First Minister Alex Salmond hails all Edinburgh cup final classic

Alex Salmond at Hampden
Political colours: First Minister Alex Salmond says capital will be winner whoever emerges victorious.SNS

First Minister Alex Salmond - a self confessed Hearts fan - writes for STV Edinburgh on how he is looking forward to Saturday's Scottish Cup Final, whether his own team win or lose.

This year’s Scottish Cup Final is a truly unique occasion. There is nobody alive on the planet today who can possibly claim to have witnessed a capital city derby Scottish Cup Final.

And it is remarkable that these two great clubs have not actually gone head to head in the last tie of this famous competition since they clashed at Logie Green in Edinburgh in the closing years of the nineteenth century.

That long gap has only whetted the appetite of fans across the country for this game, and one of the things that has struck me most in the build-up to this final, is the sense that the excitement this match has generated stretches far beyond Edinburgh itself.

Because it is not just those whose loyalties lie at Easter Road or Tynecastle who are relishing this encounter.

All over Scotland people are looking forward to the prospect of our two capital city clubs going head to head to win the oldest trophy in world football.

That simply reflects the huge passion for the game that exists right across Scotland. In stadiums the length and breadth of the country, fans turn up week in, week out, to support their club.

And, for all the difficulties facing the game, Scotland still boasts some of the best supported football anywhere, per head of population, when compared to many other countries.

That magnificent support stretches right through our league structure – and was underlined in recent seasons with the huge backing that some lower league clubs have taken to Hampden on Cup Final day – and is further underlined by the tremendous backing the Tartan Army give to our national side.

My own experiences as a Hearts fan watching my team in finals has been a mixed one down through the years, with a few triumphs, including the most recent, a penalty shoot-out win over Gretna in 2006, as well as some disappointments along the way.

But probably my most enduring football memory, certainly in terms of games I have actually attended, is as a youngster watching Hearts defeat Kilmarnock at Hampden in October 1962 to lift the League Cup, when my dad told me there would be many more similar triumphs for Hearts in the years ahead.

There have been a few more such occasions over the years, of course, but perhaps not quite as trophy-laden as we imagined that day, despite some great players turning out in the maroon.

Hibs too have had some truly fantastic players and teams over the years, and they need absolutely no reminding – and certainly not from a Hearts supporter like myself – of how long they have been waiting to get their hands back on the Scottish Cup.

It is hugely important for the city of Edinburgh and for both Hearts and Hibs that this final is conducted in a great spirit.

Obviously, I would like Hearts to win, but it will be exceptional for Hibs too if they win, and my very best wishes go to the players and management of both teams.

I’m hugely looking forward to the game, which could be decided by a moment of individual brilliance on either side or by one of those strokes of luck that so often tip the balance of a great sporting contest one way or the other.

And, whatever the outcome of this final, let’s hope for a great spectacle and occasion which is remembered above all for sportsmanship and which is a great advert for our national game.

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