I still have a clear memory of my first visit to Easter Road. Age 11, taken by my uncle to Hibs v Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup, Feb 18th, 1967, in front of 29000. We went in the enclosure in front of the stand. Berwick had knocked out the Big Rangers in the ‘Greatest Shock of all Time’ on Jan 28th while Hibs had disposed of Brechin City by 2-0. Player/manager Jock Wallace saved a penalty from Jim Scott but Scott got the only goal of the game. Kenny Dowds had a goal disallowed for Berwick.
By the quarter finals, I had worked out how to get to Easter Road on my own so went early with my mate Davie Blaikie for the game at home to Aberdeen. By about one o’clock we were down at the front of the massive East terracing and we were unable to move from there till the game ended. Aberdeen scored late to salvage a 1-1 draw in front of nearly 40000 and won the replay 3-0. Anybody who remembers that terracing will tell you how massive it was. I saw a few games against Hearts where it was pretty packed with about 40000 in the ground, although the record is 65860 v Hearts in 1950.
I mentioned my uncle. Marshall Mills was a keen Hibs fan as a young boy but played for Gala Fairydean and Penicuik Athletic amongst others. He was the captain of the Penicuik side which reached the semi final of the Scottish Junior Cup in 1966 but lost 1-0 to Bonnyrigg Rose at Tynecastle. As a young lad I would spend Saturday nights at my Gran’s house in Gilmerton and sleep in Marshall’s old room, reading his old football books till I fell asleep, and my Gran would find me in the morning fast asleep with a book over my chin. I inherited 3 complete bound seasons of Hibs programmes. These were from the early fifties and as many people will know, the Hibs programme back then was large, around A4 size although it was only half that size when I was growing up. They also produced programmes for reserve games. Tragically my uncle was to die suddenly on Christmas day at the age of 46. Despite all his efforts he never converted me to a fully fledged Hibby but I did return many times over the years.
Once Davie and I turned up at ER for a reserve game against Rangers. In those days the first team and reserves played on the same day at reversed venues. Before the ground was open we queued outside the Main Stand (which we’d never been in before) and this guy came out looking for ball boys. So six of us got in free and I spent the day chasing footballs up the empty Dunbar end. The Hibs keeper was Willie Wilson and the Rangers had the great Billy Ritchie who had fallen out of favour for Norrie Martin. Both of them were good and chatted to us while the ball was away. I think we got in for a cup of tea at half time but I could be imagining this…
The Dunbar lemonade works in Albion Road was owned by Sir John Dunbar who I think was Lord Provost of Edinburgh. I worked for his son Greig Dunbar when he opened The Steading at Hillend in 1972 from an old ruin. It was a great idea for a pub but as ‘mine host’ Greig wasn’t the greatest and as a boozer it never really took off until it changed hands.
The Dunbar End had the scoreboard which was common in football grounds back then. In your match programme each fixture had a letter so at half time somebody actually hung the numbers on the board to tell you the score, e.g. Airdrie-Hearts might be F, so you would get F 4-0 on the board.
Another great memory is October 1969. Hibs took on Aston Villa in a friendly. I thought Villa were a decent side back then and they won 4-1 including a peach of a goal from Bruce Rioch. Checking up, I find they were relegated to Division 3 at the end of that season so not so good as I thought. After the game my mate and I, both 14, were on the Villa team bus collecting autographs and chatting away to the players who were brand new. However all that changed when boss Tommy Docherty was spotted and we were advised to hop it quickly!
Maybe Hibs played a weakened side that night as in those days they were more than a match for anybody. They narrowly went out in the last 16 of the Fairs’ Cup to a very physical Leeds side in 1968, losing 1-0 at Elland Road and leading most of the return game by a 4th minute Colin Stein goal in front of 40503. Then the goalkeeper Willie Wilson was penalised under the new “4 step rule” and Jackie Charlton nodded in the equaliser with 6 minutes left. Leeds went on to win the Cup, beating Rangers and Dundee on the way.
Back then these European nights at Easter Road were taken for granted. To a teenager, names such as Hamburger SV, Lokomotiv Leipzig, Olimpija Ljubljana and FC Porto were as exotic as you could ever imagine, although you can now get cheap flights to all these places and would probably go to the away matches.
No account of the great Hibs teams in Europe would be complete without mentioning the night they destroyed Napoli 5-0. 4-1 down from the first leg in Naples, With goals from Bobby Duncan, Pat Quinn, Peter Cormack, Pat Stanton and Colin Stein flying past Dino Zoff without return, Hibs won 6-4 on aggregate. Napoli committed 21 fouls in the first half and later on Gerardo was sent off for kicking Eric Stevenson. Hibs: Wilson; Duncan, Davis, Stanton, Madsen, McGraw, Scott, Quinn, Stein, Cormack, Stevenson.
Or the short spell that the club had the great George Best :in season 79-80 Georgie boy signed but his appearances were limited to 17, and I was lucky enough to see the flawed genius inspire Hibs to a 2-1 victory over Rangers at xmas 1979.
Two of my best experiences at ER didn’t involve Hibs at all. One was in 1996 when Whitehill Welfare faced Celtic in round 3 of the Scottish. The team from Rosewell managed to sell 1500 tickets and nearly held Celtic till half time, but van Hooijdonk scored after 40 minutes. Two late goals made it a bit more respectable for the big team. Whitehill had 9 coaches from the village and I have to admit to winding up a wee lad in a Celtic scarf on the way back when I said Whitehill had got 4 goals of a start since they were 4 divisions below. I think his dad stopped him from having a good greet…
The other time was seeing ICT reach the League Cup final in 2014, beating Hearts on penalties after going down to 9 men and Nick Ross equalising in stoppage time. Jamie Hamill had been giving the ICT support some stick so it was sweet to see him miss his spot kick before Ross Draper put ICT through.
Just mentioning Eric Stevenson reminds me of the time Hibs played Dunfermline in December 1968. Hibs attacked down the slope and Eric cut in from the left and shot. Everybody in the ground saw his shot hit the side netting, except poor Eric who ran round behind the goals celebrating, while everybody else was laughing.
Many years later, I played in a tournament out at Lasswade Rugby Club who had the veteran Eric starring for them as a guest player. Eric had a newsagent’s at Poltonhall for many years. After beating the Civil Service and the Army, we faced Eric’s team in the final. The whole thing seemed staged as the ref denied us a few decisions and disallowed a goal, and the home team blatantly time-wasted and won 1-0, but they let us drink from the cup in the showers and they were all decent lads. Anyway, during the game Eric came in to tackle me and as I drew the ball back, he whipped the legs from me. There was a pretty big crowd along the touchlines and half of them gave Eric some stick for being dirty. I decided to cash in on this, so as I placed the ball for the free kick, I said “He can’t help it if he’s played for the Hibs”. But I had forgotten the other half of the crowd, who were screaming “At least he’s played for somebody, you big skinny bastard!” Happy days.
North Stand, South Stand – Capacity ~4000 each, built 1995
West Stand – Capacity unknown, was 6500 in 2001
East Stand – Capacity 6400, built 2010
The famous 6′ 3″ slope had been there since Hibs moved in in 1893 and was removed after the North and South stands were built.