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Hibs: The Last Three Years – Part Two

From Part One;

Then it happened.  At 90+2 Liam Henderson drifted in a corner that club captain, David Gray headed into the net.  Hibs were on the brink of history.

A footballing miracle.  Hibs had dumped that 114-year hoodoo. We’d won the Scottish Cup.  At last, at last, at last.

Hibs fans ran onto the pitch.

What an amazing moment it was when the final whistle blew and 114-years of waiting became no more. We were Hibs, we were the Scottish Cup holders 2016.  It was ours.  If anyone expected our fans to stay in their seats they need to re-evaluate the passion that we have for our club.

In England, promotion and cup wins (particularly against difficult opponents) always bring on a surge of fans who are merely on the pitch to celebrate.  They are there looking to thank their favourite player and hopefully get a selfie with them.  They are taking pictures to remember that incredible day.

In Scotland, fans coming onto the pitch seems to consitute a “riot”.  At least, that’s how the media portrayed it and the SFA didn’t say it was anything else.  Perhaps if The Rangers fans remained in their seats (or left the ground) then less would have been made of this.

Hibs fans had to put up with headlines claiming that all of The Rangers players had been assaulted.  Despite evidence to the contrary there has not been one apology to Hibs or Hibs fans for this claim.  The article remains on line. 

The Rangers wanted an apology from us but thankfully they never got it.  Rod Petrie was right when he said we were exuberant and that we entered the pitch with no malice.

Yet, almost a year to the day we broke our hoodoo, Police Scotland and the SFA are treating this as if it was the worst moment ever in football.  It was not.  If The Rangers fans had not entered the pitch it would have been a beautiful moment.  There was no The Rangers players attacked, not one.  Not one person has been charged with attacking a The Rangers player.  Hibs should be given an apology at least.

Anyway, despite the attempts of certain parts of the media and the official organisation, Hibs fans  – and players – were euphoric.  114-years is a long time to wait for a cup but it’s what

Petrie explaining things, namely exuberance and no malice

Hibs had done and now it was over.  No one was taking that away from us.

Leith partied until the early hours of Sunday morning.  Fans waited at Easter Road for a chance to applaud the returning heros.  Then they’d return to pubs and carry on celebrating.  House parties erupted.  This was our moment, we’d taken our chance and we’d done it.

Of course, Leith wasn’t the only area that partied, across the city, the country, the world people celebrated but the home of the club bounced that night.  I woke with bruises I have no idea how I got and I didn’t even stay out that late.  We just celebrated.

Sunday May 22nd.  Another huge day.  The cup would be paraded from the city chambers to Leith Links.  This was something that we’d waited on so long that it was never going to be a quiet event.

Estimates said that over 100,000 Hibees attended the parade and I feel privileged to be a mere one of them.  I was with the bus most of the way.  I loved it.  The players singing our songs.  It was a huge afternoon.  I can write the words I feel about winning the Scottish Cup but, in print, I’ll never be able to fully describe it with the passion it deserves.

However, as much as we loved it there was a harsh reality to face up to.  Stubbs left us and we loved him and would never stop but now we had a challenge to bring in a new manager (or head coach).  This appointment would going to be a big one because the season 2016/17 was always going to be about promotion.

In June 2016 Neil Lennon was unveiled as the new Hibs head coach.  There were mixed reactions to this but one thing couldn’t be denied – Neil Lennon is a winner.  He knows how to win trophies.  His appointment created something of a seethe from certain fans of other teams.

Lennon would bring in Grant Holt in June 2016, Andrew Shinnie on a season long loan from Birmingham City, Brian Graham from Ross County on a free and Israeli goalkeeper, Ofir Marciano in August.  Marciano’s arrival was held up by red tape but finally he was able to begin his season long loan from Ashdod at the end of August.

Injuries would leave us struggling a bit mid-December.  Neil Lennon did what anyone else with connections would do, he used the emergency loan rule.  Social media went into a melt down, fans forums exploded (you know the fans I’m talking about here) and as Kris Commons was secured on a short term emergency loan we would be accused of cheating and a whole host of other things.  However, in his five appeances for us he scored two goals and filled the gap we had perfectly.

Chris Humphrey joined us on 31st December 2016, his Hibernian career would halt in February when a calf injury saw him out for weeks, only just returning to training in the last fornight or so.

Brian McLean signed at the beginning of March on a short contract.

The second social media meltdown happened at the end of February 2017 when Neil used his contacts to secure Efe Ambrose on loan until the end of the season.  Lenny perfectly within his, and our, rights to use the emergency loan rule in this way.  The entire season the goal has been promotion but niggly injuries were leaving us weak at times so Efe and his triple-back flip celebrations were more than welcome.

We played some tiresome football all season but the results were coming in.  Too many draws but the points were building up nicely.  Enough to keep us ticking along.  We had some concerns about Dundee United, Falkirk, Raith Rovers for a while and Morton when they had a surge.  They would all, in their own way, slip.  Raith Rovers right down to second bottom of the league (currently).

Going out of the league cup as early as we did was a disappointment but it gave us a run of just league games which was helpful.  A couple of challenge cup games and we were out of that leaving us with just the league to play for and…the Scottish Cup.

We were still celebrating the 21st of May when we joined the Scottish Cup on 21st January 2017.  Bonnyrigg Rose at Tynecastle, and 8-1 win for us.

Shinnie scoring the third goal at ER helping to put Hearts out the Scottish Cup Feb 2017

The draw was made for the fifth round. Hearts at Tynecastle…again.  Hearts, of course, thought they would win it.  Hearts of course were wrong but we wouldn’t win it either.  The match could hardly get going thanks to a terrible pitch.  Everyone struggled.  This one finished 0-0 and, in a repeat of the year before we would take Hearts back to Easter Road and we’d beat them.  Jason setting the tone with his goal in two minutes.  Holty added on 37 and Shinnie on 67.  Hearts would get one back three minutes later but the work was done, we’d put Hearts out the Scottish Cup AGAIN.  It was bliss.

The support gained an extra boost and the song became “Here we go, two in a row”.  The song had been sung before but it gained momentum.  Sung everywhere we went whether it be home or away, league or cup game – it joined our ever growing songlist.

The feeling of belief was rife.  Easter Road felt charged every home game and the large travelling support did everyone proud, singing their way through matches.  For months it had felt great to be a Hibby and that feeling was getting better and better.

We beat Ayr United in the quarters at Easter Road on the 4th of March.  Something of a relief as we’d only managed a draw at Easter Road with them a mere month before.  We’d set up a semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden (Easter Road West if you prefer).  Happy days.  Our third Scottish Cup semi in three years.  We’re liking the Scottish Cup these days.

However, business to be done before then.  The league had to be won.  Really done and dusted before the semi final.

We did it by the skin of our teeth the week before the semi, on Saturday 15th of April.  We needed to win and we needed St Mirren to either beat Falkirk or hold them to a draw.  In previous years I would have rolled my eyes, Hibs never get that sort of luck so Falkirk would probably hammer St Mirren.

There was a nervous energy around Easter Road.  We were doing our bit, 3-0 in 48 minutes with QotS not looking like they were coming back but we were focussed on what was happening at the Falkirk stadium.  St Mirren had gone ahead twice and Falkirk had levelled twice. Our final whistle had gone but barely a soul moved in Easter Road.  Don’t get a late winner!

Then it came through, final result 2-2 at Falkirk.  HOORAY! We’d done it, we won the league, we won the league!  Sunshine on Leith! We’re going back up to where Hibs belong.

There not really much to say about the semi.  We lost.  It was a fantastic cup run full of great times and two in a row would have been fabulous but it wasn’t to happen.  We’d achieved our season goal and got automatic promotion.  Job done.

To go back to what I was saying on Part One, it’s strange feeling I’ve got because we’ve had three cracking years really.  We’ve rebuilt, we’re strong again.  This is a Hibs I enjoy watching.  A lot has changed, attitudes being one thing, but just overall we’ve spent three years in the Championship focussing on everything that was wrong and making it right.  We’re not perfect but we’re ready for the new challenge next season.  It feels like, as much as Leeann, Stubbsy and Lenny (and everyone else behind the scenes) have helped rebuild the club, that the fans have contributed just as much to bringing this club back to the Premiership.  The outstanding support, the increase in ST sales, the travelling support, all there boosting the team and showing that if you give us something, Hibs, we will give you a whole lot back.

Saturday 6th of May 2017 we’ll run out at Easter Road for our last game in the Championship.  We’ll hoist the Championship cup high and we’ll celebrate – again – the achievements of the last three seasons.

We’re back where we belong.  Next season is going to be a biggie.  Fixtures due out Friday 23rd June.

GGTTH

Can’t forget We Are Hibs by Graeme Hunter

 

 

Cup romance must wait, Hibs need to woo the League

‘Here we go, two in a row’.  It’s got a nice ring about it.  The cup romance is still with us.  We’re still in love with the whole experience.  Having failed to win it in 114-years we now face the fairytale of winning it for the second time.  Oh what a time to be alive.

I don’t like bringing this up but I’m sure every Hibby remembers Sunday the 25th May 2014.  We remember all right.  After an absolute shambles Hibs were relegated from the SPL to the Scottish Championship.  I remember the feeling of being absolutely lost.  I remember the tears running down my cheeks, the scarves flying from above me onto the pitch.  The boos.  I saw other people crying, children and adults.  Old timers too. Continue reading

Second fifth round Derby defeat puts Hibs in charge of the City

I’d been buzzing all week for this derby.  Whatever I’ve been doing it’s been there in my mind, somewhere in my mind there was a rendition of Hibs, Hibs or Here We Go, Two in a Row going on.  I was also singing Hibs, Hibs but using other words like “Clips, Clips” and when at home in my freezer “Chips, Chips”. Continue reading

When Exuberance Won…

Sigh.  Another day and another “woe is me” statement from Ibrox.  Poor old (new) Rangers.  What on earth did they do to deserve such a tough run of luck? No one there can understand it.  They got beaten in the Scottish Cup Final on May 21st when it was their right to win it.  Every player and official was assaulted on the pitch when a vicious Hibernian crowd ran on to the pitch intent on causing as much violence and desruction as possible.  Everything that has happened to Rangers since has been Hibernian’s fault. Continue reading

From two-nil to Conrad Logan, a week with Hibs

Here we go.  Time to try and figure out Hibs again.  As if there’s any solving that enigma.  Hibs fans have been through every emotion this season and it’s not over.

We're back

If only

Sitting in Easter Road on Tuesday night I thought “we’re back”.  We played exceptionally well for the most part and, of course Jason scored via a Falkirk lapse and then a penalty later in the game.  It was Jason’s 100th game for the club and it was fitting that he should get the two goals for the win.  Because it was going to be going to be a win, surely, with 85 minutes gone and 2-0 and with Hibs playing like they hadn’t in a few weeks.

I personally don’t believe Mark Oxley is to blame really or even any of the rest of the players, I think Falkirk simply got lucky and thankfully they didn’t get any luckier.  We snatched a draw out of the jaws of victory.  To be optimistic, at least we got one point instead of none.  Though we should have had three.

However, it was what it was.  The Falkirk fans had a good old sing-song leaving Easter Road with a good old rendition of “Two Nil and you F***ed it Up!”.  We can hardly complain about anyone else singing it as it was recently in our repertoire but still, it was bloody annoying to hear it being sung by another set of fans against us.  As they headed away from Easter Road a small part of me hoped their buses broke down on the way home or their trains were delayed…

Leaving Tuesday behind, where it belongs, we went into the weekend not on league duty but Scottish Cup duty.  A semi-final against Dundee United who we’d already seen off 3-0 in the League Cup earlier in the season.

Sfa

Dinosaurs, we know who they are

Hampden bound, yet again.  I know the SFA like to have the Scottish Cup semi’s in Hampden but there was a case this weekend that some semi-finals could be held at another neutral ground, say Tynecastle.  A very empty Hampden is an eerie place to be.  Whereas Tynecastle would have been a sell-out with an electric atmosphere.  Much like Hibs’ League Cup semi-final against St Johnstone. Not that the atmosphere was bad at Hampden, but it might have been better at a sell out ground.  These things need considered.  If not by the dinosaurs then by the clubs.

Anyway, semi-final time.  Twelve-fifteen kick-off.  Arrrrrgh! Who decides these things? Well, TV companies but you know what I mean.  Back in the day if you read 12:15 as a kick-off time it meant someone had made a typing error.

So, Hibs started out well.  Dundee United looked like they were in for a pasting.  Well, that’s what we hoped.  We were all over them and then our dreams were answered.  Just before the half hour mark a Coll Donaldson hand ball gifted Hibs a penalty.  Jason stepped up.  Sure footed these days, this was a cert.

Only it wasn’t as Jason attempted a Panenka style dink that he hoped would drop over the goalkeeper but instead dinked over the bar.

Antonin-Panenka-001

King of the Dink

Now, Alan Stubbs has said he could have strangled Jason after that but for the fans it was a hero to zero situation.  What was going through the lads mind? He’s been accused of thinking only of himself and not the club but I don’t think that’s the case.  He’s grown as a player and a person under the guidance of Alan Stubbs and I’m sure a few other people.  I personally didn’t think he was only thinking of himself, I just thought he made a naive mistake.  The time for practising those shots is at East Mains not in a Scottish Cup semi-final.  However, if he’d scored it he’d have been a hero.  Such is the fickleness of football.

Instead though, that honour went to Mr Conrad Logan.  Signed in March on a two month deal he was really unheard of after the signing.  Otso Virtanen remained the back up goalie in our matches with no hint of Logan replacing him.

Oxley, thanks to losing a contact lens, found himself with a suspension from the semi-final (work that out SFA) so Mr Stubbs had a problem coming into Saturday’s game.  Play the faithful back up keeper, young, not that much experience.  Or play the out of shape player who hadn’t played for sixteen months and came to Hibs as a free agent after being released by high-flying Leicester City last season when they weren’t so high-flying.

Logan has had lots of loan spells throughout his time with Leicester.  He’s never really made his mark on the game down south so a spell up north in Scotland wasn’t a bad choice for the now thirty-year old (twenty-nine on his Hibs debut). Keen on getting time between the pipes he came to Hibs for a short contract.  Out of shape and a long way from ideal fitness it might have came as something of a surprise that he was picked over Virtanen for the semi-final at Hampden.

What a choice though.  Many, and I include myself, thought “what the f***?” when the lad walked out the tunnel and I was wrong to think that.  A few extra pounds doesn’t cloud an excellent goalkeeping mind and that is what Conrad Logan has.  His mind is sharp and he reads the game so very, very well.

He made three excellent saves during the ninety minutes but his shining time would come in the penalty shoot-out.  While Jason scored the winning penalty to take Hibs through to the final (and almost deleting his error) Conrad Logan made two excellent saves that denied Dundee United penalties and gave Hibs the advantage.

Safe hands

Safe hands

In doing that Conrad Logan made himself a legend after one match.  Clearly showing Stubbs that he can do the job between the pipes when he’s far from fit.  One wonders what he might be like when fit.  Unbeatable? Hopefully.  Logan knows his mind and we have to hope that this a performance he can pull off again and again and that he’s not a one hit wonder.  He’s given us every indication that he’s the real deal and, I’m sorry Ox I am a fan, but I’d put Logan in the net on Wednesday against Rangers.  It’s not a slight on the regular keeper, he’s good, but Logan deserves his chance.

Stubbs was vindicated in his choice of keeper as Conrad the Cat read Dundee United’s shots and then saved the penalites.  Logan became an instant hero for Hibs fans and as much as we celebrated Jason scoring the winning penalty we were celebrating the big lad on his skill and altheticism.  It isn’t wrong to say that The Cat won us the game.

So what now for Hibs? We have Rangers at Easter Road on Wednesday in what could be a rehearsal for the final but is actually crucial for us in the league.  It’s a must win really and we have to take the chance and hump the Rangers.  Hopefully we’ll finally realise that Wallace on the left wing is a haunt and take him out.  If not, we’ll struggle.

However, I remain, as ever, optimistic so come Wednesday night I’ll be in Easter Road at kick-off with all the hope I always have.  Enjoy the game.

And of course, we’re Hampden bound again.  GGTTH