Moonlight on Leith

Hibs 2 v 1 Motherwell (31.01.2018)

They say the devils in the detail. But this time round there was absolutely no detail in the planning of my last minute dash to Easter Road! I was travelling up to Edinburgh for work and the aptly named ‘Flying Scotsman’ pulled into Edinburgh Waverley at precisely 18.13. As I exited the station towards Princes Street I noticed a couple of guys with green and white beanie hats and scarves on. It was like a light bulb moment. Green and white football accessories, Wednesday night in Edinburgh, it could only mean one of two things – Hibernian FC were playing at home, or Celtic were playing away! A quick check on my ‘livescore’ app revealed Hibs were indeed hosting Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership. Result! On the one hand I was delighted that a spontaneous opportunity to visit a new ground and watch some live football had opened up. On the other hand I was disappointed with myself for not having this one earmarked early doors!

A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have travelled anywhere in the world without first checking on the internet to see if there was a game on somewhere that I could catch! Ask my wife – we were on holiday in Thailand once and were on the way back to the UK when we stopped off in Bangkok for one night. It was Valentine’s Day, but I had already clocked that Army Utd were playing at home to Siam Navy FC at the Thai Army Sports Stadium, a match day experience that naturally had to take precedence! Anyway I digress, since becoming a dad I have certainly lost my touch!

After making my way to the hotel and dumping the bags off, I was like an excited school kid who’d just been to the newsagent to get another pack of Panini stickers in a World Cup year! It was 6.50pm, and I immediately set off to Easter Road. Thankfully the stadium was only 20 minutes’ walk away from my hotel – it was like the stars had aligned! Talking of things astronomical, it was also the same night of the supermoon and the blue moon coinciding all in the same evening! It was obviously just meant to be!

The supermoon illuminates the Edinburgh skyline and ‘Arthur’s seat’…

The walk from central Edinburgh to Easter Road is a fairly pleasant one – even at night. Walking down Regent Road you have the historic Carlton Hill and the New Parliament House on your left, and to the right, stunning panoramic views out across to the famous ‘Arthurs Seat’ – a volcanic outcrop that overlooks Scotland’s capital which was beautifully illuminated by the supermoon’s radiance.

Closer to the stadium, and if you turn off Easter Road into Albion Road you will pass ‘The Football Programme Shop’ – a little section of football memorabilia paradise when you least expected it! The place was stacked up with historic football programmes, and with Hib’s pennants from yesteryear hanging from the ceiling this place deserves a quick stop off – just for nostalgia’s sake.

Easter Road Stadium is a modern re-developed stadium packed in amongst the tight residential streets that surround it. It’s one of those grounds where you can’t walk around the entire stadium perimeter. If you approach the ground from the Easter Road side you will most likely arrive at the corner of the West Stand and the Famous Five Stand. No sign of Enid Blyton around here, just a homage to Hibs’ attacking quintuple of Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond, who gained legendary status at the club after helping Hibs win 3 league titles in 1948, 1951 and 1952. To put this into context Hibs have won only one other title in their 142 year history and that was 115 years ago back in 1903. The north stand at Easter Road was renamed in their honour when it was rebuilt in 1995. Enough said.

The entrance to The Famous Five stand…

The match against Motherwell was 4th vs 6th in the Scottish Premiership with cross city rivals Hearts sandwiched in between. It was a game of significant importance to Hibs, a chance to pull away from the Jam Tarts and to close the gap on Rangers who were lying in 3rd spot. Remarkably this was Hibs first home game in 2018 and it was the last day of January!

For many the last day of January is symbolic with Jim White’s yellow tie – yes it was ‘transfer deadline day’, and the Hibs faithful were eagerly awaiting a first glimpse of their new striker Florian Kamberi who had signed on loan from Grasshoppers Zurich earlier that day.

His first attempt on goal hit the advertising hoardings just below the upper tier. The ‘lean back’ on the strike was textbook stuff and would have looked great in the NFL. The Hibees though were expecting a wee bit more from their continental signing! That effort must have acted as a ‘sighter’ though, as on 28 minutes his next strike was a beautiful effort from 18 yards that cannoned in off the crossbar! Welcome to Edinburgh Florian! Cue a ‘look to the heavens, raise your arms above your head and point your index fingers skywards’ goal celebration.

Shortly after nearly losing a match ball in the empty upper tier, Florian Kamberi celebrates scoring on his debut!…

Hibs went two up at the start of the second half with a sweeping move and a beautifully worked goal which was coolly finished off by Brandon Barker. With 12 minutes remaining Curtis Main pulled one back for Motherwell, which created a tense finish and gave the travelling Motherwell fans some hope they could salvage something from a game they hadn’t had much of an influence on up until this point.

The Motherwell away contingent…

Sadly for the Steelmen it wasn’t to be. Despite being on the losing side there was one Motherwell player in particular that stood out for me though and that was their 21 year old centre half Cedric Kipre (right). He looked a class act, an absolute beast of a footballer! Strong, powerful, but with a great touch and an abundance of composure. He signed from Leicester City in July 2017 having never played first team football for the Foxes. He looks a great signing and I would be surprised not to see him go onto bigger and better things in seasons to come. You heard it here first.

Another performance that stood out on the night, was that of Hibs Manager Neil Lennon. Not a manager renowned for being backwards in coming forwards when it comes to airing his opinions, and he’s probably not one for the arm round the shoulder approach based on what I saw tonight! At one point in the second half he absolutely berated his wide man, and then got embroiled in an ongoing slanging match with his own player to the point you could see the negative effect it then had on the player in terms of his on field body language and performance for the rest of the half! Textbook coaching right there! Lennon also loves a confrontation with a fourth official or a linesman if he happens to be in the vicinity of the technical area. Nothing unusual about that, but on a number of occasions here Lennon seemed to play off the crowd first before unleashing his remonstrations with the officials. It was pantomime villain kind of stuff, and all seemed rather contrived rather than reactionary. To me it came across like he just wanted to make sure the fans could see how much he “cared”.

A final quick word on the atmosphere at Easter Road. Earlier this season, Hibs set up a new singing section in the upper left side of the Famous Five Stand. It now houses the ‘Since 1875’ fan group who do their best to create a decent match day atmosphere as well as wave a few large ultra style flags. Sadly the rest of the ground doesn’t seem that interested, and as a result the atmosphere can seem a bit flat, or at least it did on this occasion. Credit to the club though for backing the fan group and trying to work with the supporters to improve the match day atmosphere inside the ground. I’d love to come back here one day and experience the Edinburgh derby versus Hearts, as I’m sure that would have a lot more about it.

Top right – the ‘Since 1875’ fan group doing their best to improve the atmosphere inside Easter Road…

Moonlight on Leith: A ‘pano’ from Easter Road.

 

 

 

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