The first ever all-seated match at Easter Road was played on Sunday August 7th 1994. Our opponents were Sheffield Wednesday, at the time a top flight English Premier League side managed by former England star, Trevor Francis.
The summer of 1994 had brought enormous change to the fabric of Easter Road. Bucket seats were installed on the East terrace and on the away end (Dunbar End). Though some fans had the chance to preview what the new, seated East Terrace was like when they got the chance to choose their seat for the season, to most fans it was a culture shock.
Like at all other top clubs in the UK, season 93-94 had been the last campaign where standing on terraces at major football stadiums had been allowed. The Taylor Report insisted that all grounds be 'all seater' by the start of the ‘94/95 campaign , so Hibs had complied. The actual work had begun at the tail end of season 93/94, the east terrace having been closed for our 0-0 final day draw with Kilmarnock, meaning that the last ever terracing match at Easter Road in May 1994 ended with us jumping about on the terracing, singing ‘can you hear the Rangers sing?’ as we ended our 13 match winless run against the then champions, thanks to Keith Wright’s goal in a 1-0 win – our first win over the Govan side since we’d beaten them in the 1991 SKOL League Cup semi at Hampden.
Summer of 1994 didn’t just see seats added to the east terrace and away end, but also other minor building work at Easter Road. The benches in the wing stands and cowshed were re-painted so that each space was a distinguishable, numbered seat, and the staircases were painted bright yellow. All was done to comply with the Taylor Report of 1990, which had blamed the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989 on stadium design and drunk fans, rather than on the true cause, inept policing. Anyway, such were the cards UK football clubs were dealt and though the Taylor Report was seriously flawed, it did help to drag the UK’s football stadiums into the modern era. Easter Road’s capacity in August 1994 was reduced thus to 13,500 – it would be even less towards that season’s end when both ends behind the goals were demolished, but not for long.
I remember as we walked onto the new ‘east stand’ for the Sheffield Wednesday friendly – it felt so strange to be looking for a seat to sit on in our East terrace. I was horrified, what had they done to our terracing? We were used to standing. It just didn’t feel right to be sitting at football. Clearly, many around us felt the same. At times during the match when Hibs attacked, angry cries of ‘sit doon’ came from the back of the East Stand, as people in front instinctively stood up in order to see what was happening on the pitch. As fans we got used to it, eventually, and the seated East stand remained the home of the louder, more boisterous element of our home support, until it was demolished in season 2009/10.
Summer 1994 had brought changes to the staff at Easter Road. Ex Dundee and Pars boss Jocky Scott joined the coaching staff, while Tommy McIntyre and Danny Lennon had left the club. Danny, though impressive on occasion, never really did enough to justify being a first pick at Hibs. The skilful wee midfielder moved to Raith Rovers, where he was made captain, and Rovers would win the 1994 Coca Cola League Cup while he was there, though he missed the final due to injury. Danny even played for Raith in their subsequent UEFA Cup tie in 1995 against Bayern Munich, the ‘home’ leg of which was actually played at Easter Road. Danny scored for Raith in the away leg in Munich.
Tommy McIntyre was one of the finest defenders to have worn the green in the modern era, a legend as part of the 1991 cup-winning side dubbed ‘the team that would not die’. Tommy hadn’t featured much for Hibs in season 93/94 and transferred to the old Airdrieonians in the summer of 1994, where he remained until 1997. He was a great loss to the Hibs squad but Steven Tweed’s explosion onto the scene had over-staffed us with defenders. Tommy was part of the Airdrie team who knocked Hibs out of the 1994/95 and 1995/96 Coca-Cola cup. Two seasons in a row! Now more famous as head of youth development at Celtic, he played a key role in the development of Liam Henderson, so in a way Tommy is linked to Hibs’ 2016 cup-win as well as the one in 1991!
Anyway, departures aside, Hibs began season 1994/95 with no new faces in the team to speak of. Pat McGinlay would return to Hibs from Celtic a couple of months into the season, while Kilmarnock utility-man Andy Millen joined us in January ‘95 – having been frozen out by the Ayrshire side after a contractual dispute of some sort. Keith Wright got injured in pre-season training so didn’t play for Hibs until around Christmas 1994. Hibs had a new look kit. Gone were main sponsors Macbean Protective clothing, in came Calor Gas , which was a deal worth a six-figure sum. Bukta was gone, sports equipment firm Mitre were now the kit sponsor (not to be confused with MITA copiers, who sponsored Hearts in the mid 80s).
Scotland’s League setup had changed. The SFL was expanded from 38 to 40 clubs, in four leagues of ten, meaning that two new clubs came onto the scene, Highland league outfit Ross County were one ; the other was a new team – Inverness Caledonian Thistle – a club created by the merger of Inverness’s two Highland League sides, Caledonian FC and Inverness Thistle. 94/95 was the first season in senior Scottish football where clubs got 3 points for a win instead of two, after the ‘3 for a win’ rule had been successfully trialled at the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
So, this Sheffield Wednesday match. Friendlies against English teams always have a better atmosphere than testimonials or benefit matches do – better atmosphere, more passion as you don’t feel as if you’re being a twat at someone’s special occasion when it’s just a challenge match and you sing and shout a bit more. The Wednesday fans who came up to Edinburgh for this match were a good bunch and included many family groups, and they mixed in Edinburgh with no difficulties. They were housed on the now seated but roof-less Dunar End – thankfully, it was a typically beautiful, hot sunny August day in Edinburgh , so there was no need to issue them with waterproof ponchos , as we had to with other teams’ fans later in the season.
Hibs lined up with Jim Leighton in goal, back four of Steven Tweed, Gordon Hunter, Graham Mitchell and Joe Tortolano, David Farrell, Kevin McAllister, Michael O’Neill and Brian Hamilton in midfield, with Darren Jackson and Gareth Evans up-front. Graeme Donald, Chris Jackson and Dave Beaumont later featured as second-half substitutes.
The Owls line up was :
Their subs used were Graham Hyde, Brian Linighan and ‘A Trialist’ – the trialist may have been Romanian star Dan Petrescu, whom the Owls signed that day, but I can’t remember.
Trevor Francis was still technically Wednesday’s player-manager but the ex-Rangers man wasn’t ‘stripped’ for this match. Wednesday had finished 7th in the Premiership the previous season and would finish 13th in the coming campaign.
Wednesday got the match underway but Hibs seized the initiative. Just eight minutes in, Kevin McAllister left two Wednesday defenders trailing in his wake before rolling the ball to Darren Jackson, who rifled a low shot past Pressman and into the net from 18 yards, 1-0 to Hibs.
10 minutes later Jackson was again on target, firing home from a tight angle after latching on to a rather brilliant long ball from Steven Tweed. 2-0 to Hibs.
Wednesday fought back, Jim Leighton brilliantly saved a net-bound drive from Mark Bright, the striker who was once married to 90s pop star and Eastenders actress, Michelle Gayle. Jim Duffy tried to sign Bright for Hibs in 1997.
Alex Miller’s men suffered a setback five minutes before half-time when Bart-Williams’ through ball was slipped beyond Jim Leighton and into the net by Ian Taylor. 2-1.
Around the hour mark, Mark Bright pulled the Owls level, bravely diving to head in a cross by substitute Graham Hyde to make it 2-2 – but it wasn’t to be a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ performance by Alex Miller’s men, who wore the club’s new purple and green striped away kit for the first time.12 minutes from full-time another long-ball from Steven Tweed was missed by everyone, except Gareth Evans and Owls’ ‘keeper Kevin Pressman. Gareth kept running when everyone else stood still and managed to beat the advancing goalie to the bouncing ball, leaping like a Salmon to loop a header up and over Pressman and into the net to make it Hibs 3 Sheffield Wednesday 2, and that’s how the first all-seated match at Easter Road ended.
The match was watched by just under seven thousand fans.
Hibs had competed well against a top English side yet again, and it was a sign of what was to come in season 94/95. Apart from the shock Coca Cola League Cup exit to Airdrie, the campaign was Hibernian’s best under Alex Miller, save perhaps for season 91-92. Hibs lost just seven league matches – the same as champions Rangers, and finished 3rd in the Premier Division, just a point behind second-placed Motherwell. Alas we got no UEFA Cup slot because Raith Rovers qualified for it by winning the Coca-Cola Cup. We reached the Scottish Cup semi-finals, only losing out after an epic two-match semi-final against eventual winners Celtic, both matches being played at Ibrox of all places as Celtic were playing at Hampden that season so Hampden wouldn’t have been neutral. We also ended Hearts’ five-year unbeaten run against us that season, winning 3 out of 4 derbies.
As for Keith Wright that season, he returned on boxing day of 1994 in a narrow loss to Rangers at Ibrox, but in his first match back at Easter Road on Hogmanay 1994, oor Keef bagged a hat-trick as Hibs thumped relegation doomed Dundee United 4-0.
Season 94/95 may have been about fans having to sit down, but players like Wright, Jackson, Weir, McAllister, O’Neill McGinlay and Kevin Harper ensured that we were often on our feet.