“So why do people support a particular football team?”
The received wisdom is it’s something that is passed down through the generations, something you are born into, and that is true for many. But as migration increases and people move from area to area and country to country in increasing numbers then so do the numbers of supporters who have no familial ties but are none the less avid and loyal.
Supporters of teams that have not been thrust upon them, but they have in fact chosen to follow. Reasons vary, the colour of a kit, the white stripes down shorts, the magic of a name or single player, the idiosyncratic stadium of a team or for some, like myself it starts with the team being local to my new home and grows into a life time of memories.
My support of Hibs started in the early 1980s, I had moved to Leith on the promise of two weeks work on building sites. My boyhood team was Chelsea, a team that could beat anyone and lose to anyone the following week. A team of shimmering talent, Osgood, Hudson and of course my hero Charlie Cooke. By the 80s, memories of the glamour teams of the 60s and early 70s were fading as they yo-yoed between divisions, before being declared bankrupt in 1982 – 11 years after beating the mighty Real Madrid they were sold for the princely sum of one pound.
My last game before moving to Scotland was an away match at Cardiff and memories of being accosted by the local Constabulary and their less than friendly Alsatians loomed large in my memory. It took 2 years for my first trip to Easter Road, Andy Goram’s first home game and a 4-0 defeat of Dunfermline.
Hibs since the mid 70s much like Chelsea had been in decline, Easter Road crumbling and memories of European nights under the flood lights were soon replaced by trials on and off the pitch that came to a head when the club faced financial ruin, leading to the unwanted attention of Wallace Mercer’s takeover bid and ultimately the superb Hands off Hibs campaign in 1990.
In 1991 Hibs won the Skol Cup, I travelled through on a coach from the Malt Shovel on The Shore, we’d done the same for the Semi-Final and managed – along with thousands of other Hibs supporters stuck outside the ground – to miss Keith Wright rising majestically to head the winning goal against Rangers. The final was a riot of sunshine and smiles and the open top parade went past my flat on Duke Street, somehow the emerald green of that year’s kit shone brighter.
And yet it is not these memories that welded Hibs to my heart but the Season of 1987/8. A one nil defeat at home to Celtic sparked a run of 9 games where we failed to score in 8 of them. The one game we did score in was away to Dundee Utd and I managed to miss that game.
We tried to remind ourselves of that feeling when the ball crashes into the back of the net and you leap joyously into the sky, your work forgotten, the release of elation coursing through your veins. We resolved to be there the next time we scored, whatever the game.
After the United game we went another 5 matches without a goal, next up was Morton away, we spent the long trek through amusing ourselves with stories about becoming the first team to win the Scottish cup without scoring a goal, winning all the way on penalties!
We arrived at Cappielow to freezing cold and fog, and charmless stewards confiscated a flask of soup my brother brought to keep his young sons warm. We stood near the half way line but couldn’t see either fog shrouded goal clearly and, yes, we were losing once again.
Suddenly out of the gloom we saw players in and around the Morton goal and then Hibs players running back to the half way line, someone said we’d scored, “No way, surely not, have we?” The ref was running back, “We have, bugger! Was that it!” – all that bloody way to see a ball disappearing into a bank of fog! As if we’d torn the wrapping paper off the biggest present under the Christmas tree to find nothing but an empty box.
Our next game was at home to Dundee, the home debut of our big name signing, Gareth Evans from Rotherham, a cross came in from the left in front of the old cow shed and out of the dark blue rose an emerald green salmon leaping clear, muscles straining, bulleting a net bulging header. As one the East Terrace erupted, a proper goal and hero had come to us, the purity of why we watch our team shone like a beacon, hope sprang eternal.
Evans would only score once more all season and we would finish sixth, but no one could take that moment from us.
The defining moment of that season came in the last game, Andy Goram scored direct from a goal kick and we spent the rest of the game encouraging him to shoot every time he picked up the ball.
European nights would return in years to come, Archibald would end our hoodoo at Tynecastle, Latapy and Paatelainen would run riot at Easter Road and of Sir David Gray would give us a moment we would never forget, but that, as they say in all the best books, was yet to come…
Interested? Do you have an interesting or unusual story about changing football allegiances when moving to a new town? Would you like your tale to be published in The Leither and, potentially a book? Then email email@example.com and the Editor will get in touch
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Easter Road, Home of Hibernian FC