The history books show that this weekend’s Scottish Cup Final between Hearts and Hibs, the first all-Edinburgh final in 116 years, is only the second to be played between these two great rivals. The supporters of Hibs will not want reminding of the score line in the last Cup Final. This match was the only Scottish Cup Final ever to be played outside of Glasgow, and was won 3–1 by Hearts.
For both clubs, this season has been one to forget. With crisis-torn Rangers grabbing all the headlines, it is easy to forget that other clubs in Scotland have not had their troubles to seek. Poor league positions, Hearts finishing fifth and Hibs just surviving the drop, have not helped the mood of the supporters of both clubs.
Hearts faced the threat of unlimited sanctions from the SPL after failing to pay their players on time for four successive months. Sanctions could have been imposed, including the prospect of a large fine, docked points or a transfer embargo – all of which would have untold consequences on the future of the 138-year-old club. Not to mention on Vladimir Romanov, the unpredictable Lithuania-based owner who is attempting to sell the debt-ridden club.
Hibernian sacked manager Colin Calderwood in November 2011, after just 12 months in charge at Easter Road. Calderwood managed just 12 wins in his 49 matches, and fans protested outside the main entrance of the stadium, asking for Calderwood and chairman Rod Petrie to go.
Both clubs now have new managers in the hot seat, for Hearts, it’s ex-Sporting Lisbon boss Paulo Sérgio, and for Hibs, it’s Pat Fenlon the former Shelbourne, Derry City and Bohemians coach – Hibs’ ninth manager since 1998.
For all that has happened off the park, for the fans it will all be forgotten if they see their team lift the famous old Scottish Cup. The oldest national trophy in the world, it was first held in 1873 –74, with the first winners being Queen’s Park, who now call the National Stadium home and who remarkably remain the most successful side outside the two big Glasgow teams in the tournament, with ten wins.
There is an edge to this Edinburgh rivalry that in Scotland can only be matched by the Rangers versus Celtic rivalry. The old saying goes that the best thing to come out of Edinburgh is the train to Glasgow. Those trains will be filled by tens of thousands of expectant fans on Saturday all heading to the only show in town. Is this a mini Rangers and Celtic game? Let’s hope not, for the salt and saucers this Scottish Cup Final is, a chance to step out of the shadow of the big two Glasgow clubs, put on a show and prove that there is football outside of Glasgow and the Rangers and Celtic dominance.
Who will win? I think it will all come down to which team raises their game on the day as both have been disappointing this season, and which can conquer their Hampden nerves. Will the boys in maroon be the talk of the town or will there be sunshine on Leith as Hibs walk away with the silverware they last won in 1902? Only time will tell. The real hope for me is that this final is remembered for football reasons and gives us a dramatic finale to a season like no other.
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