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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty One

    At last the war in Europe was over and the people of Edinburgh and Leith set about trying to get their lives back to normal. Hibernian had continued to play throughout the hostilities but a lot of work was now needed to get them back in a position where they could challenge for the top honours again. The world had certainly changed and so had Scottish football as sectarianism reared its ugly head for the first time.

    With the war over and life beginning to return to something like normal for Hibs there was an opportunity to look at the state of play over the close season in relation to the fact that little or no investment had been possible either in the team or the ground for almost five years. Like Dan McMichael before him, Davy Gordon had to make do with very little in terms of funding for players and like Dan before him he would have to trawl the junior ranks to get his squad ready for the coming season. It’s worth reminding ourselves here that since its inception in 1875 the club had been owned by Irish families still resident in Ireland and had been expected to ‘fend for itself’ in terms of expenditure etc. That situation would change when the Irish people, angry at the British Governments refusal to honour its word on independence would have more than enough to concern them without worrying about a football club in Scotland.

    As to Easter Road as a venue for football matches – it was in a pretty sorry state as the ‘main stand’ was all but falling down and the stripping boxes (dressing rooms) were also in a sad state of repair. The other sides of the ground had no formal terracing as we would know it today but rather it was simply banking rising away from the pitch and could be quite treacherous in bad weather.

    Imagine the surprise and delight amongst the Hibernian support when it was announced that plans to improve the ground would take second place to improving the team on the park. This was a huge departure from the norm and was no doubt brought about, at least in part, by the scare of finishing bottom of the pile in the season just ended.

    Although he didn’t realise it at the time, manager Gordon already had the nucleus of the side that would take Hibs back into the upper reaches of Scottish football where they belonged. McGinnigle, Dornan, Templeton, Kerr, Shaw, Paterson, Miller and Ritchie were all ‘in place’ and soon new faces would be added as Gordon identified players that he wanted to sign. The league season about to get under way would have a First Division of 22 clubs and already it had been decided that there would be no automatic relegation or indeed promotion from the Second Division as clubs would be judged suitable for the top flight on the state of their finances rather than on the points won and lost on the field of play.

    Hibs’ season started at Cathkin where Third Lanark defeated them 2-0 but unlike the previous season when the greens didn’t actually win a league match until well into October, the first two points went on the board on 20 August 1919 when a Jimmy Williamson hat trick brought a 3-0 home win over Hamilton. Four days later Hibs beat St Mirren 2-1 at Easter Road with just ten men for most of the game after keeper Stevenson was carried off with a leg injury. August ended with a 3-2 reversal at Fir Park, Motherwell but a week later, in front of more than 15,000 fans, Aberdeen were defeated 2-1 at Easter Road with Jimmy Williamson again doing the damage in getting both goals.

    In these early games a pattern was emerging where home wins were nullified by away defeats and indeed in the next away game Hibs went down 2-0 at Airdrie before the trend ended in mid September with a 4-2 home defeat by Hearts in front of around 18,000 fans. In a quite remarkable opening 45 minutes, Hearts led 2-1 and then 4-2 with the second half being much less ‘entertaining.’ That result put Hearts onto eight points from five games whilst Hibs sat on six points from six games although it was obviously still very early in what would be a long campaign.

    The next two games brought a 2-0 home win over Falkirk and a 2-1 defeat at St Mirren before Hibs finally won a game on the road in defeating Albion Rovers 2-1 at Cliftonhill. That win took Hibs up to eighth but they could only manage a point from their next match which resulted in a 3-3 draw at Easter Road against Dumbarton. Unfortunately for the player and indeed for Hibs their star goalkeeper David Stevenson was carried off with a broken ankle and would be out of action for some time as a result.

    Top of the league was a Celtic side that had yet to lose a game so it was quite a surprise that Hibs managed to score three times against a defence that had conceded so few goals. Unfortunately, Jimmy Scott the Hibs goalkeeper was beaten seven times and as a result the points stayed firmly in Glasgow.

    A week after sharing ten goals at Parkhead, Hibs shared eight at Easter Road but thankfully six of those went to the greens as Partick Thistle was put to the sword. Amazingly, Thistle had raced into a two goal lead but Jimmy Williamson was the Hibs hero again, scoring four and helping set up Willie Stage and John Wood for the others. October 1919 ended with a 1-0 defeat at Somerset Park as once again Hibs found that they didn’t travel too well.

    Hampden was the next port of call where 12,000 turned out to watch the ‘Spiders’ take a 2-0 lead only for Hibs to peg them back with goals from Jimmy Williamson and Harry Ritchie. A point on the road was a rarity but very welcome nonetheless as were the six points gained from three consecutive home wins against Raith Rovers (2-0), Clyde (1-0) and Morton (1-0). Unfortunately, December began with an away game at Ibrox where young goalkeeper Jimmy Scott and his defensive colleagues had a nightmare as the greens were swept away in a 7-0 drubbing. Three more games in December brought one type of result for each, being a 3-1 defeat at Dens Park, a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie and a 4-1 win over Kilmarnock at Easter Road. As 1919 drew to a close, Hibs were tied with Hearts in seventh place, both sides having accrued 23 points from 22 games.

    Locked together, Hibs and Hearts met at Tynecastle on 1 January 1920 in a league match in front of around 22,000 supporters. Since the sides last met in the league, Hearts had changed their manager with John McCartney, who had presided over more than 350 matches for the Gorgie club was replaced by another McCartney, Willie who in future years would play a massive part in proceedings at Easter Road. The ‘new’ McCartney could only watch on in horror as his side conceded two own goals and lost a third goal to Jimmy Williamson in going down 3-1 and thereby dropping below Hibs in the league.

    Two days later Hibs beat Clydebank 2-0 at Easter Road in front of more than 14,000 fans and then a further three days on from there they defeated a select side 3-2 in a benefit match for Peter Kerr the long serving and very loyal Hibernian defender. All three goals in that game were scored by a recent Davy Gordon signing, a lad named Hugh McClymont who was signed from a Junior club based near Loch Lomond. The next two league games ended in defeat which was unfortunate for keeper David Stevenson, back in the side having recovered from his broken ankle.

    By now the Scottish footballing authorities had decided that the Scottish Cup should once again be played for and the first round draw had pitched Hibs up against Ayrshire outfit Galston with the game being played at the home of the junior club. It was a tie that was not without incident and that was before a ball was even kicked in earnest. The Galston pitch sat on top of some old mine workings and a week or so prior to the cup tie taking place, part of the pitch subsided. Upon hearing of this, Hibs offered Galston the chance to play the tie at Easter Road with financial compensation as part of the deal but they refused and even though Hibs approached the SFA regarding the state of the Galston pitch they more or less told the greens just to get on and play the tie. Heavy rain on the morning of the match caused more damage to the pitch and when Hibs arrived the locals were trying hard to fill in holes that had appeared in the playing surface. Needless to say the game was a farce but Hibs survived, albeit for a replay after this game finished at 0-0. Even with home advantage and a proper playing surface the greens still made heavy weather of progressing into the next round but eventually managed it with a 2-1 win.

    The narrow escape at the hands of junior club Galston merely prolonged the wait until Hibs were once again dumped out of the cup by a side that on paper was vastly inferior. As they say however the game is not played on paper and so it was that Armadale Thistle beat Hibs 1-0 in round two and ended any hopes of a visit to Hampden. In fairness to Armadale they had already knocked out Clyde in round one and would defeat Ayr United in round three before losing in round four to eventual finalists Kilmarnock. The Rugby Park club would face Albion Rovers in that final after the latter had knocked Rangers out in the semi final. Killie won the cup that year but the attendance at Hampden for the final is surely worth noting here as it was a staggering 96,000.

    Suffering a cup hangover Hibs’ next four games, all away from home, all ended in defeat and in fact their next two games, both at Easter Road also ended in defeat before the rot was temporarily halted thanks to a 3-3 draw away to Clydebank. The halt was indeed temporary as Hibs lost their next game going down 4-1 at home to Airdrie.

    Long serving Bobby Templeton was granted a benefit match by Hibs and that took place on 31 March 1920 when a Hibernian and East of Scotland Select went down 5-2 at Easter Road to Celtic. That match was followed three days later by Hibs losing 2-1 at home to Third Lanark in the league before they journeyed south and lost 2-0 to Hull City in a friendly.

    The wheels had well and truly come off the bus for Hibs in terms of league matches as following the 2-1 reversal to Third Lanark they played seven more games and earned just five points meaning they finished a disappointing eighteenth in the league.

    A number of other matches were played before the season ended including a 1-0 home win over St Bernards in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield; a benefit match for that great servant to Hibernian Sandy Grosert where a Hibernian and East of Scotland Select lost 3-1 at Easter Road to a Scottish League eleven; a 1-1 draw with Hearts in the East of Scotland Shield Final with the replay being combined with the Wilson Cup Final and Hearts winning 3-1.

    A season that initially held much promise somewhat petered out after Hibs’ shock exit from the Scottish Cup at the hands of Armadale and so Davy Gordon would certainly have his work cut out in preparing the squad for another season come August 1920.

    Something that was going on in Edinburgh/Leith in the summer of 1920 is worth recording here if only for the fact that whilst Hibernian has Edinburgh on its club crest and indeed Easter Road Stadium lies within the Edinburgh City boundary, there has always been and no doubt always will be an association with Leith as far as Hibernian is concerned.

    Up until the summer of 1920, Edinburgh and Leith were considered independent of each other with a clearly defined boundary between the two and it had been that way since around 1830 with the main industries of Leith obviously centring on the docks. When the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, also known as Little Ireland, was overflowing with population and a number of the dwellings there were demolished the Irish moved further afield, including to Leith where many of the men found work at the docks. Although they were now removed from Little Ireland they were still great supporters of Hibernian Football Club and as they were amongst the original Leithers to support the club they effectively demonstrate why there is such an affinity between Hibernian and Leith.

    When the summer of 1920 arrived the port of Leith was beginning to be ‘hemmed’ in as Edinburgh expanded its boundaries around it. Edinburgh wanted to incorporate Leith into its boundaries – Leithers were not at all keen on losing their independence and so it was put to the people of Leith to vote on the proposal to amalgamate. That vote had just fewer than 60,000 voting against amalgamation and just under 30,000 voting for it so clearly the majority was against any amalgamation but unfortunately the vote was completely ignored by a House of Commons Committee in London and so Leith became a part of Edinburgh.

    Regardless of that amalgamation, Leith will always be Leith and Edinburgh will always be Edinburgh but hopefully it illustrates why Hibernian and Leith continue to go hand in hand.

    With the new season came some new faces including Davy Anderson and Alex Strange, both of whom would turn out on many occasions for Hibernian. Other new faces included Paddy Hannigan and John Cannon but inevitably some players had moved on and those included the ever popular Sandy Grosert who moved to Aberdeen and goalscorer Jimmy Williamson who joined Tranmere Rovers. So Davy Gordon would go into season 1920/21 with 19 signed players which was more than they’d managed in recent years. There would be 22 clubs in the First Division and automatic relegation was to be introduced for the first time and so a good start to the campaign was what all 22 clubs hoped to achieve.

    In their first four games Hibs managed just one win, defeating St Mirren 1-0 at Easter Road as well as a 0-0 draw against Falkirk, a 4-2 away defeat at Motherwell and most painful of all, a 5-1 defeat at Tynecastle. Down 3-0 at half time the greens scored early in the second half from the penalty spot but Hearts were in no mood to allow a comeback and added two more goals of their own much to the delight of their fans in the 27,500 crowd.

    Already it seemed obvious that Hibs were lacking a bit of quality and manager Davy Gordon moved to address that by signing goalkeeper Willie Harper from Edinburgh Emmet and Jimmy Dunn from St. Anthony’s of Glasgow. Both players would be part of a side revered by Hibs fans for many years to come but their debut was not a game they would care to remember as Hibs went down 2-0 at home to Airdrie. In the next three matches Hibs drew 0-0 with Kilmarnock but then went on to beat Falkirk 3-0 and Dumbarton 2-0 with goalkeeper Willie Harper earning rave reviews in keeping three clean sheets in a row. Unfortunately the nest three matches all ended in defeat, the worst of those at Airdrie when the greens went down 5-1 whilst another was a 1-0 defeat at Ibrox where sectarianism was beginning to show its ugly face. Heavily influenced by the Ulster Orangemen who had arrived in Glasgow to work at the Harland Wolff Shipyard the Rangers Football Club welcomed growing numbers through their turnstiles and fostered the anti Celtic/anti Catholic stance by declaring that they would no longer be willing to sign Roman Catholic players. Even then, greed was the motivation and little changed for many decades to come.

    October 1920 started well with back to back wins over Third Lanark and Aberdeen but the rest of the month brought three narrow defeats before the rot was stopped early in November with a 5-2 win over Albion Rovers at Easter Road. Around 10,000 fans watched that game and witnessed the debut of another new signing, Paddy Halligan of Shawfield Juniors, not to be confused with Paddy Hannigan who incidentally scored two of the Hibs goals that day. That win over Albion Rovers was the first in a five game run without defeat, ending on 11 December when the greens went down tamely by a 2-0 scoreline at home to Queens Park. In amongst the run of games without defeat had been a 2-0 home win over Dundee where 15,000 fans had witnessed yet another debut, this time of John Walker, signed from Kirkintilloch Rob Roy. Even in those days players often had nicknames and Walker rejoiced in the name ‘Darkie’ on account of his jet black hair and swarthy appearance whilst Halligan was known as ‘Hally’ the reasons for which are obvious.

    The year ended for Hibs with two draws away from home at Hamilton and Clydebank before 1921 started with a home match against oldest rivals Hearts. After a shaky start the Gorgie side had rallied well and went into the game in fifth place in the league whilst Hibs, eight points adrift were down in thirteenth equal position. Just under 30,000 fans made their way to the stadium and the majority supported the greens who took a half time lead with a goal from Jimmy Dunn. The second half belonged to Hibs and two more goals followed thanks to Johnny Halligan and John ‘Darkie’ Walker. Although never too busy, Willie Harper was alert when needed and saved a Ramage penalty to deny the maroons any consolation.

    Two days after the Derby, Hibs travelled to Dens Park and secured a 1-1 draw but didn’t fare so well next time out as they went down 2-0 to Clyde at Shawfield. Just one more game remained before the Scottish Cup got underway and that brought a 3-2 home win over Ayr United

    The first round of the Cup took Hibs to Cathkin Park in Glasgow to face Third Lanark and special trains were laid on to take a big Hibs support through to the west. An early goal for the home side caused some concern but Hibs roared back and equalised through Harry Ritchie but neither side could find the net again and so a replay took place in the following midweek. Although played on a Wednesday afternoon there were still more than 22,000 in the ground as Jimmy Dunn gave Hibs the lead but the visitors equalised with a controversial goal which the greens argued had been stopped on the line by Willie Harper but the referee, some yards away from the incident, declared the ball to have crossed the line and awarded the goal. Once again the sides could not add another goal and so a second replay was required and that took place at Ibrox, two days after Hibs had been to Hampden on league business and won 2-0. A big crowd filed into Ibrox for the cup game and witnessed another close affair but this time Hibs came out on top when Paddy Halligan scored the only goal of the game.

    Due to the replays the second round was already in progress when Hibs faced Partick Thistle but once again replays would be required after the first two games ended at 0-0. The second replay would be at Parkhead but just as they had done last time around, Hibs played and won an away league game 2-0 with Albion Rovers the opposition. A big crowd watched the cup tie and a large number of those present were disappointed when Thistle scored the only goal of the game. The greens had played well and Willie Harper saved a penalty but try as they might they could not break down a stubborn Thistle defence. Incidentally, Thistle went on to win the Cup that year.

    Off the field the club was trying hard to persuade the Trinity Hospital Committee to sell them the ground on which Easter Road stood but their pleas were unheeded and instead they had to be content with a new long lease of thirty years.

    Only the league now remained for Hibs but the greens had no chance of winning it as Rangers were miles ahead of the other 21 clubs. Instead, Hibs concentrated on keeping well clear of the bottom of the league although it was known by this time that the footballing authorities had decided to delay automatic relegation until the coming season.

    Of their three remaining games in February, Hibs won twice away from home to Third Lanark and St Mirren but lost 1-0 at Easter Road to Hamilton before losing their first two home matches in March, going down 3-2 to Aberdeen and 1-0 to Clyde although spirits were lifted slightly by a 4-0 home win over Morton at the end of the month. April started well enough with a 3-1 win at Kilmarnock before Champions elect Rangers came to Easter Road and had to settle for a 1-1 draw as Hibs pegged them back in their own defence for long periods of the match.

    Hibernian had always been willing to help charities in any way it could and one such charity, the St. Cuthbert’s Church and School benefited from a match Hibs played against Hearts at Easter Road on 11 April 1921. The greens won 3-1 and a sizable sum was raised in the process. Two days later Falkirk visited Easter Road for the semi final of the Dunedin Cup and Hibs won 1-0 but then lost 2-0 to Hearts in the final later that month. Just three league games remained and those brought a 1-1 draw at home to Raith Rovers, a 3-0 defeat at Parkhead and a 2-0 home win over Partick Thistle. With the season now over Hibs had finished in thirteenth place with 41 points from 42 games, scoring 58 goals and conceding 57. Rangers won the title by ten points over second placed Celtic and 26 points over third placed Hearts. Had relegation been in place both Dumbarton and St Mirren would have dropped into Division Two.

    Around this time Hibs fans and indeed Directors were stunned when manager Davy Gordon sudden and very unexpectedly handed in his resignation citing ‘personal reasons’ and so, if only briefly, Hibs were without a manager but the Board moved quickly to rectify that situation by enticing Alex Maley away from Clydebank. Of course Maley was a famous name in Scottish football and indeed Alex had a brother names Willie who just happened to be the manager of Glasgow Celtic. Davy Gordon should be remembered however as the man that signed six of the players who would form part of a very impressive Hibernian side in the years ahead.

    The League season might well have been over but Hibs had a number of games still to play. The first of those brought a 4-2 home win over St Bernards in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield and that was followed up four days later by a 1-0 home win over Hearts in the final of the Wilson Cup, Willie Miller getting the goal. Three days later it was 1-0 against Hearts again, this time at Tynecastle in the final of the East of Scotland Shield, Harry Ritchie getting the goal on that occasion. The cup luck ran out on 7 May 1921 when St Bernards won 3-1 at Easter Road in the semi final of the Rosebery Cup.

    Their domestic commitments all now attended too, Hibs went on a short tour of Denmark. Given what happened with Hibs in later years regarding European competition it is interesting to note that for many years before those events the greens had been travelling the world playing football.

    In Denmark three games were played, two against a Copenhagen Select side and one against an Aarhus Select. The Copenhagen games brought a 3-2 win and a 1-0 defeat whilst the Aarhus game ended in a 1-1 draw.
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