Edinburgh and Glasgow are Scotland’s largest cities, and both have their own claims as to how they influence Scottish society. Edinburgh is more stately, the capital city steeped in history and the reminders of the power of Scotland through its past. Glasgow tends to be seen more as the future, trendy city with its modern arts scene and hip places to eat and drink.
In soccer, the two cities also could not be more unalike. Glasgow is home to both of Scotland’s largest and most popular clubs, as Rangers and Celtic both call the area home. Thus Glasgow residents have witnessed soccer history through the years as both clubs have made their mark on European history and played in some of the most important matches recorded.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, is not nearly well regarded. While home to established soccer clubs, it falls behind Glasgow and even Aberdeen in terms of historical significance. That said, for soccer fans visiting this beautiful city (and, if you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it), there is more than enough soccer to enjoy during your stay.
Heart of Midlothian FC
The club better known as Hearts was founded in 1872 by friends who were members of a local dance group. Arguably, Hearts are the third or fourth most successful club in Scotland, depending on your metrics. In 2006 they became the first non-Old Firm team to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and are the only non-Old Firm side to win the League and League Cup double.
When Hearts were founded, soccer was still in an unformed infancy as the sport we know it today. The dancers who came together to play the sport, which was a mixture of modern soccer and rugby, named their team after a famous jail/government building in Edinburgh immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in book form. Hearts became one of the founding members of the Scottish Football Association.
Hearts was a prominent club leading up to World War I, winning a few titles. When the Great War began, sixteen Hearts players enlisted and were formed into the 16th Royal Scot; eventually, the battalion was the footballers, a number of Hearts supporters, and players and fans from other local clubs. However, because a large number of its players left the club for military service, Hearts lost the title and would not win another league title for over 40 years.
Between 1954 and 1963, the club found renewed success under manager Tommy Walker and his “Terrible Trio” of Alfie Conn, Willie Bauld, and Jimmy Wardhaugh. In 1958, the club won the league with a record 62 points and a goal difference of +103, the highest in the record books. Hearts also won the league title in 1960. Walker could not replicate these successes in the 1960s however, as he tried to adjust Hearts to a 4-4-2 system. He left the club in 1966 but their fate did not change. Hearts for the first time ever were relegated in 1977 and for the next few years yo-yo back and forth between leagues.
After a management restructuring in the 1980s, the club again found success in the top flight, finishing second in the league in 1988 and 1992. However, financial difficulties weighed down the club to the point where the sale of its home park Tynecastle seemed inevitable. In August 2004, multimillionaire Vladimir Romanov began negotiating purchasing a major stake in the club and, upon his acquisition, set off to modernize the stadium as well as update the club’s finances. That modernization caused the club to spend most of the past decade in debt and struggling to pay players’ wages. In addition to financial turmoil, Romanov churned through managers including famously sacking George Burley while Hearts sat atop the league in 2005.
The issue came to a head in 2013 when the club entered administration. During the bidding process for new ownership, Hearts were relegated primarily due to a -15 point deduction for entering administration. The club exited administration a year later and returned to the Premier League.
Hearts play their matches in Tynecastle Stadium and have played on the stadium’s site since 1886. At one point, capacity was over 60,000 and could host major international matches, but over time was reduced in capacity to accommodate safety requirements. After renovation in the early 2000s, capacity sits at a comfortable 17,100 and is easily filled most soccer gamedays. The club planned to demolish the stadium and build something more modern just as their economic issues hit, forcing the city council and club to renovate the historic structure.
The rivals of Hearts are Hibernian FC or The Hibs. Irishmen from the Cowgate area of Edinburgh founded the club in 1875 and immediately it was associated with Irish nationally. The name Hibernians came from the Roman name for Ireland, and one of the club’s early supporters was Irish Republican James Connolly. Despite initial reticence to allow an ethnic team to participate, the Hibs were a force in the early Scottish soccer competitions.
The parallels between The Hibs and Celtic are obvious, but there is one major difference. In 1893, after the club was disbanded and reformed, non-Catholics could join the club. Although there are still Irish symbols in different aspects of the club, its rivalry with Hearts tends to be more geographical.
The Hibs’ heyday was undoubtedly the post-World War II era. The “Famous Five” forward line featured five players all with more than 100 goals for the club. Gordon Smith, Bobby Johnstone, Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull, and Willie Ormond played as a unit from 1949 until 1955. In this time, they won the league three times and finished a close second twice, both times to Rangers.
In 1955, Hibs became the first British club to feature in a European competition when they were invited to participate in the European Cup. They reached the semi-finals before bowing out and were frequent competitors in the Fairs Cup during the 1960s.
After financials issues in the 1980s, Chairman of Hearts Wallace Mercer proposed a merger between the two clubs. A fan movement convinced local businessman Tom Famer to save the club and become the controlling owner. The club saw some successes in the 1990s and 2000s, including a few qualifications for European football, but was relegated in 2014. They have remained in the second division since. One highlight, however, was their 2016 Scottish Cup final win over Rangers.
One advantage the Hibs have over their intercity rivals in their place in pop culture. In the movie Trainspotting, the characters constantly reference the club and wear its apparel. In the 2017 sequel, a prominent former Hibernian hooligan was given a small role in the film, seemingly as a tribute to the club.
The team plays at Easter Road, which it has called home since 1893. Before the size shrunk due to security concerns, the grounds was one of the most famous in Scotland and regularly drew major crowds during the Famous Five era.
Edinburgh City FC
The younger and much smaller brother of the other two Edinburgh clubs, The Citizens begin the 2016-2017 season in the fourth tier of Scottish football.
An original Edinburgh City FC began playing in 1928 and, after years of trying to fit into a specific league, folded in 1955. The owners kept the name however and granted its use in 1986 to a club called Postal United. In 2016, after previous attempts to apply to the Scottish professional league failed, City were the beneficiaries of the new promotion/relegation pyramid where the Lowland League winner advances into League Two.