Graham was over from Belfast spending his 30th birthday in Edinburgh. I decided to arrange some day time entertainment and rather than heading down south for a premiership game, I opted to book hospitality for the match at Tynecastle between Hearts and Dundee United.
I’d been at hospitality before, but it wasn’t something Graham or I particularly made a habit of so the experience came as a welcome change from the norm. We arrived at Tynecastle at 12:30 to be greeted by a glass of Champagne, once we’d established where we were sitting and had a wander around the Gorgie suite we took our seats and introduced ourselves to the two guys sharing our table. Graham and George were in a similar situation to us, they were just really enjoying the hospitality experience as a one-off having received the day out as a Christmas gift. George was a local guy and a Hearts supporter, whilst his friend Graham (a Southampton fan) was from the south coast of England and was up visiting for the weekend.
After all the tables were seated the compere took to the microphone and welcomed everyone. He kept the guests very entertained with some well polished banter before introducing us to the Hearts legends who were present in the suite that afternoon. On this occasion we had Scott Crabbe, Jimmy Sandison and Jimmy Murray in attendance to meet and greet us. Whilst the first two ex-players are from relatively recent times Jimmy Murray is from a more distant era. In fact Jimmy holds the fabulous record of being the first player to ever score a goal for Scotland at a world cup.
Before our three course meal was served, a series of message were read out including a birthday message for Graham (I felt duty bound to drop in a reference to his lack of hair – that’s what friends are for).
We were certainly well looked after in the food and drinks stakes. A free bar service was in operation and anything we wanted to drink could simply be ordered through the waiter, we also had a bucket of bottled beers on our table along with wine. In addition to the three course meal we received a selection of mini pies along with tea and coffee at half time.
The game itself go off to a slow start, Dundee Utd took an early lead only for Hearts to bring matters level shortly before the interval through Rudi Skacel. For the duration of the first half Hearts had looked second best, however, they improved vastly after the interval and looked to have wrapped up all three points when captain Marius Zaliukas bulleted in a header from a corner with about ten minutes remaining. With this being Hearts, nothing is ever straightforward and they had to survive a late scare after Ruben Palazuelos conceded a penalty and got himself sent off deep into injury time. Just as the Hearts faithful were coming to terms with dropping two points, Marian Kello pulled off a stunning save to safeguard the win.
After some wild celebrations (helped along by all the booze) we made our way back into the suite for a further hour and a couple more drinks. Ian Black and Marius Zaliukas came by to discuss the afternoon’s game, Zaliukas picked up the sponsor man of the match award in addition.
We’d arranged to meet our friend Tony in the car park outside the ground at 6pm. As we left the ground, still in very high spirits, we were greeted by Tony who had parked up in his campervan, he proceeded the make us a drink before driving us back to my place to get changed ahead of the Graham’s birthday celebrations that night. Being picked up from a football match in a home made campervan before being chauffeured through Edinburgh drinking a rusty nail was certainly a new experience and one which I hope to repeat!
All in all it was a great day (and night) out.
......Just don’t ask about the head on Sunday morning!
Check out Graham's photos from the day here