18/1/20 Hearts v Airdrieonians, Scottish Cup 4th Round, The Air Was Turned Maroon.

Standing at the bus stop at just after 5 in the morning, I say morning, it was way before daybreak, if it’s dark, then it’s really still night time, and my body was arguing with my mind, over why the one had dragged the other out of a nice warm bed, in the pursuit of dubious pleasure. Compromise was arrived at, the perpetrator would allow it’s reluctant accomplice to sleep on the train. By the time I’d reached New Street, the body had woken up, and it was hungry, so I got something to eat and something to read for the train. It was still dark when a box of Corona was escorted onto the train and plonked down on the table I had secured at Brum, at Wigan, I could only think that the shop had run out of Carling. Spotting a Wigan Athletic badge amongst the Stone Island labels, I looked on the BBC website, they’d got Swansea away, much that it was early, or late, depending on your definition of night, they were either on the wrong train, and going in the wrong direction, or The Lattics were going to have to do without this bunch. As we sped through snow covered mountain tops, I wasn’t quick enough to move out of the way as one of the oafs clumsily knocked his bottle over whilst using his hands to help describe what he was uttering, if having a fizzy chemical covered, wet leg wasn’t bad enough, they offered me one of the offending things, by way of apology, I declined. For the rest of the journey, I kept a very close eye on his hands when he said anything, absolutely anything. Thankfully, my jeans had dried out by the time I touched down at Haymarket, and went to collect my ticket.

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“Don’t look so down Christophe, least you don’t have to pretend your knees still work anymore”

Looking around the club shop, I really deliberated over buying a reproduction Umbro away shirt from the mid 80s, I mean I really deliberated, the badge was embroidered, the Umbro emblem was embroidered, but there was one thing that stopped me, it hadn’t got the original sponsorship. I’m a stickler for details, I can’t stand sponsorship on shirts, but if they’d have had the sponsorship of the time on it, I would have bought it. Coming out, I decided on The Roseburn to wet my whistle.

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“A reminder of happier times”

The Roseburn is a lovely old pub, just as lovingly cared for too, a pub that loves its sports, especially if those sports are football, rugby Union and golf, one of the three televisions in there, will always be showing golf from somewhere around the world, whether live or highlights, the Scots certainly love their golf, take golf and whisky away from the Scots, and you’ll have serious problems. I pondered on getting the bus into town and take in a couple of places but I fancied checking out Thompson’s Bar as I hadn’t been in for a while.

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“Someone liked to carve wood”

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“All this alcohol advertising enticement, it’s making me thirsty”

I was also getting hungry again, so leaving the wonderful Thompson’s, I headed for the Hobos place, or the Diggers to give it, it’s nickname, or The Athletic Arms to give it, its proper name. Stewart’s Diggers 80/ and a packet of crisps, yeah ok, it was a steak pie, not a pack of crisps, I was hungry, I was never going to turn my nose up at one of those cleverly, carefully constructed gastronomic steak pies. Besides, I can’t get a pie anywhere near as good down in England. In fact, I’m not entirely sure that they’re not allowed to leave Scotland. It was whilst in the Diggers that Jinksy posted on the WhatsApp group that Ian was back in it, awww, he’d missed us. There were a few faces, no colours, that I didn’t recognise in the pub, I can tell accents down in England, down to the nearest 20 miles in some cases, I can’t yet in Scotland, those faces belonged to Airdrie fans, and they let themselves be known with a few songs. I don’t think they’d have got away with it in Dickens Bar or the Tynecastle Arms, but they were on safe ground in the Diggers. I suppose it’s because I’m relatively new to watching Hearts, and I don’t get to watch them enough, but I didn’t want to miss kickoff, though I’d left it too late to pick up a programme, it served me right for not picking one up at the shop earlier.

I wondered what sort of crowd there’d be, it was on the back of the winter break, and it was early in the reign of Stendal admittedly, but with Blues only getting 7,000 plus v Blackburn in the FA Cup, I wasn’t expecting the crowd there was, the Wheatfield was almost fall, and I wasn’t expecting that to even be open.

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“What on earth?”

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“Good grief!”

Hearts hit early, Irving with a low finish, just inside the far post. Even with going behind so early, Airdrie didn’t capitulate, and they battled hard, Hearts lost both Aaron Hickey and Michael Smith through injury by half time, a half that threw up a number of spurned chances, more for Hearts than Airdrie, but enough for Airdrie to have equalised. Second half and Hearts had the ball in the net again, but in all honesty, even from the other end of the pitch, it looked offside. A minute or so later, one did count a sweet volley from just inside the penalty area from Sean Clare made it two, Hearts were on top, and yeah, I know it was against a side that was two divisions below, but Airdrie are currently sitting third in League one, only two points off the top, and Hearts…..well enough said the better about how their seasons gone, but there was a difference about how the boys in maroon were playing, Naismith made it 3:0, another good move after some more of that pressing game lark, the forth goal brought Euan Henderson’s first goal for Hearts, I couldn’t judge whether all the players were trying to impress their new manager, or whether his coaching had impacted on them, but there was a hunger to their play, Airdrie weren’t playing badly, 4:0 was harsh on them, though it could’ve easily have been more, 4:0 became 5:0 in added time, when Craig Halkett found space by the penalty spot, and finished low past the keeper. There was just enough time for the DJ to celebrate by playing the Hawaii 5 0 jingle, you could even hear the dust, as the referee blew the final whistle and put an end to Airdrieonians misery.

The Diggers is just the right kind of pub to go back to after the match, you can catch the results on the telly as you get served, and the beers good. You can then sup your beer as you watch whatever live game is on. On the downside, because the pub gets busy to the point of people having to stand on each other’s shoulders, you do have to develop a way of folding your drinking elbow in between your ribs so your pint doesn’t get knocked before you’ve had chance to drink it. I said farewell to Embra, and putting my headphones in, fell asleep on the train, waking up at Carlisle, Lancaster and Preston, before totally missing Wigan, Warrington Bank Quay, and Crewe, before waking up at Stafford, dosing between there, Wolverhampton and Brum.

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