Edinburgh Derby: Hearts v Hibernian Rivalry & History

Hearts v HibernianScotland's capital city Edinburgh is home to one of the country's oldest and fiercest rivalries between Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian. Hearts and Hibs were formed only one year apart in the 1870's and have played each other over 300 times in the League, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup. Just three miles separate the two clubs with Hearts' Tyncastle Park to the West of the City in Gorgie and Hibs' Easter Road to the North in Leith.

When derby day comes around, Edinburgh is divided into maroon and green with many famous clashes over the years. Perhaps most famous of all was the 2012 Scottish Cup final which saw Hearts victorious in a 5-1 win. There's as much passion on the pitch as off when these sides meet so there's rarely a shortage of goals, cards and talking points.

Map of Hearts & Hibernian Stadiums

Map of Hearts & Hibernian Stadiums

About the Edinburgh Derby

Central Edinburgh Skyline

When it comes to football in Scotland, and derbies in particular, most people would think about the Old Firm match between Celtic and Rangers before anything else. But much like Glasgow isn’t the only major city north of the border, so too are there other matches that are worthy of our attention. One such game is the one that takes place in the nation’s capital on a regular basis. Just because an English audience doesn’t care all that much about the Scottish Premiership doesn’t mean that isn’t deserving of more success, with supporters of Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian taking the match between each other very seriously indeed.

In fact, not only is the derby taken just as seriously by the folks in Edinburgh as the Old Firm is taken in Glasgow, albeit without the religious, social and political ramifications, it’s also one of the oldest rivalries in the world of football. When many people think about Edinburgh they’d first turn their mind to the festivals that take place every year, then they’d probably consider rugby, given that Murrayfield Stadium is the home of the Scottish Rugby Union. Football isn’t one of the first considerations many would make in terms of the things that the city is famous for, so it’s worth having an in-depth look at the city’s derby to see just how influential it can be for the residents of Edinburgh.

The History of the Edinburgh Rivalry

The two clubs were formed in the 1870s, with Heart of Midlothian, often referred to simply as Hearts, created in 1874 by a group of friends. The name of the club comes from the fact that they were all part of the dancing club known as Heart of Midlothian Quadrille Assembly Club. Meanwhile Hibernian, which most people refer to simply as Hibs, was created by Irish immigrants a year later. The former club play their matches at Tynecastle Park in the Gorgie area to the west of the city and have done since 1886. Hibs, meanwhile, ply their trade at Easter Road, which is located in the Leith district in the north of Edinburgh. The two stadiums are about three miles away from each other, as the crow flies.

Having told you all about their homes, it’s worth noting that the first ever match between the two sides took place on an area of the city known as the Meadows and was played on Christmas Day in 1875, just a couple of months after Hibs had been formed, which might explain why Hearts won the match 1-0. During the 1877-1878 season the two teams were drawn to play against each other in the Scottish Cup, with Hibs emerging victorious. It was the start of a series of battles between the two sides, culminating in an Edinburgh F.A. Cup tie that required four replays before being settled. Eventually Hearts won it 3-2, but the sheer number of games and the fact that neither side could be easily separated put them on the map in terms of Scottish football and established them as the two main teams in the city.

The two sides were drawn to face one another once again in the Scottish Cup during the 1886-1887 season, with Hibs emerging victorious before going on to face Dumbarton in the final in a match that they also win, resulting in the club’s first piece of silverware on the national stage. Elsewhere during the same season Hibernian put a total of fifteen goals past Hearts, winning matches in various competitions 3-0, 5-2 and 7-1. Unfortunately, the club’s success on the national stage was short-lived, with Hibs having major financial problems in the early part of the 1890s that forced them to stop playing football matches altogether. The same wasn’t true of Hearts, however, and they were one of the founding members of the Scottish Football League when it was set up ahead of the 1890-1891 campaign.

when Hibs began playing games again a friendly match was arranged with Hearts at Easter Road. In a sign of what was to develop over time, the away team won the match 10-2 to assert their dominance over their rivals. Hibernian joined the Scottish Football League ahead of the 1893-1894 season and gained promotion to the First Division at the end of the 1894-1895 season. Hearts won the first league match between the two sides 4-3, but it’s what was to come the following year that would give them far more pleasure. The 1896 Scottish Cup Final took place at Logie Green in Edinburgh and it was the only time in the competition’s history that it’s taken place outside of Glasgow. It’s entirely fitting, therefore, that it was the two Edinburgh teams that made it to the final, with Hearts emerging from it with a 3-1 victory.

There was a brief break from the derby after Hibs were relegated out of the First Division in 1931, though cup matches continued, and after they returned to the top-flight in 1933, it wasn’t long before the Scottish Football League was suspended on account of the Second World War. When matches resumed in the wake of the war there was a renewed appetite to watch them, resulting in the Edinburgh derby posting its greatest ever crowd on the second of January in 1950. More than sixty-five thousand people turned up to watch Hearts win 2-1, which was the largest crowd for any football match not played in Glasgow. Though it’s unlikely that the large attendance alone is the reason, the post-war years turned out to be a golden era of football in Edinburgh, seeing Hibs pick up three league titles and Hearts also win major silverware.

Hibs Hit Form Before Hearts Respond

Having played second-fiddle to Hearts for most of their existence prior to their first title win in 1948, Hibernian went on a mini-run at the start of the 1950s and became the dominant force in Scottish football for a short time. They missed out on the title in 1949 by a single point, finishing on forty-nine points to Rangers’ fifty, despite the fact that they scored nearly thirty more goals than the Glasgow side. They responded by winning back-to-back First Division titles in 1951 and 1952 as well as earning the same number of points as Rangers in 1953; they lost out on a third title in a row because of the rule at the time of taking ‘goal average’ as the important factor. Nowadays Hibs would’ve been declared champions at the end of the 1952-1953 season because they scored more goals than Rangers and had a better goal difference.

Having seen their city rivals win back to back league titles and only narrowly miss out on two more, Hearts got their act together towards the end of the 1950s and finished second by two points in 1957 before winning the league in 1958. They were runners up again in 1959, this time losing out to Rangers by two points despite scoring exactly the same number of goals and conceding exactly the same number of goals as the Glasgow outfit. Another league win came the year after, however. Despite their resurgence in the league, it was actually Hibs that dominated in the derby during the 1960s and 1970s, including a 7-0 win at Tynecastle in 1973, which is their record victory in the fixture. It was the last time for a while that either side be particularly dominant in any sense, given that Hearts became something of a yoyo club between the top two divisions of Scottish football at the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s.

As the 1980s crept into the 1990s, however, Hearts came back in every sense. They finished as runners-up in the league in 1986, 1988 and 1992, in part thanks to their complete and utter dominance over Hibs in the Edinburgh derby during the same period. They won twenty-two derbies in a row over the end of one decade and in to the start of the next. The dominance of the side was so great that the club’s owner, Wallace Mercer, even attempted to force through a merger of the two sides when he became a majority shareholder of Hibs; it was only thanks to fan protests that his attempts failed.

The Modern Era

In the modern era of Scottish football, Hearts have continued to be the team that has the edge, especially when it comes to cup football. The two sides went head-to-head in the semi-final of the Scottish Cup in 2006, knowing that a relatively easy final awaited the winner thanks to the shock victory of Second Division side Gretna over Dundee the day before. The match was held at the neutral venue of Hampden Park, with Hearts running out 4-0 winners. Gretna put up a fight in the final at the same venue, taking the match to penalties before the First Division side eventually won.

The following year it was the turn of Hibs to gain a bit of success when the two sides met at the quarter-final stage of the Scottish League Cup. They won 1-0 at Easter Road and shock losses for Celtic and Rangers, who had been at home for their own quarter-finals, set up a more straightforward route to the final than Hibs had probably been expecting. They needed extra-time to get past St. Johnstone in the semi-final, but no such struggle occurred in the final and they beat Kilmarnock 5-1 to win their first piece of silverware since they’d won the same competition in 1992.

Another final was on the cards in 2012 when both teams made their way through the various rounds of the Scottish Cup to set up a match at Hampden Park. Despite some protestations that it should have been moved to Edinburgh’s largest venue Murrayfield, the match remained in Glasgow. Having won all three of the league derbies played during the Scottish Premier League season, it wasn’t a major surprise that Hearts went on to win the trophy courtesy of an impressive 5-1 scoreline. Six months later and Hibs won a fourth round Scottish Cup tie between the two sides at Easter Road, gaining a modicum of revenge over their rivals and ending a twelve match derby streak without a win.

the successes were worthy of celebrating, but the city of Edinburgh was soon left disappointed in their football teams when they were both relegated out of the top-flight at the end of the 2013-2014 Scottish Premiership season. It was the first time that the nation’s capital had no representative in the top-flight in its history. Hearts bounced straight back up the following season when they won the Scottish Championship, but Hibs didn’t gain promotion until the end of the 2016-2017 season, which was when league derbies resumed. They had been playing derbies in the Scottish Cup during that time, however, thanks to the two sides being drawn to face each other in consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2018. The first two went to replays that Hibs won, with Hearts winning the third match between the two.

Supporter Clashes

As mentioned in the introduction, the Edinburgh derby lacks the same sort of religious and political difficulties that the Old Firm match is famous for, but it would be untrue to suggest that there has never been any problems associated with the tie, Hearts were always seen as a Protestant club, whilst the fact that Hibs was set up by Irish immigrants meant that it was seen as the club for Catholics; a fact reflected in the green of the club’s badge. For that reason, there was a feeling of sectarianism surrounding the fixture, especially in its more formative years. It’s something that has thankfully died off in recent times, though clashes are still more common than anyone associated with the sport would like.

One such example of supporter clashes came about in the fixture at Easter Road in 1990. You’ll remember that this was the period in which Wallace Mercer, the chairman of Hearts, was trying to take over Hibs, leading to a heightened sense of tension amongst the crowd. Hearts were 3-0 up by half-time, leading to a pitch invasion and violent clashes amongst the crowd. One story goes that the police went into both dressing rooms at half-time and asked if neither side would score in the second-half in order to stop the crowd from getting out of hand, though whether that’s apocryphal or not isn’t clear. Whilst few major problems have flared up in more recent times, there’s no question that it’s a fixture every bit as passionate as any other intense derby. Fortunately nowadays that is more to do with the two clubs’ geographical proximity to each other than it is because of those religious differences.