I don’t think I was ever sure I would see it. The odds were good, I have my whole life ahead of me, Hibs have been to 4 Scottish cup finals in 15 years, surely we would win one at some stage, I still wasn’t sure, though.
I was incredibly nervous Saturday morning, more at the thought of losing to Rangers, a club I absolutely despise, than anything else. If we were going to get beat I’d rather it was any other club (except those maroon mutants from across the city). I didn’t eat anything when I got up, it would have probably just made me feel worse. The journey there was pretty standard, my little sister listening to music while dad and me talked about football. The truth is we were both feeling hope more than expectation. We’ll support Hibs till we’re old and grey (he already is) but we have seen so many bad Hampden results and cup final losses that an ”expect little and never be disappointed” mentality has been adopted.
When we arrived at the home of our friends Dennis and Rosie near Hampden we were greeted with their surprise at us not being more hyped and excited for the game. The truth is I haven’t felt good before a big game in many years. Social media has a lot to answer for there probably. I more than make-up for it afterwards if we win.
Walking from their house to Hampden is always a bit special, a sea of Hibs fans in every direction all slowly moving towards the stadium. We left plenty of time to spare because the police were searching all Hibs fans at our semi-final vs Dundee United a month previous, they obviously weren’t doing it this time since the huns managed to sneak bloody great smoke bombs and flares in. They may look great on the TV but I’ve been in the middle of them, they are dangerous, especially to old people and those with asthma and they are banned for a very good reason.
We got inside just before the Hibs players ran out to warm up. I was feeling pretty shitty at this point, I still hadn’t eaten anything and nerves were killing me. I was believing a little more, especially watching the players warm up, they looked sharp and ready, especially Anthony Stokes. How right I was.
If we weren’t going to win it today I wanted a goal to celebrate, a Hibs Scottish cup final goal to really celebrate is something I’ve never had. The previous Scottish cup finals I have attended have finished 3-0, 3-0 and 5-1 to the opposition and I’m sure my Hearts supporting best mate will take great pleasure in me admitting I didn’t even celebrate James McPakes goal in 2012 to make it 2-1 just before the break. Only Hibs goal I’ve seen that I didn’t celebrate because I knew it didn’t matter, we were a desperate 2nd best that day to the point that our players and fans alike just wanted the world to open up and devour them.
Within 3 minutes Anthony Stokes provided that goal, a brilliant goal after a good advantage from the ref. Queue bedlam in the Hibs end. I could hardly believe it. I was in the end seat of the row and quickly made my way onto the stairs jumping up and down like an idiot, hugging strangers and family members and moaning at the ref to blow the full-time whistle. Unfortunately, our joy lasted a little over 20 minutes as Kenny Miller levelled it with a header. I wasn’t really bothered about this, we had started very well and Hibs losing a soft goal was nothing new. 1-1 at HT, I’ll take it I thought, we can beat these with a bit of luck.
The second half started much the same as the first ended, little between the teams and it took a great strike from Andy Halliday to put the huns ahead. Not much you can do about goals like that, even thugs like Halliday can score the odd cracker. It goes without saying I was pretty deflated at this stage, the thought of losing another cup final, another big chance to get the monkey off our backs was sickening. Just make it 3 so we can get away early.
Corner Hibs, Stokes header near post, goal. 2-2. I hardly celebrated this one because I could hardly believe it, this wasn’t in the script. I immediately looked to the linesman, as I do with any and every Hibs goal before making a fool of myself and he just stood there (normal practice after a goal is for the lino to run back to the halfway line) and I’m thinking ”don’t you dare disallow this goal you bastard”. Slowly but surely I realized the ref hadn’t blown his whistle, everyone around me was going mental except my dad who was also seeing the linesman I think. I quickly asked him if it was given, I don’t think he heard me, he just looked at the park and started celebrating. I joined him pretty quickly after that. Without a doubt the longest 15/20 seconds of my Hibs-supporting life, I’d have enjoyed that goal a lot more if the officials knew the bloody rules. The cynic in me is convinced they were looking for any possible reason to disallow it.
So it’s 2-2, the board goes up signaling 4 added minutes, all I’m thinking is don’t concede, please don’t concede, Hibs fans everywhere will get slaughtered for this if you concede now. What happened next will never be forgotten. Not by me, not by anyone lucky enough to be inside Hampden on Saturday the 21st of May 2016. I will tell my grandkids about the last few minutes of this game. Somehow David Gray wins a throw in and takes it quickly to Fraser Fyvie who spreads it wide to Stokesy, on a hat-trick. He makes a fool of Tavernier for the umpteenth time that afternoon and forces a good save from the huns ‘keeper who puts it out for a corner. Good, if Hibs have the ball they can’t concede. Not for a second did I consider we might score from it.
Liam Henderson, only at Hibs because of the Scott Allan transfer saga caused by Rangers, swings it in and David Gray, our captain, and leader, climbs high and ensures his life will never be the same again. My reaction? Impossible to describe really. Something like Boromir after he gets hit in the chest with an arrow in Lord of the Rings. Everything stopped and I was just hit with this incredible feeling. I instantly burst into tears. We did it. In the 92nd minute of the 2016 Scottish cup final, Hibs scored to make it 3-2. Unbelievable. I couldn’t have written it better. After 114 years, we had finally done it. All those good times, all those bad times and everything in between had built to this moment and it was absolutely perfect. I will need to marry one fantastic girl to top that. Thank you Hibs, thank you, Leeann Dempster, thank you, Alan Stubbs, thank you, David Gray, and thank you, Dad.
I’d rather not talk too much about the pitch invasion and scenes that followed, it has been done to death already (mainly by news outlets too scared to speak negatively of Rangers) and I spent most of it hugging my friends and family who have suffered so much with me in my 16 years supporting Hibs, I will say this however. It was a very poor judgement by the police and stewards to not think this was a possibility. The greatest moment in twenty-five thousand people’s lives? Didn’t you think just a few of them might go fucking mental? Hibs are likely going to get hammered by the SFA for this although I have absolute and complete faith in Rod Petrie and Leeann Dempster to defend our cause and not let Rangers away with their fans equally disgraceful actions. I hope anyone who was involved in a physical altercation with police, stewards, Rangers players, staff or fans are banned for life. Those people let me down, they let their friends and families down, they let themselves down and worst of all, they let the club and players down. Not good enough.
With that being said, what am I going to remember in 20 years? Hibs getting a fine for the actions of a few drunk idiots or David Gray heading home the most incredible goal I will ever see? No debate, it is David Gray every time. Unforgettable.
After the trouble had cleared up and everyone was back in their seat it was time for the Hibs players to be presented with the cup and the celebrations to really begin. I said I would never be able to describe the feeling I had if David Gray lifted that cup and I was right. I will forget that moment. When Hibs went up to lift the Scottish cup I was there. The version of Sunshine of Leith that followed is without a doubt the most special celebratory moment in Hibs history. My dad standing on his seat bellowing out the words in unison with thousands of other lifelong Hibs fans is an image I’ll never forget.
I still don’t believe it happened, even after writing all of that.
Few special mentions at the end of this.
Lewis Stevenson, my hero. I have suffered home and away with you since your debut 11 years ago. I have always defended you, I have always believed in you, you are without any doubt my favourite Hibs player ever and nobody deserves this more than you. The only Hibs player in our 140-year history to win the League cup and the Scottish cup, the best 2 days of my life. Thank you. You are immortal.
My dad. When you first started taking me to Easter Road I assumed I was being punished for something, I was 4 years old and bloody hated the noise. You told me to make some noise of my own and I never looked back. We have really suffered some horrible things together. From Hibs fans pissing in bins at QoTS in the Scottish cup (actually hilarious), losing a 4 goal lead at Motherwell, losing a cup final to bloody Livingston, employing Colin Calderwood and Terry Butcher, signing James Collins for 200k, getting hammered by the yams at Hampden to finally winning the damn thing on Saturday. Quite a journey. Thank you so much.
Lastly, to all the friends and family who have been to games with me over the last 16 years, especially Ruth, Auntie Gillian, Kenny and Harry.
Now we’ve got to defend it next year.