August 04, 2022 4 min read
Seventy-five years ago in 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival launched as a way to bring culture and the arts back to a ravaged Europe. The city was picked for the quantity of concert halls and outdoor venues for classical music, ballet and drama. The Fringe festival soon sprung up to offer punters less formal entertainment such as comedy and quirkier drama. Today, it boasts a packed programme of cabaret, staged or improvised performance, kids shows and stand-up.
One of the most amazing cultural experiences in all the world is a stroll down the Royal Mile in the city, hopefully without it being too wet or too hot. You will be accosted by flyers, a cappella groups, street performers, tour guides and selfie sticks, and there’s no ticket required!
At Tynecastle this Sunday, a few miles to the west of the bustling High Street, the first Edinburgh derby of the season will take place between Hearts and Hibernian. It might not have the same box-office draw as Frank Skinner, Arthur Smith or Omid Djalili, but it’ll at least be 90 minutes long and you won’t feel awkward walking out early.
This fixture has been played for 150 years, the first one taking place on the Meadows in 1875 and won by Hearts. By 1960, the Edinburgh sides had won their fair share of trophies; in fact, Hibs were the first British club to play in the European Cup because England refused to allow the First Division winners to enter the inaugural tournament.
New Year’s Day 2023 will mark 50 years since Hibs beat Hearts 7-0 in a famous victory at Tynecastle with a team that included the great Pat Stanton. Aside from two seasons with Celtic which brought his retirement through injury, Stanton played for Hibs his entire career after coming through the youth ranks, making one short of 400 appearances.
Happily for the Jam Tarts, Hearts trounced Hibs 5-1 in the Scottish Cup Final of 2012, which sent a vast chunk of Edinburgh over to Glasgow to watch the game. Hibs played the second half with ten men after Pa Kujabi was sent off, following which Hearts scored twice to take a 4-1 lead and wrap up the game 40 minutes from the final whistle. Czech striker Rudi Skacel added his second goal 15 minutes from the end, then departed a few months later for Dundee United. His fellow medal-winners included players from Australia (Ryan McGowan), Spain (Suso Santana) and Lithuania (Marius Zaliukas).
The first game of the new season brought wins for both sides. Hearts beat Ross County 2-1 at home, while Hibs went up to Perth and beat 10-man St Johnstone with a last-minute winner from Josh Campbell, their only shot on target. Goalkeeper David Marshall, one of the best goalkeepers in Scotland, has returned north of the border after 15 years in England playing for Norwich, Cardiff, Hull, Wigan, Derby and, most recently, QPR. Portuguese youth international Jair Tavares might not be with Hibs for long, having signed from Benfica’s B team, but he may well end up a cult hero if he scores the necessary goals this season.
Marshall knows his opposite number at Hearts very well. Craig Gordon will turn 40 on New Year’s Eve. The pair competed for the number one jersey for the national team. Gordon spent two years out with injury between 2012 and 2014, moving from Sunderland to Celtic when he could play again, and in 2020 he re-signed for the team he kept goal for in the 2000s.
Gordon’s new team-mates for this season include Kye Rowles, who made his debut for Australia over summer and is trying his luck in Scotland, and Lawrence Shankland. Born in Glasgow, he is well-known to fans of Queen’s Park, Aberdeen, St Mirren, Ayr United and Dundee United. He also has a handful of international caps.
This latest episode in Hearts v Hibs takes place at a healthy time for Scottish football. Even though the national team missed out on qualification for Qatar, there is a wealth of young talent coming through. Champions League winner Andy Robertson is captain of the national team and may well have been a secret agent in the signing of Calvin Ramsay from Aberdeen. Kieran Tierney is praying for better fitness this season at Arsenal, while Billy Gilmour has returned to Chelsea after a tough year at Norwich City which ended in relegation. Scott McTominay will try to impress his new manager at Manchester United, where former Scotland captain and Edinburgh lad Darren Fletcher works in a Director of Football role.
The young Scottish talent at the two Edinburgh sides include Josh Campbell, Lewis Stevenson and Ewan Henderson at Hibs, who will try to reverse some tough recent results against their rivals from across the city. Two goalless draws last season were followed by a 3-1 loss which kept the sides separate after the league split for the final five fixtures.
Today’s Hearts squad includes a handful of Scots from outside Edinburgh: winger Barrie McKay (born in Paisley), defender Stephen Kingsley (Stirling) and promising recent signing Lewis Neilson (Dundee). In recent years, Hearts have been owned by their fans, who are careful to grow the club organically without massive cash injections. Manager Robbie Neilson is a club legend who returned to the club as manager in 2020, linking the past and the present.
In the opposite dugout will be Lee Johnson, son of former coach Gary, who is in his fifth managerial role having left Sunderland early in 2022. Bizarrely, Lee played four games for Hearts in 2006 before his dad signed him for Bristol City. He will hope to guide Hibs to a top-six finish after the team’s struggles in 2021/22, where they only scored 38 times.