|Hibernian's Famous Five, champions of the world in the 1950's|
The Fan's Footsteps...(This is a section of my new book, Avenging Steel 3: The Final Solution, Alternative WW2 History, so some references may seem odd... read on regardless!)
The fan’s journey to the ground begins with him decking himself in his team’s colors.
I had a Hibernian scarf of my own, but I dug in the walk-in closet for grandad’s old green and white woolen one; grandma had knitted it herself. It was the first game for a while, and I wanted to wallow in my own memories. Wrapping it round my neck over my jacket, I could swear I smelled his old tobacco oozing from the worn green wool.
I almost cried.
I opened the door onto the street, the noonday sun hitting me, and making me shield my eyes and squint. Turning left, I soon got onto Bruntsfield Place and took off down the hill. I remembered grandad’s words as I walked, my scarf the only green I could see on the street. “You’re the rain on the moor, the first water that oozes out of the ground, looking for a stream to take you down to the sea. You’re alone, but you know there’s more. The ground is oozing green, son; Hibernian green.”
He was a wordsmith, my Grandad Baird. Maybe that’s where I take it from. We’d played the game many times, walking to the ground, looking around for the next drop of water.
|NAKED TRUTH; Andy Murray with Hibs' Scottish Cup|
At Tollcross, I spied my first green scarf. At the same time, he spied me, and we shared a common wave across the street; two water droplets heading in tandem for the sea. On Lauriston Place I found myself catching up with two more, a father and son. The father carried his scarf in his hand, the boy, no older than ten, wore a green and white woolen hat, green pom-pom bouncing as he walked. I slowed my pace to walk behind them, wallowing in my secret companionship.
At Forest Road, two men stumbled out of the Doctor’s Bar, both proudly twirling their own scarfs round their necks. Seeing us they waved at their new companions, and set off, leading us past Sandy Bell’s, where we’d abducted poor Leutnant Derwall, just months ago.
As the two men turned down into Chamber’s Street, I realized the ‘burn’ had begun, the old Scot’s word for a small stream. On the Bridges, we picked up a few more ribbons of green, and a few disappeared into the open arms of the many pubs lining the route. Regardless of the charms of the eager ‘boozers’, by Leith Street, the stream had grown.
I caught my breath; it was time for my first stop.
The Black Bull was the pub that grandad met up with his friend; one-o’clock, every Saturday. I checked the time as I walked down the small steps to the door. Always crowded on Hibs home game day, the small ‘snug’ was a magical childhood reminiscence of smells and sounds. I fought my way to the bar and ordered a pint of mild. Turning, I lifted the glass to my lips. “Here’s to you, old man,” I said fondly before downing the beer as only a thirsty man can; three large tasty deluges into a parched throat.
|The Proclaimers hit "Sunshine on Leith" is sung every game|
Once done, I crossed the busy intersection and walked along Picardy Place, passed the statue to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, green and oxidized from the winter’s attentions. I almost laughed at the warm beautiful sunshine hitting the back of my neck.
|Fish, solo and lead singer for Marillion is a huge Hibs fan|
With The Playhouse on the opposite side, I got onto Leith Walk proper. Hibs green was now on every fifth person, all walking in the same direction, flowing downhill. “It’s the river, son. Feel it around you.” The old man’s words made me cry openly, enjoying every second of the experience. I was a raindrop, now mingling with many others, heading downstream in a youthful torrent. I wished my grandad were here to share the memory, or even dad. I crossed the road at the top of Elm Row, just up from the German radio station, and onto London Road. Now the river of green was there for all to see. Bobbing heads on the arrow-straight street as far as your eyes could see.
“It’s the river son,” I remember his pipe clenched tightly in his false teeth as he spoke. “As wide as the Amazon, son, as straight as a die.”
I never ever found out what a ‘die’ was.
And the river had slowed. With so many people, there was neither the room nor the need to pass. I slowed to the pace of the masses, and let myself flow to the top of Easter Road, savouring every minute of being part of the swell.
|Hibs fans, maybe famous now because of their message...|
Grandad’s last stop. A wee dram ‘for the road’. I copied his actions to the last, sipping the expensive draft, loving every minute of it. If I’d thought London Road was slow, the narrow street of Easter Road was worse. Almost every head faced north, we were in a queue for the turnstiles hundreds of yards away. The sluggish river had reached the sea.
Considering the Germans had organized the competition, the gates were incredibly busy, the terraces packed. Inside the stadium, I didn’t see one single German uniform, and for a whole ninety minutes I completely forgot the war. For a few seconds in the second half, it began to drizzle, but I don’t think anyone cared much.
When the referee blew the final whistle, the cheer and release of tension was palpable. I jumped up and down on my spot for many minutes, cheering the teams for their efforts in such times.
In my mind I could see the headlines on Monday’s back page; Hibernian Two, Brave Alloa Nil.