'The themes of history, background, family and a sense of place come shining through'

The next book to be featured in Scotzine’s book review by Dr Jonathan M Thomas is We are Hibernian: The Fans’ Story by Andy McVannan.

Andy McVannan has edited an engaging oral history collection that delivers an authentic fan’s eye view of Hibernian Football Club over the years. It brings the culture and experience of supporting one of Scotland’s best-loved clubs, vividly to life. This second edition provides some updated material and includes three brand new contributions from Ger Freedman, Pat Nevin and Mickey Weir. While the market is primarily Hibs fans, this volume is a valuable addition to the literature about and by genuine Scottish football fans.

Proclaimer, Charlie Reid, sets the tone by capturing nicely what Hibernian means to him and how it is ‘important for football to be played the right way at Hibs’. Throughout, there is a warmth and authenticity that seeps from the pages. While some contributors are celebrities and even former players, they are all here as Hibs fans first. Reminiscence and shared memories appear unfiltered, but every football fan can identify with the themes of idolising former players and basking in past glories.

The sections on watching Hibs through the 1970s and 1980s, describe the fan experience with a mix of humorous, visceral detail and atmosphere. The recollections and enthusiasm of the McBain’s, a retired couple who have been going to Easter Road for decades, is infectious. Their love for the experience of being in Easter Road on a Saturday demonstrates a shared sense of history, community and belonging.

Others develop the idea of Hibernian as a rock’n’roll club, cooler and more maverick than other clubs. The distinct history and style that fans associate with Hibs are of enduring importance for many contributors. They also identify how the social and compassionate roots of the club adds further value to their self-image. There are some great passages about the passion and belief that is the often misguided preserve of the football fan. The volume portrays a good balance of contributions from different types of fan, although the weight is firmly on the male experience. The female voice although faint is evident and the range of feelings they express about their club, are welcome additions to the piece.

The themes of history, background, family and a sense of place come shining through. Indeed, for many of the fan contributors there is a general plea for Hibs to extend its reach further into the local community. The ‘Hands off Hibs’ campaign features prominently and clearly provided a focus for fans to demonstrate their passion for Hibs. A few contributors note how the sorry episode brought the extended Hibs family closer in a common cause and how this spirit and identity through shared endeavour is still evident today.

Notably, every contributor has a slightly different take on relations with their city neighbours. Many describe how in the post-war years fans would mingle on the terraces with minimal trouble, yet by the 1980s, violence and running battles were the norm. Despite this, most fan contributors recognise that the city rivalry is important and that life would be much less interesting for Hibs without Hearts.

The intergenerational links between sons, father and grandfathers as played out attending a Hibs football match is more than just a bonding experience between men, as it also bonded you to a place. One of the newer sections, by Pat Nevin, stands out for his admission that he came late to supporting Hibs, having been brought up a Celtic fan.

This anthology clearly demonstrates that while the club’s fortunes may vary from season to season or manager to manager, and despite the old stadium now modernised, the core ethos of the club survives and thrives in the stories, histories and memories of their loyal fans.

As any fan will recognise, it is important to preserve those memories that underscore your club’s sense of identity, history and place. In that regard, this volume is required reading for all diehard Hibees. (Dr Jonathan M Thomas - Scotzine)

'It is funny, insightful and often exposes the very different views which exist within the Hibs support'

Just as Paul McBride was banging his gums about Hibs a new book, We Are Hibernian by Andy MacVannan, has been launched looking at the club from the fans perspective. Contributors including Irvine Welsh, Dougray Scott, Dick Gaughan and many others (including 107 Cowgate) give their views on the club, its history and its place in Scottish society. At times it is funny, insightful and often exposes the very different views which exist within the Hibs support like any other support base. While media coverage has focused on aspects of the Edinburgh derby it has a broader significance exploring issues such as class, identity and culture through the prism of Scotland’s first Irish football club. Also as a fans book the various social experiences described will ring a bell with football supporters everywhere. (107 Cowgate website)

'The social side of football remains underreported even in the age of internet chatrooms: this book redresses the balance'

What's it about and what makes it interesting? The social side of football remains underreported even in the age of internet chatrooms: this book redresses the balance, at least as far as Hibs fans are concerned, by giving them space to vent their frustrations and recall some of the more pleasurable times spent following their clubs. On its publication a couple of months back, the book received a lot of publicity for the comments by celebrity fans Irvine Welsh and Dougray Scott on the venemous nature of the Edinburgh derby, but the less well-known voices are just as interesting and arguably more well informed. (The Scotsman Newspaper - Top 20 Best Scottish Sports Reads of 2011)

'Offers up fantastic personal memories which in turn triggered memories of my own as I read them'

The latest addition to the ever growing number of books about Hibernian Football Club is a hardback aptly titled “We Are Hibernian” by Andy MacVannan and is available in local bookshops for £14.99. The author gives over the telling of the story to many Hibs fans both 'famous' and otherwise and through their words we learn of their love for the club, its roots, its successes, its failures and its inexplicable hold over its fans no matter what gets thrown at them.
Reading this I was able to identify with all of what was said regardless of the age of the storyteller and that makes the book very appealing in my eyes. True there are a significant number of ‘errors’ but I put this down to the author remaining true to what the fans provided rather than to errors by the author himself. In a way ‘errors’ is the wrong word because the stories being related are the recollection of the tellers and lets be honest, none of us have perfect recall and especially when the subject is so emotive!
There are a number of common themes as you might expect with victories over Hearts providing many fond memories as do those magical European nights under the floodlights whilst certain players are recalled with great affection including the Famous Five, Pat Stanton, Alex Cropley and Franck Sauzee. I found it both interesting and intriguing as to how these fans decided to follow Hibs. Of course a number were born into Hibernian families and so there was no choice to make but not all fall into that bracket and yet those latter named are as staunch in their support as any Hibee
.

Under the microscope as it were are Charlie Reid, Dougray Scott, Dick Gaughan, Irvine Welsh, Grant Stott and Derek Dick together with ‘ordinary punters’ like you and I in the shape of Liz and Bill McBain, Eilidh Munro, Don Morrison, Irene and David Birrell and a whole bunch of others. Each one of those offers up fantastic personal memories which in turn triggered memories of my own as I read them. My favourite story however is told by Grant Stott who relates the tale of interviewing 17 year old Scott Brown in hospitality after a game. I don’t want to spoil it for readers but I can say I literally laughed out loud and found myself reading it again just for the sheer enjoyment and it reminded me of just how much I liked Broony when he was at Hibs.
Published by Luath Press in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile it will be a worthy addition to the Hibernian libraries of fans.'

(Hibs.net - Fansite of Hibernian F.C)

'They all have that same intangible, inexplicable thing running through them, the love of Hibs no matter what.'

Why do you follow a team? Hard to answer but the new Andy MacVannan book could provide some clues as he interviewed known and unkown Hibs fans on why the follow the Cabbage and Ribs.

As it is nearing Christmas every entry in my diary looks a lot like 'another evening, another book launch'. Last night it was down Easter Road way that the car was pointed to join Andy MacVannan and contributors to his new book: "We Are Hibernian, the fans' story".

We get stories from players and managers when they have retired or moved into the media, but how often do we hear from the fans about why they suffer the veil of tears that come as part of the deal when supporting your team? Not often enough, as fans make the club. But as the chapters in the book attest, the club also can make the fans. How they play the game is important to Hibs fans. That is why they still have a desire to see Hibs play with the oft ridiculed epithet of flair. While teams of recent years have fallen short of fans expectation, there is still that thread throughout the recollections from those interviewed for the book - they want Hibs to play with style and panache. They will accept defeat - grudgingly - as long as Hibs play the way they should.

While MacVannan interviewed some high profile fans, like Dougray Scott, Irvine Welsh, Derek Dick (AKA Fish), Charlie Reid and Bruce Findlay, the core of the book is made up from recollections of the average fan. The strange things that you remember about going to games and not always about the actual game; who you met; where you stood; the rituals you followed without actually thinking they were rituals. There are all there from young and old. They may all be individuals but there is something you get from the book that they all have that same intangible, inexplicable thing running through them, the love of Hibs no matter what.

I asked Macvannan why he thought about writing the book in the first place. He said: "It goes back about ten years ago. My main interest, apart from football, was music. While I was in America, I bought a book which was an account from different bands travelling on the road, not so much about the music but stories that sort of surround the travelling. I thought I could transfer that idea to the realm of the football fan. I thought about it for a few years but never got down to it until about a year and a half ago. I had to get it started. When I first started it was a conversation with a friend Jim Hayes to give me a start with a friendly face. It then moved into a little bit of a journey as each interviewee would suggest I speak to somebody else which took me down different avenues. For example Irvine Welsh put me onto Dougray Scott and such like. Unfortunately, he can't be here tonight but while he lives away from Edinburgh but in the book you get the feeling of them returning, obviously to see family etc, but a big part of that is to come back and see Hibs. That is a big part of the book, no matter where you are in the world and whatever it is you do on a day-to-day basis, everybody has that common bond, common love and connection to the club. (scotland-mad.co.uk - website)

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'It's a refreshing change to read a sports book which focuses on the ordinary fans and gives them a chance to give their views on their favourite club.'

'This is an excellent book. It's a refreshing change to read a sports book which focuses on the ordinary fans and gives them a chance to give their views on their favourite club. The author has done a first class job in interviewing such a wide range of Hibs fans, from 'celebrity' followers of the club like Irvine Welsh and Dougray Scott to the ordinary punter in the street. There's even an interview with a former member of the notorious Hibs casuals.

I think the book is an interesting read for anyone who cares about Scottish football and especially, of course, anyone with an allegiance to the Easter Road club.' (John Neil - Amazon customer review)

'Am not a Hibs fan but I really enjoyed this book. Good selection of interviewees -from celebs to ordinary fans. Goes into the Hibs-Hearts rivalry too though its interesting that many Edinburgh families and many Hibs/Hearts players seem to cross the divide. Its not an Old Firm type hatred. Only gripe is the interview with a millionaire rock-band manager who goes on about Hibs being 'anti-establishment'! (Seonaidh - Amazon)

Very good book with some very personal memoirs of supporting the club. Quite a bit of social history about the club's origins and local environment interlaced with recall of matches attended . Contributors come from wide variety of backgrounds which again helps to weave an interesting read even if you do not support Hibs. (Rainforest - Amazon customer review)

'This book celebrates the story behind that unforgettable moment when Hibernian entered the childhood of its fans lives'

Friends and relatives of Hibs’ fans have it easy this Christmas with a choice of gifts from Hbernian Retro plus a couple of club related books including one written mainly by the supporters themselves.

Author Andy MacVannan is too young to have seen many of the truly great Hibs’ sides play, including the Famous Five or Turnbull’s Tornadoes but many of the contributors of his book, ‘We are Hibernian’ did, and this book  would make the ideal present for fans of all ages.

Enchanted by stories of Hibernian told to him by his father, Andy MacVannan experienced his first Hibs game at the age of ten in 1980. Hooked on the phenomenon of football, he became an avid supporter of the Hibees, regularly attending matches both home and away.

In We are Hibernian Andy sets out to explore the emotional and enduring connection to Hibs that unites all fans. Over the course of a year and a half, interviewing supporters from all walks of life, he discovered that football is far more than a game, and that Hibernian lies at the crux of many different friendships and communities.

Andy recently took time out from his busy schedule to tell the Edinburgh Reporter about his reasons for writing this book: “I suppose it goes back to reading a book about music and the life of bands on the road – tour stories etc. I thought that it would make good reading to hear about the stories surrounding fans watching their team, travelling to games and the like. However, it probably developed into a study of family connections to the club or even how it is that people supported them in the first place.

“There are many different angles on that in particular. I tried to steer away from too much about actual football memories as there is so much out there already. You will know yourself that it usually the characters in the crowd or even the wide open expanse of the old East Terrace that stick in your mind. So I think that was an angle I wanted to record before it is lost forever.

“Of course I also asked what people felt was the difference between ourselves and Hearts. In particular from our kind of cultural identity and roots of the club. Many people did feel there was a difference and some did not. Irvine Welsh has some great words on that as you would imagine.

“I hope that will give you something to work with and many thanks again for doing the review. If there is anything else you need information on then do not hesitate to drop me a line.”

‘We are Hibernian’ explores the sights, sounds and memories of fans who have taken the journey to watch the team that they love. Supporters from all walks of life bare their souls with humour, emotion and sincerity.

This book celebrates the story behind that unforgettable moment when Hibernian entered the childhood of its fans lives and why, despite their different backgrounds, these loyal fans still support a sometimes unsupportable cause together.

Is it what happens on the field of play or the binding of tradition, memories and experience that makes Hibs fans follow their team through thick and thin? Featuring interviews with many different fans, this book takes you on a journey to discover why football is more than just a game and why Hibernian is woven into the DNA of each and every one of its supporters. (The Edinburgh Reporter 2015)

'Simply put, you can expect a great book to come from a great club with great supporters. It’s hard to expect anything else.'

Having an allegiance to a club is an important step for any football supporter. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly and one that can’t (and shouldn’t) be easily changed.

We are Hibernian: The Fan’s Story by Andy MacVannan is a collection of stories from people associated with this great club. It’s truly a learning experience for any Scottish football fan, even for those that follow Hibs on a regular basis. This title is brilliant because of its ability to be personal and conversational, revealing the reasons why people chose this great club. It brings a lot of perspectives to a single book, each revealing a small piece of Hibernian FC.

Hibernian is special and as Ger Freedman said in the book, “supporting Hibs is not just about the game of football, it is a way of life.” It is a way of life for many, including people from all over the social spectrum, from musicians and actors to politicians and businessmen. This book is their story, their love affair with a club that is among the world’s oldest, dating all the way back to 1875.

A lot has happened since then, a lot of legendary players and coaches have come and gone. The Edinburgh rivalry, older than the Old Firm of Celtic and Rangers, used to be the biggest derby in all of Scotland. Some of the world’s best players, the likes of Gordon Smith, Joe Baker, Pat Stanton, and Micky Weir, used to ply their trade for Hibs. Turnbull’s Tornadoes and the Famous Five used to entertain crowds all over Scotland.

While the club can’t attract the Messis and Ronaldos in the world today, they still have world-class supporters and will have them for many generations to come. Hibs is a family and they are very aware of the need to continue to grow and foster supporter culture. They are doing just that, exposing the next generation of fans to the club, just as those did that came before them.

Hibs is attractive to follow because it is a progressive club, one that is forward-looking and a force for good. It is not bogged down by hooliganism, greed, or global commercialization. Simply put, you can expect a great book to come from a great club with great supporters. It’s hard to expect anything else.

Maybe someday the U.S. and Canada will have this same supporter culture, where football is king and your favorite club is part of your everyday life. Hibs would be a great example to follow, how a club can reveal the true heart and soul of the game.

(International Scoccer Network)

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 Andy MacVannan

- Author and Musician -

"History is alive within every single one of us because we all have a story to tell. I  strive to make these recollections come alive, just like they did when I first heard them."

  • We are Hibernian - The Fan's Story
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