In 1976 I was so upset about Pat Stanton leaving Hibernian that I wrote a letter of protest to Edinburgh’s Evening News. Had the club lost their minds? Why were they letting him go, the elegant and powerful captain who’d been the pulsebeat of the team all the time I’d been standing on Easter Road’s high terracing?
The letter was full of teenage wailing. I was finished with Hibs and no doubt plenty more wouldn’t be back. My tear-stained epistle was published in the News’ sports edition, the “Pink”, and I must admit there was consolation in the tiny thrill of seeing my name in print for the very first time. I signed off “Yours in disgust”, although this came out as “dusgust”.
So what’s changed for me? Well, I now know that newspaper sub-editors adhere to a strange code. I now know that players don’t stay at clubs for ever and that even favourite ones might want to leave of their own volition. I now know that ambition can come into it, along with money and proactive agents. Many factors, indeed, that the fans - young and those who retain an innocent and idealistic air - don’t think about from one Saturday to the next.
Still, despite all of that and even though I’m a lot older and a bit wiser, I think there’s something in my eye. Scott Allan has just walked out of Easter Road for the last time. And here I am writing about it.
Obviously, this was coming. There’s no shock and the sense of regret isn’t anything like the same as when you’re properly obsessed with your team and plastering the bedroom walls with posters. But here was a footballer who properly excited, so there’s still sadness.
Excitement was his raison d’etre. I don’t know if you have raisons d’etre at your club but at Hibs we do. Allan once told me: “When I play I want folk to go: ‘I saw something out there today. That’s the kind of footballer I like.’”
Allan was the kind of footballer Hibs fans liked. He embodied the club credo with his - sorry, Jambos, it’s that word you don’t like us using - flair. Lewis Stevenson continues to embody the club with something different, his long service. Allan did it with that long pass at Ibrox, the one which bisected two sets of Rangers defenders, dodged some old three-wheeled invalid cars from the perimeter track being kept as museum pieces and bounced all the way up the marble staircase and back down again before stopping perfectly at Daryl Horgan’s feet for surely the furthest-travelled assist in SPFL history. So Hibs lost 6-1. And your point is, caller?
Allan was once, twice, three times a Hibee and I interviewed him between the first and second spells when he was on loan from Celtic at Dundee. He explained that schoolteachers at Glasgow’s Rosshall Academy thought a career in football for him was much too fanciful a notion - all of them apart from one - “My art teacher, Mr Leven.” Clearly this fellow was an aesthete of great perceptiveness.
Did Allan ever pass the ball sideways? Pop it around behind halfway, the kiddies’ soft-play section of the pitch well out of harm’s way and great for racking up the ball-retention stats? If he did I never saw it.
Not only did Allan fashion some of the cutest, most difficult, most outrageous passes, he also provided me with one of the best quotes. “Hearts fans probably don’t like me because I played for Hibs,” he said when we met at Dens Park. “Hibs fans probably don’t like me because I left. Rangers fans probably don’t like me because I went to Celtic. I started at Dundee United but their fans probably don’t like me because now I’m at Dundee. Celtic fans know that when I was a wee boy my favourite team were Rangers and that’ll be a good enough reason for Aberdeen fans to hate me. What a shambles!”
Regarding Hibs, all was forgiven when Neil Lennon brought him back to Leith. The midfield trident he formed with John McGinn and Dylan McGeouch for the second half of 2017-18 was the best of Hibs this century. Allan’s volley in the “Natural Order Derby” vies with Alan Gordon’s last of the seven in 1973 for my all-time favourite goal against our nearest and dearest.
All through his career Allan has battled diabetes and more recently the heart condition hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He leaves with fond wishes that his rare talents of courage and inventiveness on the ball in the hardcore area of the field can continue to flourish. His legend at Easter Road, though, is assured.
He’s part of a great tradition. One the fans love and demand. I can’t go all the way back to Bobby Johnstone but I remember Alex Edwards well. After Wee Mickey I revered Ally McLeod. Then the baton was passed to Russell Latapy, then Guillaume Beuzelin. What would we call them? Inside forwards in old money, playmakers more recently, 10s in the current vernacular. The Easter Road faithful, not meaning to be too proprietorial about it, think of them as “Hibs-type players”. Scott Allan was one such and the fans wait to see who his successor will be. No pressure, Lee Johnson, but I think they’ll be “dusgusted” if he fails to materialise.