How refreshing! An Old Firm free cup final

I am celebrating Hibs and Hearts getting to the Scottish Cup final with a cup of tea and a salt n vinegar crisp sandwich.  No I’m not sure why either.  They’re Golden Wonder crisps, if that helps.

And frankly, I’m a bit bemused by the spring in my step and smile on my face at the Edinburgh rivals’ good fortune.  Why should I, a Killie fan, care who won the semi-finals and who made it through to the big showpiece at the end of the season?

It’s an odd one I grant you.  It’s partly down to knowing so many Hibs and Hearts fans.  But then I know a lot of Rangers and Celtic fans too.  I’d like to know fewer, not because of the people involved you understand, but because many of the Old Firm fans I know have perfectly decent local teams that would welcome their support.  And maybe then we wouldn’t have two giants (one nearly fallen) and ten supposed diddy teams in the SPL.

But it’s not really that.  There is something refreshing about non Old Firm finals.  Oh, we’ll get the patronising media nonsense about family friendly affairs and photo montages of Gorgie and Leith with all the ribbons and good luck banners.  And some wee couthy interview with former players and even, crumbly fans about their last cup win (though, this of course, would involve Burke and Hare style grave-robbing in Hibs’ case).  But nonetheless I smile at the thought of an Old Firm free Scottish Cup final.

Not least because we’ll be spared yet another preposterous, undignified and puerile post-defeat interview with Neil Lennon.  Yes, it was a dodgy penalty.  But the equaliser was just as dodgy.  Get over it.   The victim/blame culture that is a full part of the Lennon mindset these days shows that while he might be a good manager, he’ll never be a great one.   Some of what has been directed at him over the years has been truly awful and unforgiveable.  I give him great credit for refusing to bow to any of it, but that doesn’t excuse nor justify his behaviour solely as a football manager.

Instead, we’ll get two managers prepared to give it a go, who don’t see it as their divine right to boss everything in Scottish football, and whom – I hope – make the best of the big occasion and send out attacking formations, determined to win by playing better than the other side.  It should be a great spectacle.

But the real reason why I’m smiling along with most of the city I call home this evening was crystallised by a friend the other night – a Jambo, who I’m assured is doing a lot of smiling right now.  Take the Old Firm out of the equation and big days out at semi-finals and finals become more than just once in a lifetime or generation experience.  The wee diddy teams (as a supporter of one such I have the right to reclaim the use of this epithet in order to de-stigmatise it) which currently provide little more than target practice for the inexorable march of both Old Firm sides to their supposedly inevitable and unalterable birthright of silverware, doubles and trebles would no longer be wee or diddy.

All of us could approach each season buoyed with hope and optimism at the real prospect of success.  What a sea-change that would bring to the mindset, culture and environment of Scottish football.

So, in a season when my ain glorious Ayrshire Killie overcame Celtic in the League Cup Final and when neither half of the Old Firm will be lifting the Scottish Cup, we get a sense and a taste of what this might be like.  And it’s rather refreshing.

To be sure there is tribalism, some of it rotten, between Hibs and Hearts.  But for the main part, this will be a goodwill Scottish Cup Final.  Neither set of fans will approach their day of destiny in May with arrogance nor assumed victory.  Both will be excited, nervous and luxuriating in their adventure and imbued with real hope and optimism at the thought of triumph, so tantalisingly close.  Though the Hibs’ fans of course, will want to temper that with their renowned pessimism at ever breaking their Scottish Cup voo-doo.

Before the inevitable campaign gathers momentum (it’s already underway) for the final to be played at Murrayfield, though, a word.  Football is played at Hampden;  rugby at Murrayfield.  It doesn’t necessarily make it right (though I happen to think it is) but that’s the way it is.  In any event, there is something about the journey to the final which would be lost if it involved a 26 or 1 bus ride five stops across the home city.  I mean, is there somewhere even to tie a scarf to on a bus to let it flutter out the window?

So, Hibs, Hearts, Hampden.  A perfect combination.  Here’s to a great Cup Final, a match played with integrity in which both sides remember to lace up their shooting boots, and to happy, smiley people.  Everywhere in Scottish football, except for the Old Firm.

In the words of Van the Man, there’ll be days like this.  More of them please.

10 thoughts on “How refreshing! An Old Firm free cup final

  1. Pingback: 50-50 ball:19.02 reasons why Hearts will beat Hibs on Saturday « Keepie Uppie

  2. It’ll be good to see a big derby cup final between two clubs who despite different culture and tradition are Scottish and proud of it. I have a soft spot for both of them so c’mon the winners! You sum up Neil Lennon perfectly.

  3. A good blog. It is fantastic to have a Hibs v Hearts final. It’s good for Edinburgh and it’s good for Scottish football in general. Good because Scotland, Scottish football and eyes further afield are all concentrating on two teams that are not Celtic and not Rangers.

    Personally, as a Hibs fans, I hope for a balanced and well fought final, my preferred outcome being a Hibs win, of course, but at the end of the day I’m hoping for a final that will showcase that Scottish football has overcome the Old Firm. The Old Firm is Old News. It’s time we shed them and went back to basics, build the other teams, build the leagues.

    My thoughts on Murrayfield as a venue for this final come from my long held opinion that Murrayfield and Edinburgh are as capable of holding a major football event as much as Glasgow is. Hampden is, yes, the national football stadium but perhaps it’s about time Edinburgh pushed to take on and share the role. We are, as someone else stated, in the minority of being a capital that doesn’t host the national football events. There is no reason, other than tradition, that Murrayfield can’t hold Scottish Cup finals. It’s perhaps time to trial Murrayfield as a venue, if not this year then perhaps next. Then why not share? One year Glasgow, one year Edinburgh?

    On a personal level I think that a Hibs v Hearts final at Murrayfield would be a spectacular event. Aside from the fact that local traders (shops, pubs restaurants, newsagents etc) would benefit (across the city) it would mean that the ordinary supporter stands a better chance of attending. It’s imperative to me that every Hearts fan and every Hibs fan in the city gets the chance to attend this match. It would also focus attention on football outside of Glasgow.

  4. A “friendly” final – is Ian Black suspended?

  5. Good article, and it’s nice to see the three cups with three different teams.

    On the national stadium as Doug pointed out, Hampden is in a truly awful location to get to. I live in EK and if using the car for work drive past Hampden. The congestion is terrible when busy, and while I can uyse alternative routes, others can’t. Wembley is just as bad, used to live in Wycombe and it was quicker to get there than from central London. Perhaps Murrayfield is the best place.

    On Neil Lennon’s behaviour as a manager, it is unforgiveable. I can understand him being upset, and it was a soft penalty. But as a manager you are supposed to set an example. I would imagine that by now he has his own personal seat at the SFA HQ!

  6. As for Hampden, I’ve always thought the whole point of having a national stadium was that it’s the place where you play your internationals and cup finals. For players down in England, half the prestige of getting to the final is getting your day out at Wembley. It might seem a bit daft for two teams from Edinburgh to be going across to Glasgow for the final (oh noes, a one hour journey), but using that logic would mean the final should always be held at a stadium equidistant between the two competing teams. Also, if Germany and Spain get to the final of the 2014 World Cup, should we hold the final in France instead of Brazil?

    There’s perhaps an argument to get Murrayfield turned into the national stadium for football as well as rugby, if only because we’re a bit of an oddity in having our national football stadium in a city other than the capital (other than Germany and the Netherlands, who flit between stadiums as they have no designated national stadium, the only other country I can find in our situation is Poland, and even they’re moving to Warsaw once the new stadium is complete). However, until that happens, the final of the Scottish Cup should be played in the national football stadium.

  7. Neil Lennon’s victim mentality is extremely off-putting, and it’s proving to be particularly poisonous these days, as it’s just encouraging Celtic fans to think there’s some sort of anti-Catholic conspiracy going on. Google “Why is Neil Lennon hated so much?” and you find Celtic fans saying it’s because he’s Catholic, which would only work if he was the only Catholic footballer in Scotland. This thread on a Celtic fan forum says that over 50% of its users think he’s hated because he’s Irish, and almost 70% believe it’s because he’s Catholic and a “die hard Celtic man”. Only 16.5% think it’s because he’s a bad loser, and only 11% think it’s because he was a dirty player.

    Now, as a supporter of a non-OF team (Aberdeen, who according to all Rangers fans, hate Rangers far more than we hate Celtic… Which is not entirely wrong) I can state quite categorically that the reason Aberdeen fans always hated Neil Lennon as a player had nothing to do with him being Irish or Catholic, and everything to do with him just coming across as a particularly vile little individual on the pitch (and off). I remember everyone being surprised when Alan Shearer kicked him in the face in a Newcastle vs Leicester game, but then he moved up here and after a few games everyone I knew thought “oh, that’s why.”

    Now, obviously no one deserves the sort of ugly comments he gets on Twitter; but there’s a reason why he gets them and not someone else, and it’s not because he’s an Irish Catholic. He’s the target because he’s very adept at winding people up. The sort of comments he has come out with after both finals this year are perfect examples of this. No one likes a sore loser, and when that person is the manager of the current champions, it just sounds completely disrespectful of the other teams. Really, the guy would do himself a big favour if he wouldn’t be so condescending to other teams by suggesting that they can only beat Celtic with the help of referees, who he is convinced have a personal vendetta against him and his club. And of course, if the SFA sanction him for questioning the neutrality of the refs, that’s just another example of the great conspiracy which has managed to cheat Celtic out of… Well, nothing.

    He would also help himself by not rising to it. He’s the only football manager I ever see getting retweeted because of stupid comments he’s been making, and not always as a result of rising to some Rangers fan’s bait. I think the guy should perhaps have gotten a bit of experience elsewhere before managing Celtic, if only to learn that you can’t conduct yourself as a manager the same way he did as a player. I’d be ashamed if Craig Brown came out with some of the comments Lennon comes out with.

  8. Competely agree (even if the none of the teams there is the mighty Saint’s). I think it is because the cup finals where there is no Old Firm involvement are thought of in a fonder light (the last five being 2010, 2006, 1997, 1991 and 1987).

    BTW, on moving the final to Murrayfield, wasn’t there a suggestion that we might have won our bid to co-host Euro 2008 had we had the final at Murrayfield instead of Hampden.

  9. yes Neil is a hothead and may appear ungracious at times, and in the grand plan it may seem that he has less to worry about with 11 guys kicking a leather object against another 11, but what was it Shanks said ?

    You mention what happened to Neil Lennon but I doubt we will know the true fear of being assaulted in the street by rival fans
    being threatened with bombs,
    being attacked in the middle of a football match and the person being let off
    do we really know how it would affect us ? on top of suffering from depression I am willing to cut the guy a bit of slack

    an example looking at his twitter feed of tweets to him

    Blair Duff ‏ @DUFFMAN___ · Open
    @OfficialNeil hahahahahah!!! Your a fucking horrible person. It should be you with the terminal illness not petrov

    Kenny Mulcahy ‏ @Kennymulcahy · Open
    @OfficialNeil what treble are you after? Your murder. Thank god Celtic fc and their fans are behind you. Opens everything up. #Noachievment.

    anyway Hibs Hearts in the final would be good if it was in Edinburgh and maybe shows there are more teams in Scotland to make the call by the msm that Scotland needs a strong Rangers, seem irrelevant.

    • As I’m sure you gathered, I’m not a fan of either Celtic nor Rangers. I hear what you say about Neil Lennon but the point I made was that none of it excuses his behaviour as a manager towards others in his profession.

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