Game Three – FC Barcelona vs. Hibernian

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FC Barcelona 6 vs. 0 Hibernian

Pre-season Friendly
Thursday 24th July 2008, Kick-off 7.45pm
Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Curiously that is the way the match is listed, with Barcelona’s name first as if they were the home side.

The last time Hibs played Barcelona was at Easter Road in a friendly match in 1962. Barca ran out 3-1 winners. Barcelona came over for that game at their own expense as an apology for the sides’ encounter in February of 1961 in an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup tie. Hibs dumped the then holders out of the competition with a 3-2 win on the night providing a 7-6 aggregate victory. The match has gone down in infamy thanks to the Barcelona players’ unsporting attitude at Hibs being awarded a penalty kick late on in the game. There is an article on that match at The Scotsman’s website.

There’s a sizeable queue at Easter Road as I go to get my ticket at 4 in the afternoon. Mainly parents with young children, many of whom are in Barcelona jerseys.

When the Spanish giants visited Edinburgh last year to play Hearts on a Saturday afternoon a crowd of 58,000 turned out for them, but this game has been a harder sell and Hibs have struggled to shift even half that number of tickets.

At £25 to £35 it’s not difficult to see why.

Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, is an impressive stadium, bigger in capacity than both Parkhead and Hampden. This is the third time I’ve been here, but the first time I’ll have seen a football match at the venue. Curiously neither of my previous visits was to see a rugby match either. In 1995 I saw REM play here. Two years later when I had just moved to Edinburgh, I worked here. I had a job with a temping agency that saw me serve popcorn to an American Football crowd.

The match programme is unsurprisingly a whopping £5, but to be fair there is plenty of decent reading inside. I pay two quid for a lukewarm bottle of Diet Pepsi, which is provided sans lid, so I’m forced to stand drinking it in the concourse less I take it into the toilet with me.

As I sip my drink before embarking up the stairs into stadium I’m approached by an elderly gent confused about where his seat in the ground is. As I attempt to help him locate his seat the conversation turns to the fact that he’s a former Hibs player.

His name is Jimmy Thomson and he proudly supplies me with the dates within which he played for the club. He then rhymes off his partners in the back four. After his lengthy spell at Hibs, he moved on, he told me, to Clyde. I realised that he would have been part of the Hibs team, containing ‘The Famous Five’ who played in the first season of the European Cup.

“That’s right, we made the semi-final.”

Hibs eventually lost to Reims, inspired by the French legend Raymond Kopa, that year. Reims themselves subsequently losing to the great Real Madrid in the final.

“Aye Reims beat us…”

The very first British side to play in Europe, Hibs lined up for the first European Cup match against Rot-Weiss Essen of West Germany at the Georg-Melches-Stadion on Wednesday 14th September 1955. The team was:

Younger, Higgins, Paterson, Jimmy Thomson, Plenderleith, Preston, Smith, Turnbull, Reilly, Combe and Ormond.

They won 4-0.

Instead however of reminiscing about his playing days, Mr. Thomson let me know in no uncertain terms that he was outraged at having to pay for admission, him being a former player.

I agreed that it did seem wrong that a player from a famous side with many years service had to fork out 25 quid (a concession price) to see his team. He told me of his years running a printing business after he retired from the game where he would print up Hibs’ headed notepaper and refuse to charge them for the service. He also pointed out that when he was a player the club made himself and his team-mates pay for a lot of things along the way, such was the custom in those days. He knew quite a lot of expletives as well.

Now I dunno if a team the size of Hibs can afford to provide freebies for every single former player, but you’d think they might be able to do so for the few guys around now who played with distinction in the 40s and 50s.

Jimmy certainly hoped that they would, as he made clear to me his intentions of letting someone at Easter Road know he’d be looking for ‘a book’ to gain admission in future. Good job I didn’t get around to mention his former team-mates ‘The Famous Five’. Free tickets? They got a stand at Easter Road named after them.

He set off to find his seat, “Hope we win though. I don’t even know who we’re playing. Who are we playing?”

“Barcelona.”

“Aye, aye Barcelona. Hope we beat them.”

A crowd of 23,390 turned out to see Hibs completely outclassed by a Barcelona team who hardly got out of first gear.

The Spanish side passed the ball around with ease in Hibs’ last third of the field. Lionel Messi was a joy to watch and made me go ‘oooh’ at least twice.

The first goal came in the fourth minute when former Chelsea player Edir Gudjohnsen banged the ball home after some good play by Messi resulted in the Hibs defence only half-clearing the ball.

The little Argentinean himself slotted home the second with a display of some neat footwork. Have a look for yourself below.

Hibs players could easily have been cones on the training ground as Barca passed around them in the penalty box for the lead up to the third goal.

Pedro smacked home a beauty to make it 4-0 after only 26 minutes.

Although one guy a few rows behind me seemed utterly furious with each goal lost the majority of the Hibs support were happy to enjoy the spectacle of football on display, although it did get a bit much for a few of them in the second half.

The match was played in a good, friendly atmosphere with Samuel Eto’o obliging the Hibs fans cries for a wave as he was warming up and Victor Valdes acknowledging the fans behind the goal as the first half ended.

Although Messi and Henry came off at half-time Barcelona still managed a couple of goals in the second half through Bojan and Toure.

My full set of photographs are here.

A report of the game is on the Hibernian website. A report is also on the Barcelona website.

FC Barcelona: Valdes (Pinto 46), Corcoles (Keita 65), Marquez (Caceres 46), Henry (Bojan 46), Pique, Dani Alves (Abraham 46), Vazquez (Crosas 30), Pedro (Hleb 65), Gudjohnsen (Eto’o 65), Sergio B, (Toure 46), Messi (Jeffren 46).

Scorers: Gudjohnsen (5, 18), Messi (15), Pedro (28), Bojan (49), Touré Yaya (67)

Hibernian: McNeil (Grof 82), van Zanten, Hanlon, Hogg (Canning 73), Jones, Murray (Thicot 46), Stevenson (Chisholm 46), Shiels (Rankin 73), Fletcher (Morais 65), Nish, O’Brien (Cropley 82).

Attendance: 23,390

Referee: Craig Thomson

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3 Responses to “Game Three – FC Barcelona vs. Hibernian”

  1. Andrew Prentice Says:

    hey, just to let you know i also met Jimmy Thompson today as in the Bell Lawrie Cup Final, he approached me to enquire the game and told me of the famous five and that.. quite astonishing that such a player would just come up to talk.. quite a chat-full…

  2. downthewing Says:

    That’s great. Yeah I would have loved to have heard more about his days playing in that great Hibs team.

  3. Martin Laffey Says:

    I have a match day programme for Hibs v Barca from Nov 1962 which I wish to sell,anybody interested?

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