Easter Road - Hibernian
Wednesday January 26th, 2011
V Rangers, Premier League, 7.45pm
By Jim Prentice
1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):
As with Edinburgh rivals Hearts, I had wanted to get to get to Easter Road for a good few years but a trip there had eluded me for various reasons. One of my mates moved up to the Scottish capital just after the season started, so having promised I'd go up to see him at some point, I thought I'd combine it with a visit to the home of the Hibees - another ground to tick off the list!
I was also looking forward to a couple of days away in Edinburgh and to having a few beers with my friend, but was also anticipating a good match and also wanted to see the new East Stand, which was opened back in August and completed the redevelopment of Easter Road.
2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?
I took a 9.30am train from my home in Lincoln to Doncaster and had about an hour's wait (due to a delay) before getting the connection and arriving in Edinburgh at just after 2.00pm. We grabbed a late lunch and then had a few beers at one or two pubs on and around the Royal Mile. Soon realising it was gtting close to kick-off, my mate made his way home (he didn't want to come to the game!) and I headed off to Easter Road. I walked back to Waverley station and then walked up Leith Walk before taking a right turn along London Road. After about 3/4 mile, I took a left down Easter Road, where I saw lots of home and away fans. I had to collect my ticket from a mate outside the ground but got there with a few minutes to spare. The ground was pretty easy to find, but parking around Easter Road seemed rather sparse!
3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?
There were quite a few food outlets on Easter Road itself and there are even more on Leith Walk. There are a few pubs around the ground, but if you have time then central Edinburgh is good for a drink. Having had enough to drink before walking in the general direction of the stadium, I grabbed a fish supper from a chippy and then walked off to the away end, the South Stand, grabbing a match programme on the way. It was a freezing cold January night and consequently I didn't see that many Hibs fans as a lot of them seemed to have hurried inside the ground! Rangers and Hibs fans have had a bit of needle over the years, so they were perhaps best avoided!
4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?
The stands looked pretty tall from the outside and, once inside, I was impressed with the look of the whole ground. The away end, which is identical to the North Stand behind the other goal, is a double decker structure, with a slightly larger upper tier than the lower portion. The rows of seats were quite steep and, combined with pretty decent legroom, gave an excellent view of the action, free of supporting pillars. The only strange thing about this stand is that one corner of the upper tier is a bit smaller than the other due to a bend in the road behind it (a less extreme version of the old 'chocolate box' stand at Southampton's old Dell ground). The ground as a whole is, apart from the green seats (!) looking really smart these days, the whole of Easter Road having been gradually rebuilt since the mid-1990s. The North, South and West stands are pretty much identical, while the new East Stand is single-tiered but still looks quite big and very smart.
5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..
I grabbed a pie and a coffee at half time and, as well as a total lack of any queuing system, the service was pretty shoddy and the quality of food below average at best, although the toilets at least looked to be fairly clean! The stewards were pretty relaxed throughout but the atmosphere from the home fans was poor. The Rangers fans sang throughout most of the game, but the Hibs fans seemed to be pretty quiet - they were going through a pretty lean spell at the time and all seemed to be dotted about the stadium rather than packed into a partisan mass.
Rangers had somehow lost 1-0 at Tynecastle the previous weekend (despite battering Hearts for most of the game) and knew they had to make amends against a Hibs side that was struggling for goals and looked low on confidence. Rangers started the game in control but without exerting their authority until defender Madjid Bougherra's shot from the edge of the box had Hibs keeper (and former Light Blue) Graeme Smith well beaten for the opener on 25 minutes. Ten minutes later, Nikica Jelavic, just back in the team after being injured for four months, seized upon an underhit backpass to Smith from Celtic loanee Richie Towell (how fitting!), rounded Smith and made it two. The rest of the game was a bit of a non-event - Hibs were never really in it and Rangers took their foot off the gas and the only question was whether their were going to raise the bar and add to their two goals. As it happened, they merely kept Hibs at bay and ended up 2-0 winners, securing a valuable three points in their quest for a third consecutive SPL title.
6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:
I said goodbye to some mates and made my way over a tiny little bridge (which was a real squash as a lot of other Rangers fans were going back this way to their supporters' buses!) back on to Easter Road and made my way back into Edinburgh. The police were out to direct traffic away from the stadium but it all seemed to clear fairly quickly. I met my mate on Princes Street and then went for a wee dram nightcap before going back to his and turning in for the night - it felt amazing to be able to go to sleep just 2-3 hours after a Rangers match rather than being faced with a long journey home - that was reserved for the next day!
7. Summary of overall thoughts of the night out:
Easter Road is a very smart and well-built ground and will serve Hibs well for years to come. It is perhaps more functional than rivals Hearts' ground, but I can't help preferring Tynecastle to Easter Road given that it retains a bit more of a touch of history and tradition. I very much enjoyed having a few pints of Edinburgh's array of ales, along with a couple of single malts, and had a good night out overall and an easy, if a bit long, journey home the following day. I'd be more than happy to go back to Easter Road again one day, but perhaps after I've managed to get to a few more 'new' stadia. Yet another ground off my list!.
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