It is fair to say that this week has been a very challenging and revealing one.
Challenging in the sense that the opportunity to win our first Scottish Cup in seven years has passed us by.
Revealing in how the blame for the aftermath has shifted the further the week has developed.
Not that the majority of us did not see it coming. On the way home from Hampden on Saturday I bumped into a fellow Bear whom I have known for 27 years. I warned him then that they would try to pin the aftermath on us – to which he agreed – and sure enough it has slowly come to pass.
The distortion started almost immediately. With many non-friends of Rangers questioning if the assaults that were carried out on the several players and staff actually happened despite strong video evidence, eyewitnesses and the claims from Rangers themselves.
Then the focus was put on the very small number of Rangers supporters who had entered the pitch. This view supported through the claim that Hibs supporters were on the park to celebrate and Rangers supporters, having lost the match, were on it for more sinister reasons?
This argument is redundant.
Why? Well, firstly because in all my years of watching and attending cup finals in this country I have never once witnessed fans coming on the pitch to celebrate a victory. It just doesn’t happen.
Hibs fans and others then tried to claim the relevance of the win – their first Scottish Cup in 114 years – made this occasion unique and called for extra “exuberance” and that excuses the pitch invasion to a certain degree.
Well I was at Hampden in 1994 when Dundee Utd defeated us to win their first ever Scottish Cup and the United fans didn’t feel the need to come on to the park.
I was at Celtic Park in ’98 when Hearts won their first Scottish Cup in long number of years and, again, there was no pitch invasion.
St Johnstone won their first ever Scottish Cup a couple of years back at Celtic Park and they managed to celebrate the occasion without breaching the barriers and entering the field of play.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle won their first ever Scottish Cup last season against Falkirk in fairly late and dramatic circumstances and their supporters didn’t invade the field, and Ross County won their first ever major trophy in March against Hibs with a late and dramatic winner and, yet again, the fans managed to restrain themselves from entering the park.
Indeed the last example is striking as it would have been interesting to hear Rod Petrie’s views if the Ross County fans had entered the field of play, assaulted six Hibernian players, fought with opposing fans and tore up the pitch and tore down the goals. I think it is fair to suggest he would he would have adopted a stronger tone to the one he displayed on Saturday.
Secondly, a good number of Hibs supporters made their way to the Rangers end to deliberately provoke. They were, in effect, looking for trouble. The small number of Rangers supporters who responded should be found and appropriately punished. But the fact remains that if there is no pitch invasion by the Hibernian supporters then NONE of the issues that followed happen. It really is that simple.
So we can dispense with the notion that Rangers fans were to blame for the problems inside the stadium.
As the week has progressed the usual suspects have done all they can to deflect what had happened and point to the usual complaints about Rangers supporters; mainly that sectarian songs were once again aired.
The issue surrounding certain songs that an element within the support continue to air is not one that should be ignored. But on this occasion the main concern was surely that football players were assaulted in what is technically their workplace? Apparently not.
Instead the focus by a good many was on songs being sung and then the official statement from issued by Rangers. I have to say, I did have some issues with Rangers’ statement and felt it didn’t entirely helped matters. Overall it was on the money, but aspects of it – particularly defending the Rangers supporters who were involved – undermined our case, in my opinion.
But however unwelcome sectarian singing is and however misdirected, in parts, the official press release from Rangers was, these were not the main issues to come out of Saturday – but many we’re trying desperately to make them so.
The big push for deflection came on Thursday when the Daily Record, through their journalist Jane Hamilton, published a story that claimed that Rangers supporters had deliberately obstructed the police outside the ground from getting to the unfolding drama inside the stadium and that was why their response was so slow.
I was at the game with my 11 year old son; we were in the West Stand behind the goal. Our original plan was to see the players collect their medals win or lose. I immediately took stock on that idea when the Hibs supporters piled onto the park. To me, it seemed obvious the they would make their towards us – and they did.
The minute they reached our goal and the anger in and around us intensified, I grabbed my son and we made a quick exit. My immediate priority was getting him out of the ground, as I genuinely feared things were going to take a real bad turn based on the amount of Hibs fans that were now down at our end.
We came out of the stadium onto Somerville Drive. There was a line of police there, none of whom were making any attempt to get into the stadium, they were simply blocking access to Lindores St.
As I passed them I expressed my view to one them quite categorically. They had done nothing to prevent thousands of Hibs fans entering the field of play and making their way towards us, and that they were still doing nothing.
As we got to the end of Somerville Drive and onto Cathcart Rd we passed several police riot vans. They weren’t going anywhere fast but that was purely down to the amount of people, ironically something that could have been avoided if fans weren’t blocked from entering Lindores St.
The entire road was packed though I never seen anyone trying to obstruct the vans deliberately. I actually thought myself at the time why would a ‘rapid response’ riot team be based so far away from the stadium? And if they had to be based so far from the stadium, why had they chosen a route to get to the stadium that brought them into direct collision with thousands of fans of the losing side who were leaving the stadium in their droves? Why not head to Hampden via the east side of the stadium, particularly given the police moved to the stadium from Prospecthill Rd, which provides access to Hampden from both east and west routes?
None of Ms Hamilton’s and the Record’s story made any sense to me, particularly the claims that everyone on the Cathcart Rd was involved and that we were “using children” as blockades.
I approached Ms Hamilton on Twitter informing her I was on Cathcart Rd and it would maybe worth speaking to me and others like me to get our views. I was blocked by Ms Hamilton instantly. That’s journalistic integrity for you in Scotland, I suppose.
Even as I sit writing this piece the integrity of the story is starting to fall apart at the seams, however it is worthwhile asking why such a story managed to see the light of day.
Well the contents of Ms Hamilton’s Twitter page – with more than a few references to “H*ns” – would provide a clue as to why as a journalist she was prepared to run it. But who and in Police Scotland provided her with her copy and why?
There are definite lines of enquiries with the regards to the who currently doing the rounds. As to the why, it is maybe worth remembering that Police Scotland is severely tarnished organisation that simply couldn’t afford another high profile failure on its hands.
In the last year alone there have been several high profile controversies, including the infamous M9 crash which resulted in Police Scotland chief Sir Stephen House stepping down. The simple truth is Police Scotland needs another high profile failing like it needs a hole in the head, and it looks like someone within the organisation saw an opportunity to deflect attention away from their failings and found a journalist in Ms Hamilton who was willing to run with it.
Whatever the case may be, I’m sure it’ll all come out in the wash. I mean in this CCTV, mobile phone age, there are cameras everywhere and if what Ms Hamilton claimed in the Record is true then I’m pretty sure the footage will appear to back that up very soon.
If, however, as I suspect based on what I saw, the story is a fabrication – then it is further proof that that many in this country have taken up what now appears the national pastime of hating Rangers to scarily unhealthy levels.
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