Hibs versus Rangers has turned into our nastiest, most hateful fixture

The abuse towards Boyle and mocking of Ibrox disaster this season alone highlight terrible fan behaviour

Ibrox last October, and the away end is its usual raucous self. There’s that customary air of self-congratulation for braving the trip and the songs are belted out with extra defiance. Well, at least until the third and fourth goals go in, anyway, condemning the visiting team to a familiar defeat.

But as the contingent depart, “calling cards” are found. Stickers on the seats goading Rangers about the deaths of 66 of their supporters in 1971, Scottish football’s worst-ever disaster. This is sick, this is depraved, and the First Minister joins the condemnation.

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Then Easter Road last Sunday, and the away end is its usual raucous self. With a victory to celebrate, the chants are non-stop from first whistle to last. Many are sectarian and therefore illegal.

Hibs forward Martin Boyle was on the end of sickening abuse from some Rangers fans during last weekend's Scottish Cup clash.Hibs forward Martin Boyle was on the end of sickening abuse from some Rangers fans during last weekend's Scottish Cup clash.
Hibs forward Martin Boyle was on the end of sickening abuse from some Rangers fans during last weekend's Scottish Cup clash.

One of the home side’s players is knocked out. As he’s stretchered off, strapped up to an oxygen tank, the hope is expressed that he will “die a f****n b*****d”. This is sick, this is depraved, and afterwards it’s decided that no more should the followers of this team be allowed to travel to the stadium in such large numbers.

Welcome, if that’s the word, to surely the nastiest, most hateful fixture in our game right now. Well, what else challenges Hibernian vs Rangers? Historically, the Old Firm derby has been the most X-rated but with away fans currently banned from Ibrox and Celtic Park, has it lost a bit of its gruesomeness given that it’s essentially one lot shouting and screaming into a void?

Aberdeen vs Rangers has a notoriety all of its own. The enmity goes all the way back to 1988 and the Neil Simpson tackle on Ian Durrant. But for many of those years there was no such thing as social media, whereas the lunatic fringes in Leith and Govan have always had X, formerly Twitter, at their disposal for everyday abuse.

That is not to say Hibs vs Rangers is a modern phenomenon and curse. When hooliganism was a problem in the 1970s, the fixture was a problem. But the bovver boys from that time will be in their late sixties now. It is not them who are peddling such vile taunts now.

Some Hibs fans mocked the Ibrox disaster last October.Some Hibs fans mocked the Ibrox disaster last October.
Some Hibs fans mocked the Ibrox disaster last October.

Hibs vs Rangers wins, if that’s the word, because of the worst pitch riot of recent times, the one immediately following the 2016 Scottish Cup final. Old Firm clashes and Rangers’ games with Aberdeen have, thank goodness, produced nothing to compare. All the present horribleness between fans of the two teams in question stems from that day.

You can’t really call them fans, though, can you? For it takes a particular kind of moron to premeditately stuff his pockets with those stickers. It could not have been anyone old enough to have followed Scottish football in 1971 because the Ibrox Disaster shook all of Scottish football, no matter who you supported.

It could not have been anyone who watched the BBC Scotland anniversary documentary three years ago and remembered the scenes at the gravesides of the five schoolboys from Markinch, Fife who went to a match and never came home. Not that being ignorant of the fuller detail is any excuse; just knowing that 66 people died should have been enough to make anyone stop and think about their intentions last October and that perhaps they amounted to a wind-up too far.

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And, as happened last Sunday, it takes a particular kind of moron to wish the absolute worst for Martin Boyle while your team’s medical staff have rushed to help their Hibs counterparts as the player lay face down and motionless on the turf. Meanwhile in the rest of the world cancel culture is rampant and we’re all paranoid about pronouns.

Think of the most shocking moments we’ve witnessed on TV when footballers have suffered horrific injuries or just collapsed with no one near them. Think of Christian Eriksen, Fabrice Muamba and further back Coventry City’s David Busst at Old Trafford, the blood having to be cleaned off the grass afterwards. In these cases the reaction of the crowd was stunned silence. No one knew the extent of Boyle’s injury. The reaction of some in the Rangers end was disgusting.

As was the chant mocking the passing of Hibs’ former owner Ron Gordon. As is the chant mocking the passing of Hearts’ former chairman Wallace Mercer, anytime those professing to support Hibs sing it at an Edinburgh derby. As was the missile-throwing from the Hibees end at the most recent Edinburgh derby. The club’s hierarchy, in their statement announcing they will now be restricting away allocations at their ground, would have had the Tynecastle trouble and the Ibrox Disaster stickers in mind when they admitted: “ … The behaviour of certain sections of Hibernian’s own support has not been good enough at times this season.”

At other clubs it’s “certain sections”. Today’s FA Cup opponents, Manchester United and Liverpool, have certain sections who will regularly antagonise by bringing up Munich and Hillsborough. But at Easter Road the other night the certain section in the away end was not small. Even Rangers supporters admitted this is fansite discussion, with one saying the “vast majority” were abusing Boyle. “Only me and my mate and a couple of old boys near us clapped. Then some guy behind us said: ‘Stop f****n’ clapping.’”

Somewhere in that comment there’s hope. Also in this get-well-soon message: “He’s one of their good players and we need them to keep Aberdeen out of the top six.” I want to be optimistic. I want to believe fans can be better. But goodness me they make it tough sometimes. And guess what? It’s Rangers vs Hibs again at the end of the month …



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