Hibs faithful can celebrate ushering in new era at club

EDINBURGH'S Usher Hall will be awash in green and white tonight as thousands of Hibs fans gather to celebrate 20 years on from Wallace Mercer's abortive takeover bid.

More than 50 present day and former Easter Road stars will take to the stage at the city centre venue for the "Hands Off Hibs 20th Anniversary: The Hibs Go Marching On" concert headlined by The Proclaimers.

The event is a 2300 sell-out which will raise thousands of pounds for two charities, Alzheimer Scotland and the Hibs' Former Players' Association, as the story of the club's emergence from the depths of despair is told.

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Having fought off the advances from the Hearts chairman, Hibs then almost went under, burdened by millions of pounds of debt only for then Kwik-Fit owner Sir Tom Farmer to become a "white knight" as he helped rescue the Easter Road club from extinction.

Today Willie McEwan, treasurer of the Former Players' Association and an organiser of tonight's event, said: "This isn't an anti-Mercer rally but celebrating Hibs and the way the club has developed over the past two decades.

"Many of us still remember those dark days, the rally at Easter Road to protest against the attempt to shut our club down, of Joe Baker kneeling and kissing the turf and all the hard work which went on day after day, night after night, to stave off the takeover.

"But there are Hibs fans who weren't born then and others who were probably too young to fully realise what was going on. They'll have heard all sorts of stories so tonight is a chance to give them a flavour of how the club has developed during their life-times.

"It's about a club and it's supporters staying together, and we are still together today. The club has moved on in so many ways, the new East Stand which is being built at the moment will complete the transformation of Easter Road into one of the best grounds in Scotland, we've got our own impressive training centre at East Mains, things I don't think we could even dream about away back then. That is why tonight is being billed as "The Hibs Go Marching On."

The story of the past 20 years will be told in four parts, narrated by Radio Forth DJ and Evening News columnist Grant Stott who will also compere the night, interspersed with music and banter from Fish, the Bum Clocks, The 10.04s and comedians Bill Barclay and Eric Davidson before The Proclaimers bring the event to a close.

McEwan said: "We'll have members of the 1991 and 2007 League Cup winning sides taking to the stage along with many other ex-players. We've been hard at work tracking people down to invite them along to be part of the celebrations and while some, unfortunately, can't make it, there will be a few video messages.

"There will also be plenty film and action, the Cup wins, of course, the great memories of that night against AEK Athens and, I'd imagine, the 6-2 derby will also feature, the rebuilding of the stadium and so on."

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While the evening will provoke many memories it does, of course, have a serious side with Alzheimer's Scotland and the Former Players' Association standing to gain a sizeable sum.

McEwan said: "I honestly can't say how much we are hoping to raise. We've produced a special programme and T-shirt in addition to ticket sales but we can't put a figure on it at the moment.

"After it is all over we'll have to sit down and do all the sums and then we will let everyone know but both charities will benefit as will Hibs youth programme. The Former Players' Association lets us keep the guys together, to take them along to Easter Road and organise various events while being able to lend financial support should it be needed.

"We are part of the European Former Players' Association and we're also working on an initiative with Alzheimer Scotland regarding dementia caused by heading a football which seems to becoming quite prevalent."