On the first anniversary of Hibs’ first step towards finally lifting the Scottish Cup again, a 2-0 victory at Raith Rovers, it was fitting the trophy spent yesterday in Fife.
“It’ll never get a better backdrop than that,” one visitor to the Old Course in St Andrews suggests, reasonably, as inquisitive golf fans mingled with die-hard Hibs supporters in the queue to take photographs of the Scottish Cup. The handsome trophy formed a unique, and venerable, front two with the Claret Jug in a window above the golf museum, overlooking the ancient links.
The oldest domestic football trophy in the world, meet the oldest major golf trophy. “That’s the important one!” a slightly put-out sounding official at the R & A reminded those ignoring the strange jug-shaped thing on a plinth next to the object of Hibs’ obsession for 114 years.
As another phone camera captured an image where the poor old Claret Jug was probably left on the fringes, if it was in the frame at all, a green and white scarf-wearing visitor replied: “You’ll never understand”.
No one can blame Hibs for squeezing the last drops from what most would have to agree was the greatest story told in Scottish football last year. Their so-called ‘Persevered’ tour is nearing its conclusion, with over 50,000 people having had the chances to pose with a trophy that Hibs are now preparing to hand back.
It must, to them, feel distressingly soon. It seems like almost yesterday when the last supporter was being ushered off the park at Hampden Park on 21 May. Indeed, Police Scotland were still making more arrests yesterday.
The cup has now been paraded at over 230 places, including hospices, church halls and primary schools. Up until yesterday, however, never the home of golf. Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster wasn’t joking when she described the tour as “the most extensive of its kind in this country,” although how many other trophies have embarked on similar tours is a moot point.
But this felt undeniably special. Yesterday saw the old trophy, still bedecked with green-and-white ribbons, of course, wend its way to the Old Course, where it enjoyed a date with the Claret Jug.
Positioned in the window of the café above the museum, both glinted alluringly in the winter sunshine as a surprising number of people filed past wearing suitably awed looks.
With just limited opportunities left to see the trophy on its own, never mind with such a historic golf trophy, yesterday proved popular.
Jaw-droppingly so in the case of Peter Hart, who probably isn’t the first person to come on a pilgrimage from Australia to the Old Course. But he hadn’t come to play a round of golf. He was here to see the Scottish Cup.
“We’ve come from Australia – a place called Albury – between Sydney and Melbourne,” he said. “I’m originally from Muirhouse in Edinburgh.
“It means everything to me,” he added. “If you could have seen me watching the cup final at The Charles Dickens in Melbourne, I was in tears. It was the best day of my life – it really was… until my grandson was born.
“I wanted to go and see the cup but I thought I was going to run out of opportunities. I thought I might have seen it on Friday at the game (v Dundee United) as I was in hospitality, but it was downstairs in the gallery.
“When I saw on the website it was here I thought ‘wow, what’s an hour’s drive from Edinburgh when you’ve come 12,000 miles already?’”
It was a surreal day in St Andrews had you happened to be a Hibs supporter dropping into the golf museum without prior knowledge of the Scottish Cup’s itinerary. Kevin Thomson, who played in last season’s run to glory, was standing chatting in a group. Over in the corner sat former winger Kevin Harper, offering his opinion to reporters on a variety of Hibs-related subjects.
Harper was purring about Chris Humphrey, pictured, one of the players Hibs hope might help them achieve a remarkable Scottish Cup encore by retaining it. Of course, the harsh financial reality means promotion is probably now the preference, even for the most romantic Hibs fan.
Friday’s 3-0 win over Dundee United, in which Humphrey set up the first two goals for Jason Cummings, meant Hibs established a four-point lead over the Tannadice side at the top of the Championship. Harper liked what he saw of someone who follows in a great tradition of Hibs wingers.
“Humphrey is someone who wants to run and knock the ball past people,” he said. “You don’t need a trick if you have that genuine pace, believe it or not. I think players tend to think ‘I need to do a trick’.
“The best thing to do is put the ball past a defender and see if they are as fast as you – if not you are onto a winner right away.”
But perhaps the last word should go to Jim Mills, the chairman of the Central Hibs supporters’ club, who couldn’t resist travelling to St Andrews to take a few last photos of himself with the Scottish Cup. He reckons he has over 20 already, in “eight or nine” different locations.
With tears forming in his eyes, he spoke of the day Hibs lifted the Scottish Cup as if it was a spiritual awakening or a religious conversion.
“My father is buried in the cemetery behind Easter Road,” he said.
“At my wedding day, I was married 200 yards from Easter Road, the priest mentioned it: ‘The only day to surpass this will be if Hibs win the Scottish Cup’.”
He agreed that this year’s tournament is likely to go one of two ways for Hibs. Either they win it again, or they get knocked out at their first hurdle next Saturday against Bonnyrigg Rose, at Tynecastle of all places.
“But it doesn’t matter anymore,” he smiled.