What. A. Day.
What a day Saturday was.
Finally, after three long years, Hibs have gained automatic promotion from the Championship to the Scottish Premier League. We’ve done it. We’ve actually done it.
What a journey it’s been just over the last three years. Another bumpy ride on the rollercoaster that is Hibernian, but I wouldn’t choose any other rollercoaster to ride.
There’s no point in rehashing the relegation. It happened. It was disappointing but, as one fan said to me on Saturday, it might just have been a good thing.
He had brought his son to his first ever Hibs game (good one to choose!) and they had travelled from Manchester to see it. He asked us a few questions about how the season had been as he’d not been to many games himself but then he said that when you look back on it there is a thought that Hibs were in a bad place and relegation was probably what we needed.
No doubt. Leeann Dempster came in and appointed Alan Stubbs et al and there the rebuild started from near scratch. At the time is was crap. It felt awful but now, looking back, looking at what we’ve achieved, at the team we’ve become – a winning team – it’s been worth it. It really has.
Neil Lennon, speaking after Saturday’s game, thanked Alan Stubbs for leaving him an excellent platform to build on. That’s what it’s been, a re-build and it’s been up and up the whole time.
It’s been a slog at times, no one will deny that. Chins have been scratched at some performances and results. Brows have been furrowed at missed chances, slack passes and doubtful shots but hey, here we are, Championship Champions 2016/17.
It’s not been without it’s frustrations, that’s for sure. This season we’ve had some mixed results and some tedious play on the park, but we’ve done it. Although, looking at how we played Saturday (we were brilliant, by the way) you just sort of wish we’d played like that all season but it doesn’t matter – because we did it.
The match itself was super. Queen of the South came out wanting something and really didn’t give up. Although Marciano made a couple of brilliant saves he wasn’t really called into action for the majority of the game. Not like his opposite number, Lee Robinson, whose quick thinking stopped the score becoming embarrassing for QotS.
Darren McGregor is, for me, the Player of the Year. He’s been consistent throughout the season and given 100% every time he was asked to. He’s living the dream. Hibernian fan, playing for the team he loves. Lifts the Scottish Cup with Hibs last season and this season fires a brace that helps his team win the league. He’s flying.
Saturday’s game was a strange one because after a header from Captain Fantastic put us three-nil up the stadium seemed to go quiet. Our game was sorted but elsewhere, just along the road really, at Falkirk they were drawing with St Mirren 1-1.
This time of the season always gets me, all this adding up and taking away and how many points for this and that. I’m not a numbers person really but even I understood that on Saturday we needed to win and there had to either be a draw in Falkirk or or a St Mirren win. St Mirren did their bit. What a run of form they had hit in this not being relegated battle. A few weeks ago I would have said that Falkirk were a cert for this game but going into the three o’clockers on Saturday I felt St Mirren had it in them. They did. They took the lead twice to lead 0-1, 1-1, 1-2 and finishing 2-2. Thank you St Mirren. We hope Houston’s bright red head of anger didn’t explode causing any injuries.
As I said, the crowd sort of silenced after the third goal. Not because the game was boring or anything like it, in fact, far from it, it was a good game. The focus though, was on events in Falkirk and many heads were tipped towards phones, refreshing madly to see who would prevail in Falkirk or would it be a draw? Even when Hibs were on the break there was something of an “aye, aye! We’ve won, wait a minute until my app updates the scores elsewhere!”.
Then, of course, came the comedy moment in the match. Nearing the end the stewards rolled out their Exuberance Prevention Scheme. We weren’t to go on the pitch, it would seem. The East stand had the one railing with red and white tape approach. That was one railing every few feet and red and white tape spanning the gaps.
Seriously though, what’s the issue here? Down south when a team say in League 2 or League 1 or the Championship gain promotion their fans pile on the pitch to celebrate with the team. Why is there such nail biting up here about the same thing? If Hibs fans launched themselves onto the pitch today it would have been purely about celebration and nothing else. No QotS supporter was going to invade the pitch to cause bother, in fact, their support should be applauded. A good few of them stayed behind to watch the league winning team return to the pitch and clapped when they took their lap of honour past them. The fact that stewards (yes acting on orders from above somewhere) brought out those tiny barriers and tape was more an encitement, in my view, for fans to leap onto the pitch.
On the funny side, if you’ve never heard a stadum full of football united in laughter then hopefully someone caught it on video. From the East stand the the song “what the fucking hell is that?” and from the West the request “where’s our barriers?”. We really felt left out. But then we had extra stewards deployed to us. Ah, they just weren’t sure, would the West stand surprise them? Well, if we hadn’t knackered ourselves laughing then we might have. Honestly, let supporters celebrate. It’s the way forward.
So we stood by our seats after the final whistle. We were waiting on the result from Falkirk. We knew the current score, we waited on the final whistle. When it came through Block 43 announced it before the club did (they tried to) and the party started. It started and it went on. I was an early fall out from it. To those who stayed out and who are maybe still out being the Easter weekend, enjoy it, or those who went home, it doesn’t matter, we’ll all enjoy it. Enjoy every minute of it because it’s deserved. It’s so very deserved.
To add to that, our very own Signing of the Decade, Leeann Dempster, put out a thank you.
It has been a longer journey than any of us would have liked, but Hibernian has finally arrived at the destination we have all worked so hard to reach – promotion to the top flight of Scottish football.
It would be wrong to celebrate without first thanking you, Hibernian’s magnificent supporters, for standing by your Club during these difficult three years.
Difficult they have been; an emotional roller-coaster with the deep lows of play-off defeats contrasting with the incredible high of May 21st last year. Through all of this, and more, you the supporters have continued to commit to season tickets, buy shares either individually or as members of Hibernian Supporters Limited, or walked up to buy tickets.
Through it all you continued to turn out and support your team in increasing numbers. Thank You. Winning this Championship is dedicated to you and your families who have kept this club going through the years.
I’d like to congratulate Neil and his coaching staff, and of course the players, for working hard to win the Championship. They have worked incredibly hard, dealt with pressure, and there is no arguing that they have deserved to win the league.
Thanks are also due to the Board, the Chairman, and the principal shareholder for their continued support and encouragement.
Finally, I’d also like to personally thank all of the staff who work long hours behind the scenes, but whose contribution is also vitally important in making progress at the Club. Without them, none of this would have been possible.
Now we can all look forward to re-establishing Hibernian as a force at the top end of Scottish football. Season Ticket sales are running at record levels, the mood around the Club is buoyant. Exciting times lie ahead. The forecast – Sunshine on Leith.
The fans have been phenomenal. Buying season tickets just because we want to. It’s assured that Hibs fans saw something happening a couple of seasons ago and signed up to join the ride and wow, what a ride it’s been ups and down, a Scottish Cup and promotion. I mean, even Celtic can’t claim promotion…😉
The singing section has been amazing, getting the atmosphere going and keeping it going and coming up with song after song. My favourite is the Darren McGregor song.
They’re all great though. What a time to be a Hibby.