HIBS v ST JOHNSTONE v CELTIC
It is an odd coincidence that Celtic’s last two fixtures in the season from Hell are the finalists in the Scottish Cup. Hibs and St Johnstone will no doubt put up a good show against Celtic, but it is safe to say that their attention will be mainly and rightly focussed on the Scottish Cup final of May 22. Indeed, in the circumstances of where Celtic are at the moment, it is hard to imagine less interest ever being engendered in these two fixtures and we must fall back on clichés like a “dead rubber” and “professional pride”, something that there has been very little of in the past year at Celtic Park.
Not so at either Easter Road or McDiarmid Park. In both cases, good management and an enthusiastic set of players have already brought the Scottish League Cup to Perth, and established Hibs as 3rd best in Scotland. There is a “buzz” about both places. There isn’t at Celtic Park, and life is so much the poorer for it. But, although it is difficult to get upset about Celtic’s remaining League game, the Scottish Cup final looks a cracker. And although it is true to say that we wish both clubs well and do not hate either of them, there is no doubt that the lack of Celtic in the Scottish Cup final is a void that we find hard to fill
Let’s take the Perth Saints first. Their supporters are usually very civilised, although there are not very many of them. They usually have loads of women supporters. Sir Walter Scott wrote a novel called the Fair Maid of Perth. I recall chatting one up one such fair maid midweek night at Muirton in April 1968 as we won 6-1. She admitted graciously that Celtic were a great side, but I never saw her again. Sadly, she might not be quite such a fair maid now!
Perth is not a football orientated city. It is wealthy, middle class and pleasant to visit, but we hope that the rumour that some St Johnstone supporters vote Conservative is not true. Only sporadically have they had a good team. They did beat Celtic in the Scottish Cup in 1936 – a result that astonished Scotland – but their days at Muirton Park (until 1989) were to a very large extent spent in the Second Division, although they did have a very good spell in the late 1960s when Willie Ormond was their Manager, and when they reached the Scottish League Cup final to lose 0-1 to Celtic.
The Saints have won two trophies in their life and that may well be three this year. It is thus very difficult to be jealous of their supporters in any historical sense of the word, however much we envy them in 2021. They have a good Manager, several hard working but not necessarily precociously talented players (many of them Celtic supporters) and of course we found a place in our heart for Zander Clark yon Sunday night a couple of weeks ago. We wish them well.
Hibs, on the other hand, are far more complex. Their supporters are in the odd position of supporting Celtic quite a lot when we play Hearts or Rangers, (“our enemy’s enemy becomes our friend”) and yet their relationship to Celtic is one of profound jealousy. It is often said that in 1887, Hibs were the midwife at the birth of Celtic on the grounds that they won the Scottish Cup in February 1887 and put an idea into the head of Brother Walfrid, namely that if a team of Edinburgh Irishmen could win the Scottish Cup, so too could a team of Glasgow Irishmen.
But while Celtic prospered, Hibs stagnated, hamstrung by incompetent and dishonest management and a crazy idea to limit their team to those of an Irish Catholic heritage. This was folly, and bigoted folly at that and got its reward when Hibs went into abeyance in about 1891 and found themselves with a long road back. Only for a few brief years in the 1950s did they make any sort of challenge, and then briefly again in the 1970s when they were characterised by three things – a major complex about Dixie Deans, a tendency to blow up every spring and a more pronounced tendency to sell their star players. In 1953 and 1977 Celtic won the League at Easter Road. They refused to allow TV cameras to film these games for the BBC and STV Highlights programmes in 1977. That looked an awful lot like sheer spite.
They have had their moments of insolvency and relegation and have probably inflicted more heart break on their fans than any other club. Once again, it is difficult to be jealous of them, and indeed in 2016, Hibs had the Celtic legions on their side when they won the Scottish Cup (At last! After 114 years!) with at least three men in their ranks with strong Celtic connections in Alan Stubbs, Anthony Stokes and Liam Henderson.
But all this is very sad. Forgive me, dear reader, if I seem as if I do not care very much about the remaining League fixtures whose sole interest, as far as Celtic are concerned, seems to lie in giving a further boost to the game that we have been playing for several weeks now, namely “I hope they keep him next year” as distinct from “Get him oot the door”.
I will however watch the Scottish Cup final with a great deal of interest. St Johnstone won it in 2014, the only time they have been in a Cup final until now. Hibs on the other hand have won three Scottish Cups (a wee bit short of the 40 we have won!), and have managed to lose 11 Cup finals, five of them to Celtic – Patsy Gallacher in 1914, Joe Cassidy in 1923, Dixie Deans in 1972, Henrik Larsson in 2001 and Gary Hooper in 2013. They have also managed to lose Scottish Cup finals to Airdrie and Clyde, so I am not likely to be surprised if they lose this one to St Johnstone. These grim Leith tenements have seen more than their fair share of misery.
But probably, man for man, Hibs have the better players and my head possibly goes for them. My heart? It is in danger of stopping beating altogether until such time as Celtic GET A MOVE ON and appoint a Manager. Maybe the Directors and the Executive enjoy the sight of triumphalism and gloating from the other side of the city? I certainly don’t, and I keep looking for our club to FIGHT BACK!
Born in 1948, David Potter first saw Celtic at Dens Park, Dundee in March 29. It was a 3-5 defeat, which equipped him admirably for the horrors of the early 1960’s. He had “followed” Celtic for a few years before that and recalls having been called upon to impersonate Jock Stein and receive the family silver teapot which had to do for the Scottish Cup as it was presented on April 24 1954, after he and his father had spent a nerve wracking afternoon listening to the radio! Since then, he has “followed” every Celtic game with bated breath, and has written extensively about the club in magazines and books. His favorite team was that of 1969 (which he rates marginally better than 1967) and his favorite player was Henrik Larsson.
His ambition for Celtic is for them to keep on winning silver in Scotland and to be something in Europe once again. His other interests are cricket and drama. He is 70, a retired teacher of Classical Languages, married with three children and five grandchildren. He now travels on the Joseph Rafferty bus from Kirkcaldy. He also loves Forfar Athletic.
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