Like malignant pixies, Hearts fans jigged their lewd jigs and grunted in a primeval chorus

FAN'S EYE VIEW; No 113: The Edinburgh derby
Click to follow
The Independent Online
It is a simple case of good and evil. That is why you keep going back. The football is usually dreadful, the scoreline probably goalless and the weather inevitably lousy, but there's not many places in today's world where you can be sure you are witnessing the timeless struggle of the forces of light and darkness. It's the Edinburgh derby.

Just looking at the two clubs is enough to let you know who is on the side of right. Hibernian wear green, the colour of good things, luck, fertility, meadows in the spring where lambs skip, toothpaste. Hearts are maroon. Not red, or claret even. Maroon. Mix fag ash into spilt red wine. Dig out the cough mixture you were force-fed as a child. That's maroon. Hibs play at Easter Road where you stand on the terraces and see the snow in Fife in one direction, or the heather on Salisbury Crags in the other. Hearts live at Tynecastle, boxed in by tenements and dogged by the smell of the breweries.

But for five years and 20-odd games in succession Hibs could not beat Hearts in Edinburgh. For most of this time Hibs had had by far the better sides, quietly acquiring class acts such as Jim Leighton and Michael O'Neill while Hearts shamed the capital with a string of Justin Fashanus and Mo Johnstons. We had stuck with one manager, the canny Alex Miller, while they had ricked their necks to the high balls of bosses like Joe Jordan or Sandy Clark. After the bitterness of their attempt to take us over and close us down we had settled with a sensible board led by the urbane Douglas Cromb while they had been troubled by the ever-suntanned Wallace Mercer. But we still could not beat them.

Then we drew them in the Cup. At home. It was all clear now, 1994 was to be the year, the humiliation of the winless run had been sent to make a Cup victory over them all the sweeter. For there was no way we could lose. It had been a decent season with a run to the League Cup final in October and a healthy showing in the Premier Division. They were useless and flirting with relegation.

Sunday came: tickets in the North Stand (near where The Proclaimers sit), Bovril before kick-off. It was that special an occasion. They all turned up in their "It's-magic-you-know, it's-20-in-a row" T-shirts which we mocked, knowing beforehand that the game could only go one way. Out came the boys, kick off, 1-0 down after about two minutes. We all laughed, elated by the audacity of our team; they had given them a goal head-start to make their final defeat all the more galling.

One-all just after half-time, Keith Wright nodding in from close range. It had started. They could not get out of their box. But we could not get it into their net. A series of near-misses, missed sitters and post rattlers. Time began to excuse himself. Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh's own Mount Atlas which loomed behind their supporters at the away end, began to darken. Clouds crept up the Firth of Forth, visible from the back of the stand. The weak sun had been snuffed out.

Sensing the balance of the universe shifting in their favour, Hearts introduced the Prince of Darkness, Wayne Foster. No sooner was he on the pitch than he was after a long ball (what else?) that had mysteriously spun into our half. As if startled by ghosts dancing on the mountain behind him, Big Jim came running from his goal only to be nutmegged at the edge of the box. The bubble of silence quivered and burst. The ball had stopped hobbling and had come to rest buried deep in our net. Like malignant pixies on Hallowe'en, the Hearts fans jigged their lewd jigs and grunted in a primeval chorus.

We've beaten them since, done the "It's-magic-you-know, it's-one-in-a- row" T-shirts, watched them narrowly miss the drop as we barely avoided Europe and chuckled as they hired yet another new manager. This season we sensibly dropped out at an early stage of the League Cup which has too often distracted us from the early stages of the race for the title, while they had to be bundled out in a tedious "eight-goal thriller". We have had our Kevin Harper score a hat-trick for the Scotland Under-21s and Darren Jackson establish himself as an international. We have beaten Rangers at Ibrox. Yet when Sunday comes, what has gone before and what is yet to come will not matter.

It will still be a draw.

Comments