HHHT Issue 22a - Spring 2000

Reminiscences from a Hibee Past

By Mike Hennessy

 

Introduction For as long as I can remember, football has been a major part of my life, as player, supporter or avid reader. Like so many others, I recognised myself in Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch”, if you substitute the red of Arsenal for Hibees green. At the ripe old age of 47, I can claim to have watched the game at every level, from Hibees friendlies at Macclesfield and Telford to European Cup Finals and Scotland’s abortive forays into the World Cup.

The Early Days My association with Hibs is my grandad’s fault ( my dad claimed to be a Celtic supporter but he’d never go to a game ). My initial memories are of sitting on his and other grown-ups’ shoulders, since I was too small to see over the barrier between the terracing and the pitch. I apparently saw all the famous five except Reilly - bit pointless really since I have only the vaguest memories of them. It is actually the early 60’s before I can really picture Hibs in action, in a Summer Cup final against Aberdeen. My biggest regret from that time, given what was to happen in later years, was not to have been at the infamous Barcelona game. My greatest memory the 15-1 ( 0 ) thrashing of world beating Peebles Rovers in the cup, with the Baker boy scoring nine.

Growing Up Saturdays in the 1960’s involved playing football for the school in the mornings, Hibees in the afternoon, with a mad dash in between “every other Saturday” - cue for a song ? - to catch the Southern branch supporters bus to away games. A guy called big Frank was convenor, and what sticks in the mind apart from his figure was the nicotine brown fingers which he’d obviously spent years perfecting, and that he always called a mate of mine Spiziweckni instead of his proper name Wisniewski. Join Hibs and see Scotland ? It wasn’t quite the same as the beauty spots advertised in the brochures, but how many tourists would be envious of hearing of our exploits in darkest Cowdenbeath or Arbroath ? And of the frequent visits to the chip shop on the South Inch in Perth on the way back from almost anywhere north ?

Not that Hibs benefitted much from my financial support apart from the 10 or so pools tickets I’d sell every week. In those days every self respecting young Hibee had learned the immortal words “wull ye gie’s a lift over, muster ?”, and would get into the terracing for free. I had to stop that practice somewhere in my mid teens when I had outgrown the men who would lift me over ! Being tall has its price. The other practice from those days which has now disappeared was changing ends at half time to be behind the goal being attacked by Hibs. You can imagine the crowd problems it used to cause, but it was accepted as part of the ritual.

The late 60’s and early 70’s were great years for Hibs as you all know, domestically and in Europe . Leeds, Liverpool, the marvellous 5-0 over Napoli, Dino Zoff and all, when they were top of the Italian league, Dryborough and League Cups, and universal recognition as being deprived of a bundle of trophies because we peaked at the same time as an outstanding Celtic outfit. They could even afford to sell us Joe McBride, the unluckiest guy not to win a European Cup medal in 1967, and on his Hibs debut he scored four goals !

As I hinted at above, it was also somewhat hairy on the terracing. The day the original Yogi Hughes broke Bobby Duncan’s leg, and the rival fans turned the Cave into a war zone. Another occasion at Ibrox the season we went seven wins to begin the campaign, including Hearts, Celtic and the Huns all away from home, my younger brother thought he’d antagonise them with his singing - and he did, all 70000 or so of them, or so it seemed. Lucky escape that one. Only once did it go badly wrong, when I managed to get myself a kicking in the toilets at Dundee station by travelling Dundee fans as I was on my way to Tannadice. I was due to start a university apprenticeship the following Monday, and all the passport photographs have me with a huge keeker - very good impression to give and I don’t think !

Promoting Hibs In the early 70’s, I went to University at Stirling. There was no supporters club at that time, so we founded one and got around 20 members, one of whom is an Ian Mckenzie currently at London Hibs. Airdrie and police stations began to feature in my life around this point. After one Hibs - Airdrie, I fell asleep on the train to Stirling with a pal - an Airdrie supporter by the unlikely name of Big Skinny John - and we ended up in Glasgow at midnight - we spent the night in a cell - voluntarily ! After another, we were apprehended in Waverley station in possession of a number of parking cones ---- well what else would you be in possession of in Waverley station ? ( Resulted in an unconditional discharge, I’m pleased to say, from a female judge, who, it is alleged by my mate, fancied him !) And there are stories concerning the Liverpool match and the 7-0 Jambo game but they’re best told in the bar. All I was doing was campaigning for more people to support Hibs, which is what political party activists do for Labour et al at election time, isn’t it ? And they aren’t prohibited from doing so, are they ?

Alas, to find work, I had to leave Scotand for London. And guess what ? There was no London Hibs in 1974. So a number of us founded one. Nothing as professional as the current one, but we had about 12 members and met monthly at the New Inn on Tottenham Court Road. But interest faded, and it gets a bit boring when you’re the only one turning up to meetings ( though at least you can write the minutes in advance ! and noone can dispute the content )

Foreign Fields Edinburgh was even further from London than it is now, and a wife and kids came along, so I didn’t get to many games. I’d had a certain admiration for Liverpool since we played them in 1970, and when Peter Cormack - not many people know this but he featured on the front cover of World Soccer magazine in 1969 - turned up at Anfield and won a Cup medal to boot, my interest had been reinforced. So I decided to watch them whenever they came to London, say 5-6 times a year. And I became secretary of our works football club, which played in the Southern Amateur League, thereby ensuring I received the allocation of tickets for all the big games at Wembley - yes I was there in Jubilee year, when we thrashed the Sassenachs 2-1 (though I didn’t realise they’d scored till I got home. I wonder why ) with the aforementioned Mckenzie. So I wasn’t exactly starved of football, but trips up north were irregular - a Cup final against Aberdeen springs to mind where we were stuffed, and I’d insisted on taking my cousin from Ireland ! Still promoting Hibs !

My heart was certainly in the right place, however, and it cost me £200 when I became a Hibs shareholder, only to be defrauded by those two guys whose names I can’t even remember, but who almost ruined the club forever. I still have my shares, but of course, they’re worth nothing.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I was lucky enough to have a job in Barcelona - now you understand the previous reference - and I got the bug back in a big way. Cruyff was creating the “Dream Team” which won the European Cup in 1992 and the place was buzzing. Every other weekend I’d go along with son and/or daughter to the Camp Nou with its 120000 capacity - reminded me a lot of Easter Road……..well there was a pitch, with goalposts at each end…….And guess what ? There was no Hibs supporters club. So I didn’t even attempt to start one, thinking it might be an uphill task.

Having returned to this country from Spain, my job took me to Manchester, (I got back just in time to attend the League Cup final against Dunfermline at Hampden) where I became a member of ABU (anyone but united - not to be confused with ABOU, which is anyone but Oxford United, or an ex West Ham player on trial with Hibs at the time of writing ) . It’s funny what you remember of your youth, but I bear a great grudge against Alex Ferguson to this day, not so much from his Rangers days as from the day he broke Alex Cropley’s leg whilst playing at Falkirk. It ruined Alex C’s career, and I seem to remember the ref didn’t even give a foul. So it comes quite naturally to dislike Man U.

I’ve been working in London again since 1993, but my family still live in Manchester where I spend most weekends. Although I sometimes get to see Hibs - the last time was the last game of last season - more often than not I’m at Anfield, where funnily enough I’m the only person wearing a Hibs strip.

Wandering Hibees (or Hibees here, Hibees there, etc) I still meet Hibees in odd places . The last occasion was last summer, the day after Scotland had occupied Bordeaux for 48 hours, and were thanked by the French for doing so. Somehow I’d managed to drive from the campsite we’d (yes, Mckenzie was there too ) stayed at to a town called Lacanau, about 40 miles away. I went for a kip on the beach and when I got back to my car, there was a notice pinned to the windscreen from 3 Scots who’d no idea how they’d got there, but needed a lift back to Bordeaux to catch a train home. I went to meet them in a bar (where else ?) which turned out to be full of Norwegians ….. bar one individual with Scottish accent entertaining them to a sing song. Yes, got it in one…a Hibee (but from Dundee which explains the peculiar behaviour). Unemployed, but he’d managed to get tickets for all 3 Scotland games. Had a spare for St Etienne which he offered me, but I was so knackered after the exertions of the first two games that I declined.

On another occasion, in the middle of a Barca - Real Madrid full capacity crowd, I met some guy wearing a Hibees track suit top. He said he was on the way home from Hungary, where Hibs had just beaten someone 3-0 in the UEFA Cup. It didn’t say much for his sense of direction if he thought Spain was on the way home to Scotland. Or maybe he’d just had too much of the barley water.

Perhaps the most peculiar wandering Hibee was met by my daughter in Togo in West Africa……….looking for the home of Jimmy Boco perchance ? Most of you will have similar anecdotes. It might be worth a competition to find the most outrageous.

Final Thoughts It has been quite a long road as a Hibee and I’ve seen a lot of football. I’ve met and chatted to big names such as Dalglish ( Murrayfield of all places at a Scotland - England rugby match), Steve Archibald and Terry Venables ( separate occasions at Barcelona airport ) and McLeish himself ( at Macclesfield last year), but I have to say the biggest thrill of all was to meet Pat Stanton, courtesy of London Hibs at the Burns Supper this year. That was the climax, so how can I top that ?

Somewhere in an attic, there is a collection of programmes from the 60’s and 70’s which I’ll get round to finding one day, and it will provoke more memories, in which case I’ll write to you again (if you are men and women enough to take it ) But for the moment, the priority has become how to ensure we win the Cup this year, given our somewhat inconsistent league performances. Ideas on a post card to Easter Road stadium please !!

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Web Design and administration by Mike Inglis, (c) 1999 - 2002. Web Space courtesy of Hibs.Net
Content is (c) London Hibs Supporters Club. Individual articles on this web site are the personal views of the authors concerned, and no liability is accepted by the Web Master or Editors of London Calling or Hibees Here, Hibees There.  Articles, or portions of articles, may be reproduced only after prior permission has been obtained.