The East Stand is the place to be on matchdays for many supporters of the club and also represents the final phase in the redevelopment of Easter Road Stadium.
Easter Road Stadium has seen considerable changes over the years.
In 1924 the ground was redeveloped and old Main Stand, which seated 4,480 fans, was built along with three banks of terraces.
On 2nd January 1950, a record attendance of 65,860 was set in an Edinburgh Derby against Hearts inspiring the Hibernian Board to draw up plans to expand the overall capacity to nearly 100,000 which would have been achieved by raising both the North and South Terracings to the same height as the East.
These plans were never realised and for the next 30-years, apart from building the ‘Cowshed’ behind the goals, no noticeable ground improvements took place.
Despite the relatively primitive conditions, fans still flocked to the games to watch top quality players such as Joe Baker, Pat Stanton, Willie Hamilton, Peter Cormack, John Brownlie, Alex Cropley and many more however attendances eventually began to dwindle as supporters started to demand, and expect, better facilities.
In the 1980s, Hibernian Chairman Kenny Waugh admitted that modernisation of the stadium was required and in 1985, the height of the old East Terracing was greatly reduced from its towering peak in the previous decades.
A roof was also erected, but views of the pitch from the East were somewhat restricted by the supporting pillars.
Fans that usually occupied that part of the ground were rehoused in the old 'Cowshed' at the north end of stadium during development, which included a famous League Cup Semi Final victory against Rangers.
This reduced the capacity of Easter Road Stadium to 27,000, with the new East Terracing opening at the end of the 1985/86 season.
Over the following 25-years, the fans in the East witnessed numerous unforgettable sights and played no small part in generating one of the finest atmospheres in Scottish football.
Rangers’ ‘Souness Revolution’ started with a defeat in front of a full house as John Blackley’s men won the ‘Battle of Easter Road’ and the noise of celebrating fans could be heard for miles around.
The East was also filled to capacity and proved to be a focal point during the 1990 Hands Off Hibs rally when the great Joe Baker kissed the turf sparking tears all round as fans questioned whether the club would still be in existence for the start of the following season.
Just over a year later it was crammed again as Alex Miller and Murdo McLeod led the team out to a tremendous reception carrying the Skol League Cup.
The atmosphere in the East was arguably at its finest during the Alex McLeish era and many fans still cite the AEK Athens night as the best ever, although a certain 6-2 game ran it close. Russell Latapy’s wonder goal almost blew the roof off as did Franck Sauzee’s header when he lost his teeth in a famous 3-1 win over Hearts.
In 2007, the CIS League Cup was paraded to a packed East Terracing and whilst inevitably many of that wonderful team would leave the club, the money raised would be well spent.
Hibernian had previously obtained planning permission to build a new stand, however development was put on hold until sufficient cash resources were obtained to finance the project.
The Club rightly prioritised the state-of-the-art training centre at East Mains so completion of a new East Stand remained the final piece of the infrastructure jigsaw to be put in place.
A view of the old East at its final game in 2010
In February 2010 Hibernian finally announced that work would start immediately and demolition of the beloved old East Terracing began.
After consulting with the fans, a decision was made to build a single-tier structure rather than mirroring the two-tiers of the West Stand and the new 6,500 seats took the ground's capacity to just under 21,000.
During the construction, Hibernian Chairman Rod Petrie said: "The fact the Club is able to build a new stand during what is a very challenging time for football, and the economy as a whole, is testament to the rock solid financial footing of the Club created by returning a bottom line profit for five consecutive years."
The new stand opened a month ahead of schedule in August 2010 for a UEFA Europa League qualifier match against NK Maribor and was first filled to capacity when Hibernian faced Dunfermline on 7 May 2012 knowing that they needed a draw to be certain of avoiding relegation.
A 4-0 victory sparked a mixture of joy and relief amongst the fans as they left the stadium that night.
A dedicated singing area in Section 43 subsequently proved to be a success and their noise and enthusiasm inspired many memorable victories.
In addition, the Hibernian Historical Trust funded several large programme boards containing front pages of matchday programmes which are situated in the concourse beneath the stand. These have proved to be popular amongst fans congregating there before taking their seats.
These programmes bring back memories of famous games such as Reims, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Peebles Rovers.
In April 2013, Hibernian legend Pat Stanton officially unveiled almost 1,000 personalised dark green granite stones placed at the entrance. The stones were designed to enable supporters to literally become part of the stadium, and fans’ messages sit alongside members of the Hibernian Hall of Fame which have become part of the fabric of Easter Road Stadium forever.
Around 1,500 supporters turned out to witness the ceremony, and Pat said: “The stones look terrific, and this is now part of the history of this club. It shows what it means to fans, and not just those from Leith. The last time I was round this side of the ground was when I was a laddie climbing over the wall to get in.”
Chairman Rod Petrie added: “I am reminded of the words of Eddie Turnbull who said: ‘There’s Class, First Class and Hibs Class’ and I hope that this evening we have emulated his words and it’s truly Hibs class.”
Hibernian players celebrate a 3-1 Edinburgh Derby victory in front of the East Stand
The new East Stand is now regularly filled and there is no finer sight than when ‘Sunshine on Leith’ rings out following another victory, with the East undoubtedly the place to be on a matchday.
Written By John Hislop