Monday, 16 April 2012

Go East?

So, for the first time since 1896, Hearts and Hibs will face each other in the Scottish FA Cup Final. For Hibs fans this is surely the dream ticket. They have the chance to end their 110 year hoodoo by beating their city rivals. For Hearts, equally, this is as much of a dream scenario. What better way to finish this season than by chanting ''Since 1902'' against your hated rivals?

As soon as it became clear that the SFA's ongoing personal vendetta against Neil Lennon would culminate in a Hearts win yesterday people, including myself, began to ask ''Should the final be moved to Murrayfield?''



The positives of moving the final are obvious. Firstly, 50,000 people won't have to schlep west and back again. Rather, the fans will be able to enjoy the build up to the game and may well have a drink or two (Scotrail will no doubt ban booze on trains that day). In my view, there are few better things in world sport than the gentle walk to Murrayfield before a game (be it of rugby or football).

Secondly, and given the likely demand for tickets, Hampden Park holds 15,000 fewer people than Murrayfield. More people could enjoy what will be one of the biggest games in years. Legends on both sides are already describing this as ''the biggest ever derby''. It is easy to see why.

The negative, however, is just as obvious. Hampden Park is ''the national stadium''. It is the centre of the Scottish footballing universe. It 
is where the first final took place. It is where the majority of finals have taken place. It is a special and sacred place.

That said, like Wembley, it has become debased by the playing of semi-finals and so on there. There are few sadder sights in Scottish football than two sub-standard teams playing at a half-empty Hampden safe in the knowledge that the winner will return a few weeks later to get humped by whichever of Celtic and Rangers has won the other semi-final. (NB: I should note that there is precedent for other grounds being used for Scottish League Cup Finals. The 1979/80 League Cup Final between Aberdeen and Dundee United took place at Dens Park as did the 1980/81 League Cup Final between Dundee United and Dundee).


Now, bar the fact the SFA needs the money, that is pretty much the only argument. The fact that this is the only argument doesn't mean it is a bad one. I am a sucker for romance in football and sometimes the cold-headed logic of the management consultant or the calculator tap of the accountant should be thrown out of the window. If the fans of Hearts and Hibs wish to schlep through to Glasgow then schlep they should. 



Those arguing that Hampden Park is the home of Scottish football or ''that finals have always been there'' are incorrect.

The first ever Scottish Cup Final took place at Hampden. But the first ever official international game took place in Glasgow but it took place at Hamilton Crescent (now the home of West of Scotland Cricket Club). One could easily call Hamilton Crescent the home of football let alone the home of Scottish football.

Over the years, finals have taken place at Kinning Park, Ibrox Park, Logie Green and Celtic Park. It was only in the mid-1920s that Hampden Park became the definitive home of the Scottish FA Cup.


You may think this is ancient, murky history. Yet this is an ancient, murky rivalry. Heart of Midlothian versus Hibernian is one of the oldest rivalries in the association game - and it is a very Edinburgh rivalry. Their first meeting took place at The Meadows (Edinburgh) on Christmas Day 1875. They have been battling it out across this fair city ever since. These after all are the two tribes of Edinburgh. Perhaps, the history argument, actually flows the other way. The only time the Scottish FA Cup Final took place outside of Glasgow was the last time these two teams met in a final at Logie Green in Edinburgh.

As an Englishman, and as an England fan, I grew up dreaming of winning the FA Cup. I suppose I dreamt of Wembley but it was the winning goal and lifting the cup that mattered. The place, the history and so forth didn't matter so much. The successful sojourn to the Millenium Stadium showed that fans can deal with such a move. I would imagine - to many fans - what matters is who gets their paws on the Cup. Not where it is played.

To me, it doesn't matter. The game will be tense, rumbustious, tumultuous and bruising. It won't be a free-flowing classic but it will live long in the memory whatever the result. It will bring tears of joy and sadness. There will be recrimination. There will be blame. And all that will be true whether one is walking back via the pubs of the West End or trying to avoid your rivals on the train from Glasgow.


RCM
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6 comments:

Can Okar said...

I found it really odd when a couple of our mutual friends said this was a stupid idea. It sounds like a no-brainer unless Hampden have a contract.

Rob Marrs said...

Yes, I thought that.

I should state I'm not massively sold on English FA Cup Final being at Wembley. Don't see why it can't tour round - Twickenham, Olympic Stadium, Old Trafford, Millenium Stadium, Ashburton Grove, Anfield, St. James's Park etc.

RCM

Joss Murdoch said...

Certainly I would like the game to be at Murrayfield, when I saw Hearts play AEK Athens there the stadium was jumping, so atmosphere certainly shouldn't be an issue.

There is also the issue of whether Scotrail can actually succeed in getting all of the fans through to Glasgow in any decent time...

dearieme said...

Still, I don't suppose Hampden is quite such a stupid, uneconomic venture as the new Wembley, is it? (I confess that I've not been to Hampden since ca. 1970.)

dearieme said...

Aha! WKPD helps me out. My last visit must have been one of:
67-8 Cup Final, Dumf vs Hearts
71-2 ditto, Celtic vs Hibs
68-9 League Cup Final, Celtic vs Hibs.

You can see that I'm not an Edinburgh native since I was prepared to support either side. My money's on 67-8, since my jam-tart supporting friend had a car and I didn't.

Mind you, I've been only to the old, not the new, Murrayfield. Ditto Twickenham. And they scrapped the Brisbane ground where I watched The Wallabies beat the All Blacks. I'll bet they scrapped the ground where I watched British Columbia beat the Lions too. Do you think life is passing me by?

convert flv to mp4 said...

I think the final really should be moved to Murrayfield.
And that SFA needs the money becomes more obvious by the way