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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Thirty Four

    Hibs go into the nerw season as reigning champions and 35,000 turn up for the first home game to see the League Flag unfurled. A fantastic 4-2 win away to main rivals Rangers puts the Hibees in the driving seat whilst at a much less notable venue the Famous Five play together for the first time but the green and whites lose out on another League title on the last day of the season......
    It was as defending champions that Hibs kicked off season 1948/49 and 35,000 deliriously happy Hibernian fans flocked to Easter Road on 14 August to witness the league flag raised above the stand. In keeping with the upbeat feeling the boys on the park ended the day highest scorers by defeating newly promoted East Fife 5-2 despite having to play for a lengthy period with just ten men after Eddie Turnbull left the field to have several stitches inserted in a head wound. Typically of Turnbull he was back as quickly as possible and even got a goal although man of the match was ex Queens Park amateur Johnny Aitkenhead.

    In his first full season in charge Hugh Shaw couldn’t have asked for a better start and Hibs remained unbeaten in their next match when a Gordon Smith goal earned a point away at Queen of the South. A day later Hibs hosted touring Danish side Frem Copenhagen and in an entertaining encounter struck five goals without reply.

    Forty eight hours later, with more than 40,000 in the stadium Hibs welcomed Hearts to Easter Road for the first Derby of the season and deservedly took the points in a 3-1 win with Alex Linwood getting a brace. Had it not been for Brown in the Hearts goal the margin of victory would have been greater as Smith and Turnbull were both denied by outstanding saves. A busy Hibs then travelled north to face Inverness Caley in a friendly which they easily won 6-2 with Lawrie Reilly bagging a hat trick.

    The good start to the league campaign continued with Hibs finding the net regularly as witnessed by a back to back 5-3 win at Shawfield followed by a 4-4 home draw with Albion Rovers where the home support could only look on in astonishment as Rovers scored three times in the last ten minutes to earn an unlikely point. On a positive note Lawrie Reilly, playing at outside left struck another hat trick to cap a fantastic display by the youngster.

    With League Cup section games about to start Hibs travelled first to Pittodrie on league business and won a tense match 2-1 with Cubby Cuthbertson getting both goals. Match reports indicate the defending champions were not at their best but were still too strong for an Aberdeen side that scored its consolation goal late in the game and had never looked capable of winning the game.

    In a League Cup section with Rangers, Celtic and Clyde it was always going to be a tall order to qualify and despite taking points off all three sides, including a fine 1-0 win at Ibrox Hibs missed out by one point with Rangers qualifying. Ironically their defeat in the opening match at Parkhead came in front of 55,000 fans and was caused due to the single goal scored by ex Hibs forward Jock Weir.

    When league business resumed on 23 October Hibs blitzed a very good Partick Thistle side 6-2 at Firhill and went top of the table with 12 points from 7 games and an undefeated record which no other club was able to boast. Interestingly St Mirren sat in second spot, East Fife third and then Rangers in fourth. Hearts meanwhile were bottom despite having beaten Rangers 2-0 at Tynecastle that afternoon.

    It seems not to matter what generation is being described when the old adage about former players coming back to haunt you is raised. In an earlier League Cup match at Parkhead Hibs had lost 1-0 to a Jock Weir goal and now their unbeaten league run would end at Easter Road when Celtic won 2-1 thanks to a double from Leslie Johnstone who had scored prolifically for Clyde, joined Hibs and struggled, been sold back to Clyde, found the net regularly again earning him a £12,000 mover to Celtic.

    If Hibs wanted to retain the league title then they must beat main contenders Rangers no matter the venue and so it was good news on Saturday 6 November 1948 when the green and whites visited Ibrox, led 3-0 at half time, had Gordon Smith in devastating form and took the points with a worthy 4-2 victory. Sadly they effectively rendered that win as pointless when in their next outing at Easter Road they went down 4-3 to Morton and slipped off the top of the table to be replaced by East Fife.

    It went from bad to worse a week later with a 5-1 thumping from Motherwell at Fir Park but that would be the last defeat of 1948 as a 1-0 home win over Third Lanark coupled with a 2-1 win by Rangers at East Fife put Hibs back on top of the table although they had now played more games than their closest rivals Dundee. Thankfully in their next game they defeated Dundee 2-1 before playing out a trio of successive 1-1 draws away to Falkirk and then at home to St Mirren and Queen of the South.

    New Years Day 1949 took Hibs to Tynecastle where they found themselves two goals down after just twenty minutes but goals from Angus Plumb and Bobby Combe looked to have earned a point until Conn struck a winner for the home side in the final minute. Two days later at Easter Road around 30,000 turned out to watch Hibs easily dispose of Clyde 3-0 and in fact that result was the first in a run of eight matches without defeat for Hibernian. On the following Saturday at Bayview Hibs gained two vital points with a great 3-2 win before Aberdeen were trounced 4-1 at Easter Road to keep the green and whites well in the hunt for the title.

    January brought the Scottish Cup and round one took Hibs to Station Park, Forfar where they won 4-0 despite having Gordon Smith carried off injured in the second half. Ahead of round two Hibs went to Coatbridge on league business and trounced Albion Rovers quite easily by three goals to nil before Raith Rovers produced a real shock by holding Hibs to a 1-1 draw at Easter Road in the Cup.

    Thankfully Hibs won the replay but only just and the 4-3 scoreline came courtesy of a late own goal by the hosts to set up a home tie in round three against East Fife.

    Next time out in the league Hibs went to Parkhead and won 2-1 but the other side of the Old Firm won a close encounter at Easter Road a week later to avenge that earlier Ibrox defeat. A week later at Cappielow Davie Shaw collapsed after 30 minutes and was carried off suffering what looked like knee damage but the green and whites buckled down, reshuffled their pack and took both points in a fighting 3-2 win. Unfortunately, a week later the Scottish Cup hopes were dashed when East Fife came to Easter Road, defended resolutely and hit on the break twice to put them into round four.

    Hibs would have a couple of blank Saturdays now but when they were in action they suffered successive away defeats by 4-3 at Dens Park, Dundee and 2-0 at Love Street, Paisley and it was notable that Gordon Smith missed both games due to injury.

    The Prince of Wingers was back to face Partick Thistle and scored the second in a 2-1 win, the game marking the debut of goalkeeper Tommy Younger who replaced Jimmy Kerr as the latter was at Wembley helping Scotland defeat England 3-1 with the final Scottish goal coming from Lawrie Reilly. The win over Thistle put Hibs into third place, two points behind leaders Rangers but the Ibrox side had played two games fewer.

    On the Monday evening following, Hibs made the short trip across town to face Hearts in the final of the East of Scotland Shield that had been held over from the previous season. Hibs easily won 3-0 with goals from Smith, Reilly and Cuthbertson whilst Younger was retained in goals and played well and young John Paterson impressed in central defence where he marked Willie Bauld out of the game.

    The weekend brought Motherwell to Easter Road and Hibs swamped them 5-1 in a fast and exciting game that had the visiting goalkeeper named man of the match which was just as well for the Steelmen or the defeat could have been so much heavier. On that same day, Celtic struggling in mid table were beaten 2-1 at home by relegation threatened Third Lanark and the Celtic fans were not slow to voice their displeasure but to be fair to the Cathkin Park side they were enjoying a good run and extended it a week later when they hosted Hibs and won 3-2. That defeat effectively ended any hopes Hibs might have had of finishing in second spot given that they had just one match left to play before their campaign ended.

    Although no-one really understood it at the time, the date 21 April 1949 would mark an historic day for Hibernian Football Club. The occasion was a friendly against Borders based Nithsdale Wanderers and Hibs strolled to an expected win scoring eight goals and conceding just one. The scorers were Willie Ormond, Lawrie Reilly and Eddie Turnbull who all notched two whilst single strikes came from Gordon Smith and Mike Gallagher. In itself all of that was quite unremarkable but the significant factor was that for the first time ever the forward line read Smith, Johnstone, Reilly, Turnbull and Ormond. Humble beginnings for a group of players that would become known as the Famous Five and which would thrill football fans all over the world in the years ahead.

    Hibs’ domestic season ended with a good 2-0 home win over a strong Falkirk side before the green and whites embarked on a series of friendlies and benefit matches starting with an impressive 5-2 win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. A short tour of Austria and Germany yielded a couple of notable results including a 6-1 defeat of Bayern Munich before the players earned a well deserved close season break ahead of what would surely be a difficult campaign in the coming season. Interestingly, in the season just ended Lawrie Reilly had began to feature regularly in the first team and he totted up 20 appearances and scored an impressive 14 goals whilst Gordon Smith was top scorer with 15.

    Mid August marked the start of the 1949/50 season when the SFA decided that the League Cup should be given more prominence as it was after all one of only three competitions to play for in Scotland. Hibs joined Falkirk, Third Lanark and Queen of the South in a section and won five of the six matches, losing only at Brockville when Falkirk avenged a 1-0 defeat at Easter Road by winning 2-1. It’s worth mentioning here the kind of crowds these games were attracting as Hibs had 35,000 for their opening game at home to Falkirk and 25,000 watched as they defeated Queen of the South 5-3 in the final section game that ensured qualification for the later stages.

    Hibs’ opening league match took them to Starks Park to face newly promoted Raith Rovers and the Kirkcaldy side must have wondered what it had let itself in for as Hibs thrashed them 6-0 with Reilly and Smith both getting doubles. On the same day Hearts also faced Fife opposition but were not so fortunate as East Fife silenced the Tynecastle crowd by winning 1-0.

    The League Cup quarter final would be played on a home and away basis and Hibs drew Partick Thistle with the first leg at Firhill where, with Gordon Smith out injured thje green and whites went down 4-2 to a better side on the day. In the second leg a few days later some 35,000 roared Hibs on and within ten minutes they had wiped out the two goal deficit with strikes by Lawrie Reilly and Willie Ormond. Second half goals from Bobby Combe and Lawrie Reilly.

    Three days later Hibernian smiles were eradicated in the cruellest way when the Easter Road man travelled across town to face Hearts and after 54 minutes were trailing 5-0 and it could have been six had the hosts not missed a penalty. Two late goals from Hibs helped save the blushes a bit although it was a painful experience for the Hibs fans in a crowd of more than 40,000 to watch their rivals outclass their favourites.

    The following Saturday Hibs faced Aberdeen at Easter Road and were without Gordon Smith and Lawrie Reilly who were away playing for Scotland. Tommy McDonald wore the number seven shirt and Turnbull was switched to wear nine in a shuffled pack. The 30,000 fans were well entertained in a free flowing game that Hibs won 2-1 with goals from Ormond and Turnbull.

    The League Cup semi final pitched Hibs up against Dunfermline at neutral Tynecastle and the Hibs fans in the 31,600 crowd must have anticipated a trip to Hampden when Lawrie Reilly fired the green and whites in front but the Pars equalised in controversial fashion when Turnbull was clearly tripped in the Dunfermline box and all around that area stopped in anticipation of a whistle by the referee but he ignored the incident and Dunfermline raced to the other end to draw the game level. Whether that incident upset the Hibs men we shall probably never know but suffice to say they did not play well for the remainder of the game and that allowed the Pars to score a second and decisive goal. Salt was rubbed in the wound by the fact that both Dunfermline goals were scored by ex Hibs player Gerry Mayes.

    Remarkably the Cup setback seemed to galvanise Hibs as they proceeded to go on an unbeaten run of eleven games that took them right through to the end of 1949. Many have argued that the Cup defeat was what prompted manager Shaw to re-jig his half back line and the statistics seem to show there is a great deal of merit in that argument because as a unit Bobby Combe, John Paterson and Archie Buchanan became quite formidable over the years. The unbeaten run began with two successive 2-0 home wins over Queen of the South and Partick Thistle that attracted in total more than 50,000 fans. Celtic away was not as daunting as it would become in later years but never easy and although Hibs led 2-0 the home side got back into it with two late goals and stole a point they didn’t really merit on their play.

    A week later Rangers visited Easter Road for a fixture that always attracted huge crowds and this was no exception as around 52,000 were inside the ground. Estimates of the Rangers support were given as close to 20,000, a remarkable number! An early second half goal from Turnbull won the points but it is worth noting that the Scotsman match report speaks in glowing terms not of the Famous Five but for the guys behind them who Lawrie Reilly christened some years later as the Stupendous Six. Tommy Younger, Jock Govan, Jimmy Cairns, Bobby Combe, John Paterson and Archie Buchanan repelled wave after wave of Rangers attacks and did as much as Turnbull’s goal did in securing two great points and ending their opponents’ unbeaten league run.

    A week later Hibs went top of the league courtesy of a fine 3-1 away win at Motherwell. In close pursuit were Rangers, St. Mirren and Dundee with Hearts moving rapidly up the table after an indifferent start to their campaign. A further seven days on and Hibs retained top spot when Bobby Johnstone inspired them to an emphatic 4-1 Easter Road win over East Fife when we are told the green and whites would have won by a wider margin had the referee not chalked off two seemingly excellent goals with dubious offside decisions.

    A 2-0 away win at Third Lanark put Hibs onto 17 points from 10 games with 26 goals scored and just 9 conceded. Dundee and Rangers shared second spot although the Dens Park side had played two more games whilst Rangers in scoring 18 goals had conceded only 4, a measure of their outstanding defensive qualities.

    December 1949 began for Hibs with an impressive 2-1 win at Dens Park against high flying Dundee with Gordon Smith and a last minute goal from Lawrie Reilly securing the points. On the same day Rangers doubled their goals against figure in winning a real thriller 5-4 against Clyde.

    When Falkirk next arrived at Easter Road they were thrashed 5-1 with Gordon Smith getting four of them and Bobby Johnstone the other. The 25,000 crowd cheered each goal loudly but rumour has it that the loudest cheer of all came at half time when it was revealed that Rangers were losing 3-0 at Motherwell.

    A 3-1 away win at Love Street ensured Hibs would stay top of the league although they were closely pursued by Rangers and Hearts. The Scotsman newspaper was thrilled by the fact that Edinburgh was throwing up a real challenge to Glasgow Rangers, that club having dominated the league for some time.

    On Christmas Eve 1949 a somewhat off colour Hibs put in a poor display at home to Raith Rovers but still managed to win the game 4-2. We are told that McGregor the Rovers goalie made two ‘fatal’ errors that cost his team dear whilst at the other end Tommy Younger pulled off a string of fine saves.

    New Years Eve brought a 1-0 scrambled win at Shawfield against Clyde and then 48 hours later it was Derby day at Easter Road. The attendance was 65,850 which was then and remains a record for a match played outside of Glasgow. Indeed the Old Firm met that day but their crowd was less in number than the one at Easter Road. As to the game itself, Hibs took the lead through Gordon Smith on the half hour but a 52nd minute strike by Alfie Conn levelled things out before Jimmy Wardhaugh won the points for the visitors in the 78th minute as the greens could find no way past the Hearts keeper Jimmy Brown who played out of his skin in denying the home side time and again. Despite the defeat Hibs stayed top but the whole game was overshadowed by the fact that in the crush on the terraces, with mounted policemen struggling to keep control, many fans were hurt and required medical treatment.

    A good 3-0 win at Pittodrie just 24 hours later was followed up in the week ahead with a 4-1 demolition of Stirling Albion at Easter Road before Hibs lost what would prove to be two vital points when they could only manage to draw at both Palmerston where it was 2-2 and Eddie Turnbull scored both Hibs goals and Firhill where it was also 2-2 and Gordon Smith scored a quite spectacular goal when he controlled a pacy cross when close to the goal line before screwing a shot from a near impossible angle into the goal via both the bar and the post.. A week after that draw at Firhill, Hibs played Partick Thistle at Easter Road in the Scottish Cup, pounded keeper Tommy Ledgerwood’s goal and contrived to lose the game 1-0.

    On 4 February 1950 Eddie Turnbull made a little bit of history by scoring all four goals in a match where Hibs defeated Celtic 4-1 at Easter Road. Scoring four was a feat in itself but when you take into account that three of the four came from the penalty spot you soon realise that this little piece of Hibernian history is never likely to be equalled. The following midweek Hibs headed off to Birmingham to face Aston Villa in a friendly and lost 5-2 but it was the league title that Hugh Shaw’s men had their eyes firmly fixed upon and so it was business as normal at the weekend when the greens thumped Motherwell 6-1 in front of a delighted Easter Road crowd of around 25,000. In fact Hibs led that match 5-1 at half time thanks in part to a hat trick from Gordon Smith.

    Unfortunately that demolition of Motherwell was not followed up on as Hibs drew 1-1 away to East Fife and broke more than a few Hearts when they meekly went down 1-0 at home to Third Lanark who had Louie Goram, father of Andy, in goals. To be fair East Fife were sitting in third place and so had aspirations of their own regarding the destination of the league title as did Hibs, Hearts and Rangers as only those four looked realistic contenders at that point.

    Mid March saw Hibs beat Dundee 4-2 at Easter Road, completing the double against the Dens Park side and managing to do so without the injured Eddie Turnbull. That win was followed up by another as the green and whites took the points beating Falkirk 2-1 at Brockville on a mud bath of a pitch. Hibs scored through Lawrie Reilly and Bobby Combe whilst Falkirk got their goal from ex Hibs man Angus Plumb. Those wins kept Hibs in the hunt for the title when once again Rangers were in pole position.

    Great wing play with Gordon Smith and Willie Ormond each scoring twice enabled Hibs to demolish St. Mirren 5-0 at Easter Road with Lawrie Reilly getting the other and then at Annfield for their third last game of the campaign Hibs won 5-3 and effectively relegated their hosts Stirling Albion in the process. Once again Gordon Smith was prominent, bagging yet another hat trick whilst all of the Famous Five were on the scoresheet, Ormond twice, when Clyde were beaten 6-3 at Easter Road.

    A meaningless friendly at Parkhead which Hibs lost 3-2 to the Easter Road men into the final league game of the season, against Rangers at Ibrox where a win for the home side would guarantee them the title whilst a win for Hibs would mean Rangers would need to thrash Third Lanark in what would be their final match of the campaign. An incredible 101,000 packed into Ibrox but no-one would leave with any real sense of satisfaction as a tense affair ended up at 0-0. On the Monday night at Cathkin, Third Lanark put up a sterling fight and even missed a penalty. They lost 2-1 but had the match been drawn then Hibs would have been champions courtesy of a superior goal average but it was not to be and once again Rangers were crowned champions.

    Prior to breaking for the close season Hibs played two friendlies that took them virtually to opposite ends of the country. In London they beat Spurs 1-0 and in Inverness they beat the local Thistle 6-1.
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