Our Home is Our Tynecastle
With gale force winds and torrential rain sweeping across the majority of the country yesterday, our game against Inverness was one of many fixtures to suffer. Personally, I have to confess to being pretty relieved when I woke up at 8am to discover that the 7.30am pitch inspection had led to the postponement. Considering how much of an effect last week’s arguably tamer weather had on proceedings in Motherwell (albeit producing a surprisingly entertaining game) yesterday’s conditions were different gravy altogether and as a spectacle, would have been torturous for all involved.
Unfortunately, unless the fixture is swiftly re-arranged, the call-off means our next scheduled home game isn’t until after Christmas when Celtic come to town. Between now and then, we have two tough away games against our closest challengers Aberdeen and St Johnstone, so it’s frustrating to have missed out on the chance to register a morale-boosting win ahead of three pivotal games.
With no on-field action to muse over this weekend, therefore, it seems like a good opportunity to focus on the important off-field events that have taken place at the club over the past few days. If you asked me to choose one event that best epitomises the seismic shift in mood around Heart of Midlothian Football Club in the past couple of years, the Annual General Meeting would be the most fitting. Under the respective stewardships of Chris Robinson and Vladimir Romanov, the AGM were tense affairs characterised by smokescreens and deflected questions, most notably towards the latter stages of each man’s reign when matters were reaching the point of desperation and uncertainty over the club’s very existence was at its highest.
By contrast, the first two AGMs of the Ann Budge era have been refreshingly honest and transparent, adding to the positivity which has been reverberating round the club since the day she took over. In that short period of time, Budge has demonstrated business acumen her predecessors could only have dreamt of, with several landmark decisions restoring the kind of goodwill that seemed to have deserted the club.
The most recent and arguably most significant of those came at Thursday’s meeting when it was announced that the club will be staying at Tynecastle and is already underway with plans to rebuild the Main Stand. At a time when the more traditional “old school” football grounds are making way for characterless, generic pop-up stadiums, the fact that one of the country’s biggest clubs plans to stay at its historic, atmospheric home should be seen as a massive bonus to Scottish football as a whole. As Robbie Neilson put it:
“The club, the staff, the players and even opposition fans will be delighted, because it is one of the best stadiums to visit. As a young kid coming through the ground staff, you watch a lot of games and it’s a great atmosphere, but I remember the Stuttgart game. It was one of the first I played in; a full house under the floodlights, which was incredible. I also played at Murrayfield when it was moved there for the Champions League and it was night and day. There were 25,000 at that game but it felt like 3,000 because of the size of the stadium. So to stay at Tynecastle and redevelop it is fantastic… the fans are right on top of everything and I think the new stand will take it to a new level.”
For Hearts fans in particular, not only is this the best news to come from the Budge regime to date, it represents a huge relief after more than a decade of uncertainty over the future of the stadium (due in no small part to the rhetoric of our incompetent previous owners). When you are told how unviable it is for your club to remain at its spiritual home as often as we have, you definitely start to question the possibility of a positive outcome. Thankfully, now that the club is in the hands of a regime that has the club’s best interests at heart — a regime that has carefully planned and orchestrated the successful rebuilding of the club so far — there is no reason to doubt the feasibility of this latest project.
There are, however, some sections of the Scottish football community who will be less enthused by this announcement, namely our easterly city neighbours, many of whom have spent the past few of days drowning in their own tears and snotters while trying to comprehend why their soothsaying powers have abandoned them once again. I am referring, of course, to the many Hearts-related doomsday predictions our green and white subordinates have peddled in recent years.
According to those predictions, the day of reckoning for Heart of Midlothian FC was to be the famous “Relegation Derby” in March 2014, when the party hat-wearing oddballs turned up clutching balloons in the giddy hope of seeing their team rubber-stamp our drop to the Championship and eventual oblivion. As we all know, this “party” quickly turned into somewhat of a “Relegation Rain Dance” and like a hapless Loony Toons villain attempting to destroy the hero of the piece, the little mites’ efforts backfired.
However, long before hopes of relegating us had even entered their deluded minds, another theory they regularly levelled at us was that Tynecastle was destined to become a Cala Homes development or the latest 24-hour Tesco. Admittedly, regardless of how much we out-performed them on and off the pitch since coming out of administration (itself a situation Hibs fans tried and failed to sabotage) the stadium issue was one that seemed to linger precariously. Thursday’s news, however, has swept away the last crumb of solace that remained in the green half of the city’s desperate attempt at one-upmanship. The sanctimonious laughter has faded overnight, replaced by the familiar sound of choking and spluttering as another piece of good news from Tynecastle inspires uncontrollable seethe from our rivals.
Given the dedicated interest Hibs supporters have shown in our stadium for over a decade, it got me wondering about the most appropriate ways in which we could mark the eventual opening of the new Main Stand and repay their concern. Sale of the naming rights has already been discussed as a possible commercial revenue stream, but if we were to go down the route of naming the stand after a player, there are several Edinburgh derby icons who would represent a fitting tribute to our rivals — the John Robertson Stand, the Paul Hartley Stand, the Rudi Skacel Stand…heck, why not the Zibi Malkowski Stand?
Simply naming the stand in their honour is perhaps not enough though. Our Hibee chums have lived for over a decade under the impression that Tynecastle was destined for rubble, and when you’ve convinced yourself for as long as they have that something will never materialise and it eventually does, you often need to see or feel it in order to believe it. On that basis, I believe Ann Budge should extend the goodwill to our neighbours and allocate their travelling support a section in the new stand for the first derby after the red tape is cut (assuming of course that they’ve been promoted by then). Only then will the realisation truly sink in for them.
That’s all for today. Enjoy what remains of your weekend!
Originally published at maroonspecs.wordpress.com on December 6, 2015.