History is alive within every single one of us. We all have a story to tell and if we walk the streets of our towns and cities it is etched out in our buildings and the faces of people who walk by us. But there is a place, here in Leith, where thousands watch together and witness a new chapter of history being written almost every week. It’s called Easter Road Stadium – home of Hibernian F.C.
Behind the game of football there lies a rich seam of stories that recount moments of joy, humour and sadness.
Supporters of the game routinely nurture and often centre their friendships round their attachment to the club they love. So in compiling my book, We are Hibernian, I was soon to discover the remarkable impact that a ‘mere sport’ has had on so many different people from all walks of life.
I wanted to capture the sights and sounds that have come to represent the spirit of the game. “When I walk into Easter Road I am full of memories of going there with my dad, seeing great matches and of my childhood in general” says actor Dougray Scott, of Mission Impossible fame. His sentiments are one that every football fan will relate to but so are the words of Colin Whitson (support worker and musician). He humorously describes the hardships of enduring the windswept open terraces of yesteryear; “There’s a whole new generation going now who can’t remember a macaroon bar, spearmint chewing gum or a pie served in the Hibs colours because it was going off.”
It quickly became apparent that we often remember the strangest things about watching football and often it may not be about what happened on the field of play. The team we support may also have an influence on the way that we see ourselves. Looking back to his first game as a child, Charlie Reid states, “I still think about that match every couple of days, and what it means to me and how it shaped me.”
The journey to supporting a team usually begins as a child but what may be overlooked is this rare opportunity for parents to bond with their children. It certainly helped me to recognise that my dad was an individual and that he had his own life experiences. His memories of the old ground, and being packed in amongst 60,000 people, intrigued me most. It made me connect with the past in a way that no normal history book could ever do. Thirty years on and I wanted to hear what other people had to say. I was soon to find out that their recollections would come alive to me, just like they did through the tales my father told me.
We are Hibernian is also packed full of opinion about the way that Hibs fans see their club in the modern day. Whilst I think we should cherish the history of this remarkable football club, we should also encourage the clubs benefactors to open their doors and give access to their facilities. It is the supporter that gives their money so freely every week to watch the team they love. We should remember how important these clubs are to our past but enthuse about the positive role they could play in uniting our communities and paving our future.
Football clubs can do more. They can help to reinforce a genuine sense of community spirit in these testing economic times, the Scottish clubs will never consistently compete with the glamorous, and much hyped, fare served up by the English Premiership. But we may still have our soul intact and the door to our local club may still be ajar. As Irvine Welsh says, “I know it’s a business but the more they invest in the community, the more the community will give back to Hibs.”
The next time you catch a glimpse of your local football ground, stop and think about its history. Try to imagine the thousands who have stood and sat in its stands and terraces. Remember the players of bygone days who played for the love of playing and for the love of entertaining. Consider the events yet to happen and the stories that will be told.
As Gordon Munro (Labour Councillor) says, “The beauty of it for me is that even if it is a crap game, something can happen that lifts your whole week out of the mundane.”You see football is more than just a game, it is living, it is breathing and it is important!
(Originally published here in The Leither Magazine 2013)