Hearts’ Finances Flatlining – But Do Hibs Need Them?

Hearts have survived this most recent financial health scare, but having been told they’ve got until next summer to raise £2million, this temporary pacemaker could be a quick fix too many for despot owner Vladimir Romanov. His dwindling interest (and pay cheques) could ultimately end the Gorgie outfit for good. The fans can’t raise funds forever, and with Romanov seemingly refusing to sell, he could end up going down with his ship, changing Edinburgh football forever. How happy would Hibs fans really be if the boys in maroon ceased to exist?

With May’s Scottish Cup Final (the darkest day of my club’s long history) still an open wound, the obvious answer from Hibs fans is “good riddance.” That performance through in Glasgow (or “West Edinburgh” as it was called for the day) compounded the rivalry in 90 minutes of hell for the green and white half of the city. Hearts knocked 5 past Hibs and their fans have been going on about it ever since. This year has seen the rivalry intensify and many Hibees would be happy to see the back of Hearts for good out of sheer spite for the goading, scarf twirling Jambos. Easter Road’s Section 43 are always loudest to sing “Hearts are goin’ bust”, to the tune of ‘Football’s Comin’ Home’. I have my season ticket in front of the self proclaimed “Hibernian Ultras” and talking to the regulars who sit around me, the delight at our rivals’ misfortune is clear (if unpublishable).

I don’t share their bitter view, however. Lawrie Reilly, Hibernian’s all time great, spoke out in The Daily Record this week, saying Hibs supporters should reach into their pockets when the taxman comes walking down Gorgie Road in the not so distant future. He said: “In terms of surviving I truly believe Hibs supporters should donate money to keep the Hearts in the game if it looks like they could go to the wall.” Without one of the oldest rivalries in world football, supporting my team would feel somewhat empty. There’d be no more checking the fixture list for Salt ‘n’ Sauce Derbies in those boring, football lacking summer days. No sweaty palms and butterflies on the morning of a derby. An end to walking through Gorgie on game day, head held high as the only green shirt in a sea of maroon. In many ways the build up to Edinburgh derbies far outweigh the actual games themselves, as far as excitement goes. I can quite honestly say one of the greatest moments of my life as a Hibs fan was the pre-game build up at Hampden’s final this year. After the songs were sung and the teams got on the pitch, my only feelings were nervousness, dread, and ultimately nausea. However nothing, not even the god-awful effort Hibs put in that day, can take away that feeling of pride I had before kickoff.

“The Hearts have always been great rivals for Hibernian but it was always a friendly rivalry and always should be”, Reilly went on to say. I’ve always considered the rivalry to be the Old Firm’s classier counterpart. Granted, there’s no love lost between the Edinburgh sides (put it this way, I’d never take my Gran to a derby), but what I love about the rivalry is it’s based solely on footballing grounds. Sectarianism is not welcome at either Easter Road or Swinecast- sorry, Tynecastle. The banter between supporters is half the fun of it all. I like to think somebody would crack a good joke about Hibs’ dismal Scottish Cup drought, or our legendary 7-0 massacre in the ‘70s before things got really serious between sets of fans.

Both teams and sets of fans need each other more than I think they realise. When the Brauhaus, a local pub with a Hearts mad owner, tweeted they would be putting all takings over the weekend towards the ‘Save Our Hearts’ fund, I replied “Hibs fan here, but I’ll be along for a few pints to help out.” The pub retweeted this to its followers and I was inundated by messages from fans thanking me for my little gesture. Ever humble, I replied saying it was no problem, but to promise to do the same for my club if we ever found ourselves in a similar position. This is key to me wanting to keep Hearts beating. Much as I can’t stand the sight of anything in maroon and white, I can quite easily imagine myself in their position. Were my team to face extinction I’d be fraught. The thought of my beloved Leith San Siro being levelled to the ground doesn’t bare thinking about. What the hell would I do with my Saturday afternoons if I didn’t get to go for a couple of pints on Easter Road, a wee singsong in the East Stand and a Hibees Bounce? And, like some sort of sporting widower, I’d never be able to “move on” or “find someone new”.

The idea of Hearts going under and Hibs being the only team in the city is an alien one to me. The team’s rivalry, older and wiser than the Old Firm, is too precious to lose over a useless Lithuanian millionaire. The Hearts fans deserve to be treated better, more so after the monumental effort to save their team in the space of just one week through share buying and fundraising. They’re a credit to their team. I’m just glad they survived long enough for the next derby at Easter Road, I’ve got some great new songs for them to hear. “Hearts, Hearts, torn up in parts…”

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