Cross country | City of Edinburgh, following hearts, pushes west

The Edinburgh derby between Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian has been contested 269 times in all competitions, with the first meeting on Christmas Day 1875. This program cover is dated 1 Jan 1958.

Edinburgh, Scotland | Pity the Hearts or Hibs supporters who must plan a dawn awakening Sunday, shuffle through sleep-addled fog onto a westbound train or auto and negotiate riot-ready police cordons to enter the national football stadium at Hampden Park in Glasgow. All this is to see two fiercely supported Edinburgh clubs who, in defiance of probabilities and history, meet in a Tennent’s Scottish Cup semifinal at 1215 GMT. A Scottish Police Service spokesperson predicted “one of the biggest exoduses ever from Edinburgh.”

Pre-match lobbying to alter the Cup venue failed to persuade the Scottish Football Association to relocate the tie to the rubgy ground at Murrayfield in the capital. Environmentalists marshaled evidence that some 400 tons of emissions would be delivered aloft as the result of a westward drive, given that rail service will be limited. In the end, though, Hibernian objected to a potential Murrayfield move. Hearts, it seems, have used Murrayfield previously for UEFA Cup fixtures and might have a home advantage.

Sunday Herald (Glasgow) columnist Ian Bell was not persuaded by this line of reasoning:

The game is scheduled for 12.15pm. How suitable does that sound for 50,000 spectators casting their fates to the M8 (never mind the Edinburgh ring road) or taking their chances with jam-packed ScotRail trains (only two of which are due to run that morning owing to engineering works)? Believe it or not, some people actually like to have breakfast before a football match.

Although Hearts and Hibernian supporters have met in relative peace in recent years, Strathclyde police, of the administrative region encompassing Glasgow, promise aggressive crowd control. Chief superintendent Robin Howe warns that “you may find your supporters’ bus being stopped and searched by the police” to enforce a ban on alcohol. Naturally, as with any potentially troublesome derby, trains, buses and autos carrying the two sides’ backers will be kept separate. The image still lives in some minds of disaffected youth supporters of the Edinburgh pair embracing the so-called casual culture of the 1980s. Hibs supporter Irvine Welsh based the novel Trainspotting, later a film directed by Danny Boyle, on the self-destructive tendencies among the hardcore Hibee crowd.

The refreshing nature of Sunday’s Cup encounter is partly the absence of Old Firm clubs Glasgow Celtic and Rangers, who have had a stranglehold on cup and league competition for most of the past 25 years. The Glasgow giants bowed out and left the first semifinal today to be contested between Dundee and second-division surprise Gretna. The team from the border village of 2,075 sailed through 3–0.

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