter Hauck, who had travelled from near Frankfurt for the occasion, met her outside Tynecastle at nearly 10pm on Saturday night.
Hauck, a Scottish football stadium devotee, missed the last game in front of the old main stand and so was desperate to see the first in front of the new one. But he was obviously concerned about the ongoing uncertainty over the game. Pitching up outside the stadium late on Saturday night to see for himself what was going on, he received news of the passed inspection from the most creditable source of all: Budge herself.
Hauck wasn’t going to lie. Having seen the new stand with his own eyes, he conceded it was slightly underwhelming. Too much glass seemed to be the chief complaint. The outside of the stand, described as a “glass curtain wall”, is dividing people. A few red bricks rescued following the demolition of the old stand have been incorporated into the design. An original plaque from 1914, when the old main stand was opened, offers another hat-tip to what was there before.
Let’s nail one myth right away. The new stand looks nothing like the bleak Slough setting for The Office, as some of its knockers on Twitter have claimed.
But it’s also a long way from Archibald Leitch’s handsome red-bricked predecessor that lasted more than 100 years. The Glasgow architect’s original mosaic of the old club badge has been preserved inside the building.
A large club badge studded with light bulbs has been pinned above the front entrance. It might be the stand looks more impressive at night, when it positively glows.
In broad daylight it’s obvious there’s much work still to be done. However, there’s little doubt it compares well next to other modern stands. Bill Fraser, originally from Nairn, was warming to it, though he struck a note of caution: “It doesn’t matter what it looks like if the team isn’t any good.”
This is beyond the remit of all the architects, construction workers and health and safety experts involved in ensuring yesterday’s game got the green light. The biggest hitch in the end as far as Hearts were concerned was substitute Kris Doolan’s late equaliser following Isma Goncalves’ opener.
It meant that while there were no worrying creaks from the new structure, there were plenty of groans emanating from it at full-time.