That noise heard throughout the central belt at around 16.50 on Saturday was the collective sigh of relief coming from Leith as Hibs were finally confirmed as Championship winners, meaning we are back in the Scottish Premier League next season. It was a funny one to celebrate. A lot of people were saying it shouldn’t be celebrated at all as it was embarrassing that we were even in that position, but I’m pretty sure when the likes of Leeds Utd & Nottingham Forest return to the top table in English football, they will enjoy it. As should we. Ok, it isn’t worthy of open top buses and 3 day celebrations, but the team on the park weren’t the team that got us relegated, and they still had to go out and be the best team in the league over 36 games, plus, we hardly win a LOT of trophies, so its always nice to see your team lift a bit of silverware. I have a 12 year old son who was absolutely over the moon on Saturday and ran about like a nutter with his “Champions” flag down Easter Road after the match – that in itself is worth celebrating.
We certainly have made it harder than has been required over the course of the season. We’ve drawn a fair few games that we should have won, but on the same token, we’ve dug out draws and wins with late goals which have ended up proving vital. While the flair of the team hasn’t matched the team of the last couple of seasons, the grit and determination has exceeded it. Going to Easter Road on Saturday, there was an air of expectation, and while there was the jokes that we would probably draw yet AGAIN, to me it had the feeling of one of these games we’ve had over the last few years that when the team knew what they had to do, they went out and did it – Dundee Utd in January, Raith Rovers in last seasons play offs and Dunfermline a few years ago when we were close to relegation and had to play them in a Monday night televised game and were 3-0 up after about 20 minutes. I just felt the team would go out and get on with their business. And that they did. Again there were plenty missed chances, but it was nice to see us clinical from set pieces. I also thought Lennon got it right playing Fyvie, McGeouch and McGinn together, and Harris also looked good when he came on. While I really don’t see a career for the lad at Hibs, it would be great to see him back to what we all remember when he first came onto the scene. Something else that was memorable about Saturday was the poor stewards that had to put half a dozen crash barriers in front of the stands and connect them with red tape – they really must’ve wondered what they were being asked to do, but it certainly gave the supporters a laugh – it really was one of those “only in Scottish Football” moments!!
So finally we can put the league on the back burner. It was always the priority, and while it WOULD’VE been nice to have it wrapped up weeks ago, we still have it done with 3 games to go and can now allow ourselves to fully focus on retaining the Scottish Cup (that STILL sounds surreal). Winning the cup last season meant absolutely everything, and while everyone said it (almost) became an irrelevance this season, it was always important to put up a half decent defence of the trophy, I mean, how embarrassing would it have been to be knocked out in the first round we had played in after winning it!? Who does that!!!??? Haha! So we have at least done that, and to get another day out to Hampden is fantastic. I know there was a bit of fun originally in the “Here we go, 2 in a row” song, but we are starting to believe it when we sing it, and quite rightly. Don’t get me wrong, Aberdeen are a very decent side in Scottish football terms. They are very dangerous going forward. BUT, as shown against Rangers, they can sometimes be a bit ropey at the back. We on the other hand are very solid at the back, and while we don’t score a LOT of goals, we are capable of making plenty chances, and have players that will punish teams. We also are now very experienced in big games. As well as the majority of our squad that has been to Hampden several times over the last 3 seasons, including a Scottish Cup final win, we have the likes of Grant Holt, Efe Ambrose & Ofir Marciano who all have big game experience. Aberdeen on the other hand don’t always seem to perform well in the big games, so its going to be very interesting. If I’m completely honest, I’m thinking an Aberdeen win by the odd goal, but my heart says we sneak a win late on in normal time. Whatever happens tho, we’ll have close to 20k Hibs fans cheering the team on which is fantastic for a semi final. It really shows how much the fans have backed the team since the cup win. There was a bit of a myth in recent years that the last time we got promoted with Alex McLeish in charge we averaged 14k home fans. We didn’t. We hit that figure a few times through the season but it certainly wasn’t the average. This time tho, we are averaging over 15k, and already nearly 8k fans have bought season books for next season, which includes around 1k NEW season ticket holders. If we win on Saturday, I can really see us smashing the 12k target. We really are a club on the up at the minute, it feels great and while there’s still a LOT to play for this season, I already can’t wait for next season.
Our promotion at the weekend got me thinking about a hypothetical question, and maybe some of you can give me your thoughts on this one. On the day after we got relegated in 2014 you were given the option of guaranteed promotion the very next season, but no hampden trips, or 3 seasons in the championship, 2 cup finals, a scottish cup win, 3 further hampden appearances, 7 games unbeaten against Hearts while knocking them out of the cup twice, and a trip to Europe, what would you have chosen? Reading it like that, it would be the latter option for me! Now, I’m not saying that its been a GOOD thing spending 3 years in this league (I certainly will not miss trips to Alloa, Cowdenbeath, Morton and Dumfries) but I tell you what, its certainly been one hell of a ride!!