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AXEMAN BOSS OF HIBEES CASUALS; Notorious gang led by bouncer Blance.

Byline: ANDREW WALKER

THIS is the leader of one of Scotland's most notorious casual gangs, together with some of his henchmen.

Andy Blance was prominent among a group of Hibs casuals on Saturday as they waited for Aberdeen fans.

But the Daily Record was there to witness their plans for mayhem being thwarted by the police.

Blance, a Fife nightclub doorman who once attacked another bouncer with an axe, was among known casuals targeted by football intelligence officers.

Others included Jimmy Girvan, who once carried out a CS gas attack on nightclubbers, and Graham Todd, who "glassed" a Celtic fan.

Along with other known hooligans, the trio played a game of cat-and-mouse with police on Saturday.

In addition to thuggery, the casual ringleaders are known for their bravado. On Saturday, they frequently exchanged words and jokes with the plain- clothed police spotters keeping them under surveillance.

They seemed more concerned about being pictured in the Record than being stalked by police.

One of them brazenly approached officers when he saw our cameraman outside the Thistle Bar, near Hibs' Easter Road stadium.

He seemed concerned about the unfamiliar faces among the officers and said: "They better be police, they'd better not be from the Daily Record."

Others, including a street-sweeper well known to the police, were more shy and tried to hide their faces.

But there was no such reticence from the strutting Blance. His presence back at the heart of the Hibs casuals shows he has maintained a power base despite being targeted by rival fans.

It was once reported that a pounds 5000 bounty had been placed on his head by thugs who accused him of tipping off police about rival hooligans' plans to disrupt the 1998 World Cup in France.

Blance, 37, from Inverkeithing in Fife, was jailed for five years in 1991 for the axe attack on a pub bouncer in Dunfermline.

He made his name in the Hibs Baby Crew, younger thugs who caused chaos at football grounds in the late 1980s.

Now he is centre stage in the Capital City Service, the main band of hooligans who claim to be Hibs fans.

Never far from his side are Todd, who was given community service after smashing a glass into the face of a Celtic fan, and Girvan, 36, who was jailed for three years for the CS gas attack.

Girvan and a pal had been thrown out of Edinburgh's Century 2000 nightclub for threatening two other men.

They waited for the pair to leave and then sprayed them with the gas.

But on Saturday, Blance, Todd, Girvan and the rest of their crew were kept in line by a major police operation.

At the beginning of this season, police chiefs in Edinburgh appointed a dedicated football intelligence officer to monitor the louts.

On Saturday, his team of 12 officers kept watch on the thugs before and after the game. Working with Grampian Police and British Transport Police, the squad had the roads and railway stations in Edinburgh covered.

Two-man teams also toured pubs favoured by the Hibs casuals and the Aberdeen contingent.

Attention eventually focussed on the Thistle Bar. Inside were around a dozen known hooligans.

Intelligence indicated a group of 10 Aberdeen Ultra casuals were also drinking nearby. They, too, were kept under observation.

Also on hand were Police Support Units, uniformed officers ready to raid premises and root out trouble- makers. They hung back until 2.15pm before entering and carrying out a quick recce of the Thistle Bar. Officers then waited outside as the drinkers dispersed, searching some for weapons.

One officer said later: "It's been quiet in terms of action but good from an intelligence point of view.

"We see who's who and who they associate with. There's been a lot of the main faces around this afternoon, which was a bit of a surprise.

"You develop a gut instinct - a vibe - for when there will be trouble and it just didn't feel like that."

The casual mentality was summed up by Todd as he left a pub and a police spotter told him the score from the game.

He replied: "Who cares about that?"
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 5, 2003
Words:694
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