The atmosphere at the New Year Edinburgh derby last month was frenetic. A hotbed of local emotion, Tynecastle was at its noisiest and for the most part fans of both clubs behaved themselves. However, it’s well documented there were a couple of unsavoury incidents in the second half involving fans and this prompted a statement from the Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill that the Edinburgh derby should no longer be played on an evening in order to prevent such incidents happening again. I’m not so sure the timing of the kick off had anything to do with what happened and in any case, Lothian and Borders Police praised the behaviour of both sets of fans afterwards, stating there had just been two arrests.
From my vantage point in the Wheatfield Stand, what struck me - if you’ll forgive the pun - was the reaction of many fans, particularly to the incident with the ball boy. The first reaction of many, it would appear, was to film the alleged perpetrator with an array of mobile phones, digital cameras etc. Thanks to the age of the internet and instant mobile communication, it was just a matter of minutes before the incident was broadcast on YouTube to potentially a worldwide audience. My fellow Hearts supporter sat next to me, Bill, remarked to me that it was a sign of the times that fans pulled out their mobile phones to film such scenes. Identifying the suspect and alerting stewards or the police might have been thought a better option but it was indeed a reflection of the age we live in that recording the reaction was deemed more important than shopping the instigator.
The aforementioned Bill is enjoying his retirement years while I reached the half century last year and we both recall the era before mobile phones and the internet when communication wasn’t quite so instant. Like the majority of Hearts supporters attending the magnificent all-seated arena that is Tynecastle these days, I have my mobile phone with me. With mobile internet connection getting ever more sophisticated, I have immediate access to news and, more importantly, the football results as they happen. I recall a few weeks ago Hearts had barely kicked off at Tynecastle when there was a significant audible reaction - okay, loud laughter - among those in the Wheatfield Stand to the news that East Stirlingshire had taken the lead in the first minute of their game with Rangers at Ibrox. The Shire eventually lost 5-1 and there was scant reaction to Rangers fight back. However, it was an example of people expecting, indeed demanding instant news from events happening miles away.
In my formative years as a Hearts fan, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a mobile phone was my father throwing the old dialling machine across the room on hearing his beloved Aberdeen had lost on a Saturday afternoon. And internet was somewhere football fans in Yorkshire were urging their team’s strikers to put the ball. Unless you were at home watching BBC’s Grandstand or ITV’s World of Sport or listening to the ‘wireless’, getting an update on your team’s progress on a Saturday afternoon proved difficult.
As a child I was only interested in the Hearts score, although in those days the reserves would be playing the corresponding fixture at the venue of our opponents that day and I would always be keen to find out how the ‘second eleven’ were getting on - although I usually had to wait to get the Pink News on a Saturday night to find this out (standing outside the local newsagent about 6.00pm waiting for delivery of the Evening News football results newspaper - The Pink, so called because it was printed on pink paper - became a Saturday evening ritual)
Older readers will recall the halftime scoreboard at Tynecastle and, indeed, most other football grounds across Scotland. The scoreboard usually consisted of large letters against which numbers indicating half time scores of other games would be inserted around 4.00pm. To identify which games were which, you would have to buy a match programme to ascertain that, for example, a 2-0 score against the letter A meant Aberdeen were leading Hibernian at Pittodrie.
Some fans opted to take a transistor radio (ask your grandparents, young ‘uns) with them to games but many of these were a tad cumbersome and the reception wasn’t particularly reliable with BBC presenter Brian Marjoriebanks’ voice doing battle with the crackly VHF frequency.
The days of standing on the terracing several decades ago was a different world to what the match day experience is today. Forty years ago, there were no mobile phones, internet or YouTube to immediately broadcast trouble at football games. Now, as well as mobile media there is close circuit television also monitoring fans behaviour, meaning any indiscretion caused by any fan is almost immediately picked up on.
Given the isolated but nevertheless unpleasant incidents at Tynecastle on 3 January 2013, this is certainly not a bad thing…