The “Derby of the Century” surprised everybody. No-one could seriously have anticipated either the scoreline or the gulf between the 2 Edinburgh teams at Hampden on Saturday. The game was over with 35 minutes remaining, after Hearts had doubled their goal tally and Hibs had been reduced to 10 men.
Some fans who watched on TV have mentioned that it was a disappointing spectacle – and certainly for those of us at the game, the second half did have a rather surreal feel about it. Were we really witnessing a Cup Final victory amidst the total collapse of our rivals ? I had expected a close game, with Hibs possibly even the more determined team on account of their chance to turn a very poor season into a memorable one. In the end however, it was our “up and down” season which was turned into a fantastic one by the best Hearts team performance of the year.
Many players chose Saturday to rise above the ordinary – Ryan McGowan, Ian Black, Danny Grainger and Andrew Driver were all immense. And our talisman Rudi Skacel continued his personal devastation of Hibs with 2 sublime strikes which only he could have executed.
Even Pat Fenlon and Billy Brown admitted afterwards that Hibs players were not performing at a high enough level to compete with Hearts.
The previous Cup Final record score was 6-1 (Celtic`s win against Hibs in 1972) and many of us were urging Hearts to get another goal to equal it. When Craig Beattie came on with 20 minutes to go, that looked a distinct possibility. In the end, Hearts seemed to take pity on their 10-man opponents by taking their foot off the gas and just seeing the game through to the final whistle.
As I had hoped, the Hearts supporters won the vocal battle long before the start of the match, and the players certainly responded. The great atmosphere was focused on urging the team on – but it became a carnival celebration after an hour when the game ended as a contest.
Already, it seems that Stephen Elliott and Gary Glen have been released – with Ian Black having decided to look elsewhere for a good wage. No official word about Rudi yet – but in the light of the financial problems at Hearts, it seems likely that Hampden was his farewell.
Yet, can we really be comfortable about losing such an inspiring player who contributes 15 goals a season ? If money is the issue, the search for sponsorship to help fund some of his wages should be a priority for supporters groups – I`d certainly contribute !! Rudi is quite simply the most effective attacking player to grace Tynecastle since the days of Colquhoun and Robertson.
Well done to the Hearts coaching staff and the players – more days like that please !!