How to review a film like “Time for Heroes” – Hibernian FC’s DVD celebrating their 2016 Scottish Cup victory?
Certainly not in a detached manner for this writer, whose family connections with the club go back to 1895.
But then, football clubs, and the love they attract, are founded on passion, partisanship, and a gloriously crazy commitment which at times can be almost totally removed from reality.
So Sky television’s James Matthews, an Edinburgher, well aware of the Hibs’ supporters’ expectations, was tasked with producing and directing this record of an historic event, whilst at the same time trying to capture the emotions generated in the city and far beyond by events at Hampden Park on May 21st 2016. If there was pressure on the players to end a 114 year hoodoo, think of the pressure on the production team to produce a film which accurately and fully encapsulates an event which thousands considered “the greatest day of my life”!
The package contains two discs: Disc 2 is a re-run of the complete match, which, one would imagine, will receive more than a few plays during this year’s Christmas festivities. The other disc takes the form of a documentary, guiding the viewer through the successes and the tensions of the Cup run which took “the first to wear the green” all the way to their date with destiny on the south side of Glasgow.
Malonga’s goal at Starks Park against Raith; the unbelievable tension of two Derby ties against our closest rivals- with a brilliant last minute fight back at Tynecastle, and Cummings’ early goal in the replay; Stokes’ double on a wild night by the Moray Firth to dismiss Inverness Caley Thistle in another replay; and then the Roy of the Rovers fantasy of Conrad Logan, the man from Donegal, parachuting in to become the unlikely hero of a hard fought semifinal, and a pulsating penalty shoot out, against Dundee United.
This is standard fare for any celebratory DVD. What intensifies the impact of this particular coverage is the skilful use of interviews interspersed with the action.
All the interviewees are relaxed and natural and their passion for the club and their role within it is evident.
Supporters often confuse the personal character of the players with the role they play on the pitch, or judge them as people on the sound bites contained in the match build up and analysis.
On occasion, it is true: “what you see is what you get”, in “real life”, but there is a subtlety about the presentation of those interviewed in this film which gives the viewer an insight into the men wearing the famous green and white shirts.
Darren McGregor, Kevin Thomson and Paul Hanlon can’t hide their love for the Hibs. Long serving Lewis Stevenson’s humility shines through. Similarly self effacing, John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch, and Liam Henderson’s awe and excitement at what they and the team achieved belies their calm authority on the pitch. It is fascinating to become aware of the respect for the club so quickly gained by the English players Liam Fontaine and Marvin Bartley, and the calm determination of Fraser Fyvie and James Keatings.
Goal scoring hero, Anthony Stokes, who came good at exactly the right time, speaks with obvious enjoyment of the whole experience and a delight that he was part of it.
David Gray exudes confidence as befits the club skipper and crucial goal scorer, whilst Jason Cummings ……is just Jason Cummings! Conrad Logan speaks with the experience he has gathered through his career – and you realise he was probably the calmest person in the stadium during that epic semifinal.
We often talk of the Hibernian Family of supporters but it is notable how many of these players refer to their own families and the importance of their children, partners, and parents being able to share in their success. The humour which comes from a squad comfortable with each other is never far away either.
At one point George Craig, Director of Football Operations, and Chief Executive, Leeann Dempster, talk about the decision to appoint Alan Stubbs. They were both instantly sure he was the right fit for the rebuilding job required at Hibs.
Talking throughout this film, Stubbs demonstrates that quiet ability which gave the squad belief and ended the 114 year wait for Cup glory. Whether in his reflections looking back, or in the snatched footage of team talks on the pitch or at the team hotel, his authority, and the respect he receives from his players, is clearly evident.
Coach John Doolan also shines brightly in this tale of hard won success. Can anyone previously have understood Hibernian as quickly and completely as John did? Many fans have tales of his passion for the club and his bond with the support, and to listen to his interviews is a joyous reminder of both.
As coverage of the Final itself approaches, Hibs’ inclusivity is further highlighted with moments to remember. John Doolan’s dad, who died in the days leading up to the Final, is recalled, we see our oldest fan, the late Sam Martinez, and even Tom and Joyce McCourt of the kit room are recognised for their tireless commitment to the club.
The roller coaster Final is well covered, as are the dressing room celebrations afterwards, carrying on back to Edinburgh, and into the next day. The players’ joy is palpable, but, as many of them commented, it would take 24 hours or so to fully comprehend what they had achieved.
A feature of the Cup Final coverage – as is the case throughout all the Cup run action – is the focus on the supporters: so many faces, so many emotions, the singing, the chanting, the expectation, the despair, the hope – and finally the unmitigated joy of the realisation: “We’ve only gone and done it, we’ve only won the Scottish Cup.” Sunshine on Leith indeed.
The same goes for the amazing scenes in Edinburgh the next day, as player after player confesses their bewilderment at quite how much the Hibs meant to so many thousands of people -on the streets and in tenement windows, from the Royal Mile to Leith Walk, and in their masses on Leith Links. The footage from the open topped bus brings back to the viewer the enormity of the occasion – physically and emotionally.
Sir Tom Farmer talks of his grandfather and his brother who had placed the Cup on the sideboard in their Leith flat back in the day, Rod Petrie savours the moment with fifteen minutes to go when the crowd at Hampden decided to lift the team to victory, and Leeann Dempster talks of the impact of such success.
And in the background, surrounded by trophies and souvenirs, is the face of the greatest of them all, Gordon Smith – how could he be left out of such a production?
One thing this film will do will be to convince you of how much the people who run Hibernian FC care about the club, its traditions, and its supporters. It well demonstrates the growing unity between support and team, and it is a fitting tribute to, and record of, an occasion which will live forever in the memory of those who were there.
Of course, the faithful will lap up this superbly produced souvenir of the time of their lives – but its audience is wider than that.
When enjoying the excellent drone footage of a floodlit Easter Rd set against the Forth, or swirling above Hampden Park on May 21st, it is impossible, as the shot closes in on the pitch, not to remember those who have gone before and never witnessed this triumph, those who cheered the team before us, the ones who passed on the faith – they are never far from the atmosphere in this well crafted film.
And finally, realising that more than a few family members and friends who are not Hibs or football supporters will find themselves sat down in front of this DVD come Christmas Day, the film has one additional triumph.
It succeeds in the almost impossible task of capturing a moment in history and what it meant to so many people, and it does so in a gentle, joyful, thoughtful and evocative manner. It does feel like being there all over again.
Because of this, it gives a gift to those non-supporters – those who selflessly give up time with partners, loved ones, and friends each weekend so they can pursue their love affair with Hibernian FC – and the gift it gives them is an insight into why we are so besotted with our team.
It captures the magic, it explains the dream, and it reflects who we are.
“Time for Heroes” said the banner at Hampden – and heroes are in this film – on and off the pitch, in the stands, and in the production team.
Well done to all.