When Friday Comes #4 – The Day The Universe Changed

image1This time last week the world was a different place. I was sat here in my man cave, typing up a Bella column about alcohol and Scotland. At the time of writing I’d gone eight weeks without a drink (“a drink” is a Scottish term for a liquid which has booze in it). I was feeling as fit as a corporate fiddle. My training schedule for a last throw of the dice comeback match at the end of June was on target. Push ups, core strength exercises, jogging, swimming, stretches: all factored into my daily routine. I’d even packed in the smokes and injecting coffee. None of which, it has to be said, made me an oasis of peace and tranquillity for the first few weeks, but needs must. Everything was hunky dory. Then the whole damned universe changed and this is how it happened.

Last Friday I was busy preparing for a show at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse. It was a collaborative effort – inspired by Mark Cousins’ stunning movie I Am Belfast – called We Are Edinburgh which my arts production company Neu! Reekie! had helped conceptualise and orchestrate.

Our show on Friday evening was sold out. It featured live music from Finitribe and Eyes of Others, live spoken word from poets Don Paterson and Jenni Fagan, alongside archive film footage of Edinburgh curated by Shona Thomson. It went okay. Kenny Farquharson, writing in The Times, called it “nothing short of magical” and “quite simply, a triumph.” Kenny also said some very nice things about me, which was a first for both Kenny and The Times. And something I sincerely hope they don’t make a habit of.

The point of this high profile cultural happening was an elaborate plan involving hundreds of Edinburgh citizens to take my mind of the Scottish Cup final the next day. It worked beautifully. I got home at midnight and managed to stay asleep until 2am. Then I woke for three hours wrestling with the team lineup, since, like all football fans, I expect the manager to consult me first before announcing the team to the players and press.

As Tam o’ Shanter famously noted, the night drove on. By 7am I was up, showered, shaved, porridge scranned, and dressed from head to toe in blue and white. This was another ruse to confuse the gods of chance. But to avoid too much confusion I donned a luminous green jacket plus green and white scarf. Everything has its limits.

By 9.30am I was outside Edinburgh’s Playhouse with around 35 Hibees I’ve known for many years. Wild-eyed naïve optimism has long since been battered out of them. They had the battle-hardened psychology of Win, Lose or Draw, we drink and blaw. We set off down the M8 on a hired bus, with hope in our hearts, and no little trepidation. But with the actual Hearts in their beds, beneath duvets, in case their worst nightmare came true.

We arrived at Montford’s Bar near Hampden just before midday. There was time on our hands – cue the devil – and I took a strategic decision. I’d have a wee beer just to loosen the whistle, settle the nerves. Reader, this is where everything went wrong and everything went right. Nine hours later I was standing in the middle of Leith Walk, bottle of Buckfast in one hand, singing my wee heart out. Emotions were swirling around in every direction like renegade tornados intent only on wreaking joy.

My mates had the foresight to get all our seats together, in three consecutive rows behind the goals. When David Gray rose high above the Rangers defence to bullet home that famous winner we were collectively shocked. For a nanosecond. Then there was jumping. And hugging. And kissing and dancing and singing and other manly things. These were same guys I’ve sat slumped on the bus back home Hampden with, on many occasions, defiant but internally crushed. But Jesus H Christ. When that winning goal went in, and the final whistle blew, I cannot deny that we went radio fucking rental.

It was the best feeling in the world. Being at one with your mates and with 20,000 fellow Hibees inside Hampden, sharing an unbelievable experience, a fairy tale, that most had only dreamed about. And to do it against THEM. In the last minute. Football doesn’t get any better than that. Some of us even wept. The trip back to Edinburgh, oh boy, what a journey. And the partying back in Leith…

Football can be life in microcosm. You take the knocks. You try and get back up on your feet. Sometimes it works out just fine. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there’s bitter and sweet together. For myself, like for many of my family and friends, the celebrations were abruptly curtailed on the Sunday for reasons I won’t go into here. Life has so much potential for happiness and joy. Life can be so incredibly beautiful. But it can also be so fucking unfair.

But it can’t be denied that 21st of May 2016 was the day the universe changed for the good people of Leith. It was as if the old port had been given a collective shiatsu massage. Necks unstiffened. Shoulders loosened up. Limbs felt freer. On the Sunday afternoon, 150,000 people celebrated on the streets of Edinburgh as the Scottish Cup came down Leith Walk on an open-top bus. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Probably won’t again.

It wasn’t just about the team, legends as they are now, it was about all of us. Even writing this five days later seems strange. It did actually happen and a community came together in a way that will be remembered for as long as we live. Thousands of wee kids were there too, mine included, faces painted green and white, waving their flags, smiling and laughing. It will be etched into their memories forever. That’s the thing. Enjoy the good times while you can, if you can.

I’m back on the wagon again. Back in training. But it feels different now.

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Comments (19)

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  1. Kenny says:

    I recognise those feelings, Kevin. As a long suffering St.Mirren supporter, all the disappointments, all of the doings, the last minute collapses, the dodgy decisions make the victories like Saturday’s all the more memorable, to be savoured and replayed and recounted over and over again.
    Watching the unbridled joy of Hibs fans brought back all of those emotions. I’m sure I wasn’t the only fan of a ‘wee team’ that raised a glass to Hibs and their long suffering support last Saturday night.
    Who ever said ‘it’s only a game’?

  2. Paul Wilson says:

    Still Edinburgh’s Diddy team. Always in our shadow mind the ever widening gap!

  3. The Glasgow Clincher says:

    You are quite clearly not allowing your joy to be diluted by the fact that some of your followers committed ABH on some of the Rangers players. Bad as the 1980 OF final was no payers were attacked. Strange that there has been no official condemnation of the violence; if it had been the other way round, one can only imagine the response. Certainly would not have been silence. The unpopularity of Rangers is no excuse.

    1. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

      Glasgow Clincher, I´ve been looking on the web for some evidence of this alleged violence against Rangers players and I haven´t seen anything. I heard Dean Shield´s dad talk about it on the radio, and he made light of what sounded like a trifling incident. A bam approached Dean Shields and Dean Shields then pushed him away…well done Dean. I’m sure 99% of Hibs fans would be on Dean´s side. There must have been about 20,000 cameras on the pitch at Hampden, so if there had been any serious incident with a Rangers player, surely we would have seen it by now?

      Rangers fans, of course, were singing about being “up to their knees in Fenian blood” which is an utterly contemptible and vile sentiment….I just can´t understand why any rational or reasonable person would want anything to do with Glasgow Rangers FC. There is no team that sing such vile songs as Rangers fans do…

      If Atelti beat Real Madrid today, the sporting week of joy will be complete…

      1. William Davidson says:

        I’ve seen still photos of both Fotheringham and Wallace being attacked/confronted by Hibs fans. Even if nobody was seriously assaulted it is still completely unacceptable for large numbers of fans to invade the pitch at the end of a national cup final, in contravention of an unwritten convention which has been established since the events of 1980.
        Congratulations to the Hibs team, who fully deserved their victory, and wouldn’t it be great for the team and the club’s coffers if more of the 25,000 who were at Hampden, or the 150,000 on the streets of Edinburgh, would turn up to support their team every week.

        1. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

          William – or is that Billy – could you maybe provide links to those so called attacks? If there has been any violence by Hibs fans, then of course I totally condemn it. There are plenty of Hibs bams, I know it for a fact. But the Rangers, Glasgow Rangers….you are notorious. They hate you in Barcelona and Manchester….you know?

          And if Hibs fans are to be prosecuted, then I want to see Rangers fans in the dock too…”naeone likes you, you don´t care?” EXACTLY! We don´t like you and we don´t care. The rest of Scottish fitba we have our ups and downs with, but basically we respect. But Rangers….Rangers have to realize now that they are otiose to Scottish fitba. They are a club which came about at a certain historical moment which has long since passed….good riddance to the Huns….

        2. alasdair galloway says:

          Lets give him Wallace (the Sunday Mail published a photo which makes a pretty good case for him being assaulted) and in the interests of peace Fotheringham as well. But the Rangers press releases were talking about the whole team and staff. Later on in the week the Chief Exec was saying that their losers medals were presented in the dressing room – brought to them by a reserve it is said – because “no one could guarantee their safety”. The image that Rangers are trying to portray of this is one pretty close to all out war against their players. Let me be clear if Wallace and Fotheringham were assaulted (or even harassed) then that should not have happened. We would not put up with it at our places of work, and neither should they. But the whole team? Staff as well? Gie’s a break. Rangers need to start talking about this in a more realistic way. If some of their players were assaulted then that can only be condemned, but exaggerating the whole thing really helps no one. Moreover, there is a need to look at the game in the round. Just before Hibs got their first goal, the song about Derry was getting big licks. After the game, the Billy Boys got an airing. That said, it has been reported that Hibs fans were singing Dublin in the Green. None of these have anything at all to do with a football match in Glasgow in 2016 – and please dont give me the “traditions” crap – we used to traditionally put wee boys up chimneys.
          The view I had – on TV – was of a large number of Hibs fans coming on to the park, and while Hampden may be due a new set of goalposts and some grass, most of them, as Petrie argued, were exuberant. That said, there was an element who went looking for trouble and were well rewarded at the Rangers end where some of their followers (fortunately not a large number) took on the challenge. This, btw, has also been recorded – there is one pic of a Hibs fan getting fair old belt from a fan whose sweatshirt bears the legend “GPB”, and another of a group of Hibs fans being chased by Rangers fans with a corner flat (of course I could be wrong about them being Rangers fans, but how many Hibs fans wear blue, red and white wigs?).
          Rangers are right – there is a need for a thorough investigation – but not the one-sided one that they called for last week. Perhaps they should be more careful what they wish for?

  4. droid says:

    Glasgow Klincker perpetuating level 5 lies whilst ignoring grievous bodily harm perpetuated by sevco fans on heads of Hibs supporters

  5. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

    I hope that Police Scotland are studying the TV footage of the Rangers end when they were singing about being “up to their knees in Fenian blood”….

    …why are these people allowed to sing songs which deal in religious hatred? Why the fuck do Police Scotland not go and bring charges against these people? This has been going on for years, and everybody seems to tolerate it? Why were the Sky Sports pundits not talking about that? It is a disgrace…

    Right enough, the Scottish legal system would collapse, there are so many of these very warped and frustrated men who traffic in religious hatred… what an embarrassment to Scotland…

    1. Socrates MacSporran says:

      Douglas,

      There is simply no way Police Scotland could arrest every one of Ra Peepul who was singing about being up to their knees etc. Logistically impossible.

      Only two organisations can stop this – Rangers FC and the SFA. Rangers FC has never shown the least interest in stopping sectarianism, it sells season tickets and memorabilia, it makes them money.

      The SFA could stop it in jig time, if the will existed. Simply tell Rangers, every time your fans sing unacceptable songs, you lose three points in a league game, or, are thrown out of cup competitions. Thus, Rangers would be forced to act and it would stop.

      Though it is no longer as big a problem as that associated with Rangers, a similar ultimatum to the other side would in short order mean, less regurgitating of Ulster politics around Scottish football, and a better life for all of us.

      1. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

        Correct analysis, I agree entirely…

  6. John Page says:

    Thanks, Kevin
    Haven’t been to a match since 1973 and hate the money dominance of football, but that was a lovely piece of writing.
    John Page

  7. The Glasgow Clincher says:

    Aye douglas you’re more worried about a song (distasteful though it may be) than about assaults. The police ARE investigating the attacks on players that you deny. And the Holocaust never existed either…
    Some of the songs from Keltic FC are unacceptable too. The OFBS act has been discredited because of its application to only one side.

    1. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

      Glasgow Clincher, I am not denying attacks on Rangers players, I am simply saying that I have no verification that they exist. If they exist, I condemn them, of course I do.

      As for the holocaust, why would any Rangers fan bring that up? Because the attitude of Glasgow Rangers to people of a different religious persuasions, is somewhat like the Nazis with the Jews. You boil over with religious hatred, a medieval notion, a medieval concept and one which most Scots are simply baffled by….

      As for Celtic, do me the favour of not tarring me with that brush. A plague on both your houses.

      PS: Yous couldnay handle Stoksie, eh? Fucking HFC legend for ever more….

      1. Glasgow Clincher says:

        Douglas, dearie me…talking about tarring with brushes: consider this:many Rangers supporters must have voted SNP as Glasgow was a ‘No’ city and few SLP or Tories predominated in the recent elections to H’rood. So this idea/implication that they are all dyed-in-the-wool unionists is erroneous at best. My uncle who introduced me to RFC was a solid Labour man and avid Scottish nationalist. I totally get the ‘plague on both yir houses’ though. In a way I was pleased that Edinburgh Hibernians finally shook off their hoodoo but to bring in a Ken Livingstone style anti-semitic ref. is way off beam; my point was that you seemed to be a denier when it came to acknowledging attacks on players.

        1. Douglas Stuart Wilson says:

          Clincher, we probably agree on the essence here. I am no denier of anything, I used to live in Leith, there are plenty of Hibs bams. And I wish they would stop singing “And we will fight wherever we will be, we are the mental HFC…”…every time I hear it I cringe. Will you agree with me that “being up to your knees in Fenian blood” is a contemptible sentiment and is a song which should not be sung? A song named after a notorious Glasgow thug by the way…

          I don’t even think that prosecution is the answer to be truly honest, I don´t think it works. How do we get the macho, Neanderthal element out of Scottish football? There are children at matches, it is just wrong and also embarrassing.

          As for any acts of violence, against anybody, will they should be dealt with by the Scottish criminal justice system. But surely these good Rangers fans you make mention of, and I know a few, ought to try to sort out your own support if you guys want to be taken seriously? The Tartan Army did that…get rid of them, eh?

          As for the Jewish comparison, well if Rangers fans were to sing “We are up to our knees in Jewish blood” the club would be shut down immediately. Where is the difference precisely when about a third of Scotland´s population is of Irish extraction? We´re supposed to just go along with that indefinitely?

          1. The Glasgow Clincher says:

            douglas – the irony is those who sing about fenians may be unaware that the original fenian brotherhood was non-sectarian as you may well know. It’s simply a convenient insult perceived as a synonym for nationalist. the club, to be fair, has tried, is trying to steer fans away from TBB inc. the ‘f’ word. ‘Hun’ is seen as non-sectarian and the ‘f’ word is seen by some RFC fans as the nearest antidote to the insults of the Keltic lot. They just dont see the one handed nature of the OFBA act.
            You should check out a good article by Alan Bisset, a Rangers supporter whose experience is akin to mine. (sorry don’t have link, may not be on Bella). Language is of course vitally important; Orwell made some comment about lazy use of language leading to muddled and lazy thought.

  8. newspaceman says:

    Kev, firstly cheers for the brown beer, it went down well. Here’s my take on the events, with a magical twist.

    http://newspaceman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/stoking-phoenix-fire-fall-and-rise-of_27.html

    All the best.

  9. Josef O Luain says:

    It occurs to me that Rangers fixtures ought to be boycotted, thus leaving that team’s sectarian element alone to sing to themselves.

    Unfortunately this this isn’t going to happen any time soon. Generally speaking, it seem clear that the vast number of Scottish football fans aren’t particularly offended or affected by songs figuring sectarian hatred (It’s a Glasgow disorder, nothing to do with us.).

    So, since the problem is “only” of minority concern, why would the SFA bother its arse imposing sanctions uncalled for by the majority of Scottish fans?

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