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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Thirty Two

    The Southern League Cup goes on display in the Hibernian Boardroom in 1944; a Derby win in September sends Hibs on a long unbeaten run but by the end of the season not even Gordon Smith's impressive goals tally could help Hibs finish better than fifth but soon he would be joined by Lawrie Reilly, Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond and things would take a definite turn for the better!

    In the last two seasons Hibs had performed miserably in the Southern League Cup but this season would provide a much better outcome. In a section with Third Lanark, Albion Rovers and Morton the green and whites started encouragingly with a fine 4-0 win over Third Lanark at Cathkin Park. A week later they scraped past Albion Rovers at Easter Road, winning the match 2-1. Interestingly the centre half for Albion Rovers that afternoon was Jock Stein. A 2-2 draw at Cappielow meant five points out of six to date and had Hibs at the top of their section, a position they never relinquished as they went on to beat Third Lanark 4-0 at Easter Road, Albion Rovers 2-0 away and Morton 6-3 at Easter Road in what proved to be the section decider.

    Success in the group took Hibs into a semi final tie against Clyde at neutral Hampden Park where from the first whistle it was evident the green and whites had arrived in determined mood. After 90 minutes of excellent football the final score was Clyde 2 Hibernian 5 and the men from Edinburgh had another Hampden date to look forward too.

    Saturday 20th May 1944 brought 63,000 spectators to Hampden Park and after 17 minutes there was collective gasp of horror as Tommy Bogan accidentally collided with Rangers keeper Jerry Dawson resulting in both players being carried off on stretchers. It transpired that Dawson had a broken leg and Scot Symon had to take over in goals. Despite their handicap Rangers held firm at the back and the match ended 0-0 meaning that the winners would be decided on the number of corners gained. Two years earlier, in the final of the Summer Cup exactly the same scenario had unfolded and as both sides had an equal number of corners the winners were decided by the toss of a coin with Rangers ‘winning’ that toss. This time it would be the Hibs fans that celebrated as the green and whites had earned 6 corners to Rangers’ five.

    In the local competitions Hearts beat Hibs 2-1 in the final of the East of Scotland Shield but revenge was gained in the final of the Rosebery Cup which Hibs won 4-1.

    A long season would conclude with the Summer Cup in which Hibs put seven goals past Airdrie over two legs with Gordon Smith netting two and Tommy Bogan an impressive five. Luck ran out in the second round however when Hibs lost 3-1 on aggregate.

    Those Summer Cup matches were played as the Allies launched their D-Day offensive that would be the beginning of the end for Germany. It would be some time before victory was finally achieved but it would come and those lucky enough to survive the hostilities would at last be able to return home.

    After a very short break, season 1944/45 got underway in Edinburgh with a match at Tynecastle in which a Hearts/Hibs select faced Aston Villa in front of around 30,000 fans. The match had been arranged by the Edinburgh Charities Committee with proceeds going to various needy war charities. The visitors started very strongly and cruised into a three goal lead but when Gordon Smith was switched from centre forward to outside right the select side suddenly came storming back into it and levelled at 3-3 before a late strike finally won the game for Villa. It had been a thoroughly entertaining ninety minutes and the relevant charities would have received significant sums given the excellent attendance. One other thing it did do was put Gordon Smith in the shop window insofar as Villa’s management team was hugely impressed by his play. Tentative enquiries were made of Hibs but the short and determined answer from Easter Road was NO.

    The new league season started badly with two defeats but back to back wins over Hamilton and Dumbarton set them up nicely for the first Derby of the season at Easter Road where 20,000 watched young Sean Devlin, Bobby Nutley and Gordon Smith get the goals that secured a 3-1 win.

    That Derby win set Hibs off on a fantastic run of results that would see them undefeated for the remainder of September the whole of October and half of November. There were a number of impressive results and performances in that spell and so it is worth detailing the sequence.

    Obviously buoyed by his goal in the Derby, Sean Devlin scored two when Hibs beat Queens Park 2-0 at Hampden. Next up was a visit from undefeated Rangers who took an early lead but then got blitzed by Hibernian as the green and whites won 4-1 to open up the league race. A 5-0 win at Albion Rovers and a 3-1 win at Falkirk extended the winning run to seven games before Hibs secured an excellent point in a 1-1 draw with Celtic at Parkhead. That result was all the more remarkable because it occurred when Hibs had no fewer than four players away representing Scotland at Wembley in front of some 90,000 spectators.

    It was back to winning ways the following week when a strong Hibs side demolished Partick Thistle 8-0 at Easter Road with Sean Devlin getting a hat trick and it was goals galore the following week too with a 6-3 win over Third Lanark at Cathkin Park.

    November 1944 began with a 6-2 Easter Road win over St Mirren when it was reported that Gordon Smith scored one and laid on the other five whilst in the next match he scored two in a 3-2 home win over Airdrie.

    When Motherwell arrived at Easter Road on 18 November 1944 it was to face a Hibs side undefeated since 12th August. The Steelmen scored the only goal of the game whilst Sammy Kean was off the park getting treatment but no-one could begrudge them the points as they deserved to win on the day. Although the next match was won 3-2 against Clyde at Shawfield, Hibs were about to enter a period of patchy form that would see them falter in their chase for the Southern League title.

    A first minute Morton goal ended up winning them the game at Easter Road where even a point would have put Hibs to the top of the table whilst only a point was gained away to Hamilton where Sean Devlin was virtually a passenger for over an hour after he was injured in a rash challenge. Gordon Smith scored the Hibs goal in a 1-1 draw.

    The home form of earlier in the season had deserted Hibs now and a disappointing 0-0 draw with lowly Dumbarton was a sign that bad form was the order of the day, a state that continued into the next match that saw Hibs humbled 5-0 at Ibrox, a result that dealt a deadly blow to the title hopes.

    Hibs’ last game of 1944 brought Queens Park to Edinburgh and a 2-0 win brought some cheer back into the lives of the Hibs support but it would be short lived because on 1st January 1945, in front of 30,000 at Tynecastle, Hearts exacted full revenge for their earlier defeat at Easter Road by winning this game 3-0 which was also the margin of defeat twenty four hours later against Motherwell at Fir Park.

    With the poor run of form worrying Willie McCartney he decided to ring the changes for the next home match against Albion Rovers. Into the starting eleven came goalkeeper Joe Henderson, signed from Larkhall Thistle, left back Willie Callan and centre backs Peter Aird and Tommy McCabe. It must have worked because Rovers were duly beaten 4-1 with Gordon Smith getting a double from his centre forward position. A week later Gordon went one better in scoring a hat trick against Falkirk, a side that arrived on the back of a six game unbeaten run and left on the end of a 3-0 defeat.

    Unfortunately the mini revival ended there as Hibs suffered back to back 4-2 home defeats at the hands of Celtic and Third Lanark. Only three league games remained of which two were drawn and the other lost meaning that Hibs finished a disappointing fifth in the table. Rangers were again champions and Hearts finished seventh.

    As holders Hibs entered the Southern League Cup with some enthusiasm but failed to qualify from a group they shared with Third Lanark, Rangers and Albion Rovers. Indeed the only real highlight from that group of matches was an 8-1 win away at Albion Rovers.

    At the beginning of April 1945 there was a huge boost for young Tommy Bogan as he was named to represent Scotland against England at Hampden later that month. Having only turned professional two years earlier his inclusion was considered something of a surprise as was the fact that Gordon Smith was named only as reserve. Poor Tommy would set a record that day as he lasted only 50 seconds before being carried off with torn ligaments.

    Prior to commencing their Summer Cup campaign Hibs defeated Hearts 3-1 at Easter Road in the final of the East of Scotland Shield. Just 9,448 watched on as McCrae’s opening goal for the visitors was cancelled out by strikes from Bobby Baxter, Willie Rice and Gordon Smith.

    The Summer Cup had paired Hibs with St Mirren in the first round and things started badly for the green and whites as they went down 4-2 at Love Street. Around 7,000 fans turned out to watch the second leg and thoroughly enjoyed themselves as Hibs won the match 7-0 with Jock Weir getting a hat trick. That stunning comeback took Hibs into round two against Falkirk and they won that tie 3-2 on aggregate.

    The semi final was against Celtic at neutral Tynecastle and Hibs surprised their opponents by winning 2-0 when the odds were stacked against them. That meant Hibs were now in the final but sadly Partick Thistle won that match 2-0 at Hampden Park.

    The season was over as was the war as VE Day had been declared as 8 May 1945. At last those that had fought so bravely could begin to return home, many of them looking forward to watching Hibernian for the first time in a very long while. As they were returning home Willie McCartney was capturing the signature of another Edinburgh youngster who would go on to be part of a famous forward line – his name was Lawrie Reilly.

    Of course the war may have ended in Europe but it still raged on in the Far East as Japan continued to set its forces against the Allies but even that conflict was drawing near too its end when the 1945/46 football season got underway in Scotland. In Edinburgh a Hearts/Hibs select took on and defeated Huddersfield 4-0 in a charity match at Tynecastle in front of 30,000 fans. Jock Govan, Bobby Baxter, Sammy Kean Gordon Smith and Willie Finnegan represented Hibs with Smith scoring two and Finnegan one of the four goals.

    Rather than return immediately to the old league set up the footballing authorities chose instead to persist with the regional set up for one last season and Hibs opened their campaign by visiting Palmerston Park and crashing 3-0 to Queen of the South but got into winning ways in the following midweek by thrashing Hearts 4-1 at Easter Road in the final of the Wilson Cup.

    As always, Rangers was the club everyone had to think about beating if they were to have any hope of challenging for the league title and Hibs managed just that when the Ibrox side drew a crowd of more than 30,000 to Easter Road where the green and whites deservedly won 2-1 thanks to a couple of excellent goals from Arthur Milne and they followed that up with a hard fought 1-1 draw at Douglas Park where the game was played out in a gale force wind that made clever play nigh on impossible.

    On 1st September 1945 Hibs faced Queens Park at Easter Road and the 20,000 spectators present witnessed a fine display of goalkeeping by the visiting number one who, at just 15 years of age pulled off numerous excellent saves to deny a rampant Hibs side. The lad was beaten four times but of those only the fourth, a 30 yard free kick by Gordon Smith would have been likely to disappoint him. The other three goals came from Arthur Milne but the youngster, Ronnie Simpson could not be faulted for any of them. In time Simpson would play for Hibs but perhaps more famously he would form part of the Celtic side that won the European Cup in 1967.

    When Hibs travelled across the city a week later they did so knowing that they’d not won an away Southern League match since the previous November whilst hosts Hearts had not lost at home in that competition for almost a year. Few in the 40,000 crowd would have anticipated the green and whites dominating proceedings and winning 2-0 with both goals from Arthur Milne extending the little centre forwards purple patch.

    In the next three September league matches Hibs maintained their unbeaten run by gaining four points out of the six available by drawing 1-1 with Aberdeen and 2-2 with Clyde and beating Morton 5-0. In those matches Bobby Combe twice hit doubles with Gordon Smith also on target.

    October 1945 started badly with a 2-1 defeat away to Falkirk but it was back to winning ways the following weekend when Arthur Milne struck twice in a 4-3 away win against Kilmarnock but it was only a point in the next match which brought a dull 0-0 draw with Motherwell at Easter Road. An indifferent month in terms of results ended as it had begun with a 2-1 defeat, this time at the hands of Third Lanark at Cathkin Park.

    As if to demonstrate that time may pass but many things never change, Hibs drew 1-1 with Celtic at Easter Road at the start of November in a match that included the following observation in the Scotsman match report. “Most people thought that the referee, some of whose decisions were difficult to understand, ought to have granted Hibs a penalty kick when Smith was brought down.” He didn’t and so a point was all that Hibernian gained in that match but two points were picked up in the next outing when Partick Thistle were beaten 2-0 at Firhill thanks to goals by Robert Fraser and Arthur Milne and winning ways continued in the following two matches, both at Easter Road when St Mirren were beaten 3-2 when Hibs played the final half hour with just ten men due to an injury and a young Lawrie Reilly wore the number eleven shirt and then Queen of the South were soundly thrashed 6-1 with Reilly amongst the scorers.

    That sequence of results took Hibs up to second place in the league, two points behind Rangers and it was to Ibrox the green and whites next went for a table topping clash. In the week leading up to the game Hibs had transferred Jimmy Caskie to the Ibrox club and that move came back to haunt them as he equalised Gordon Smith’s opener within a minute of the Hibs man scoring. Tommy Bogan hit a second for Hibs but Rangers scored two more to win the match and widen the gap between the sides to four points.

    That Ibrox defeat must have knocked the wind out of the Hibernian sails as they meekly went down in their next match at home to Hamilton before trailing 2-1 away to Queens Park where the match was abandoned with just eight minutes to go because of fog and that was quickly followed up by a 2-1 defeat at Aberdeen, dropping Hibs down to sixth in the table that was topped once again by Rangers.

    On the last Saturday afternoon of the year Hibs entertained Clyde in front of around 12,000 spectators and soon found themselves two goals down and struggling. Willie McCartney then made a tactical switch by bringing Lawrie Reilly in from the left wing to inside left and Hibs were transformed, scoring three times without reply and taking both points as a result.

    Off the park there had been ongoing negotiations regarding what payments could be made to players and after much debate it was settled that a player would receive £4 per match with a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. The players were not over enthused by the deal but took into account that most clubs had incurred substantial losses in revenue during the war years.

    At the very start of 1946 a fierce frost gripped Scotland but in those days it was not enough to cause the cancellation of games and so on 1st January Hibs welcomed Hearts to Easter Road and beat them 1-0 in front of 30,000 fans thanks to a 53rd minute goal from Arthur Milne. In the same match, as reported in the Scotsman, Gordon Smith thrilled the home fans when he ran almost the full length of the pitch beating man after man only to be dispossessed just as he was about to shoot for goal. No surprise really that Gordon would become known as the ‘Prince of Wingers.’

    The Derby win meant that Hibs displaced Hearts in third place in the table behind Rangers and Aberdeen but the green and whites fell badly just 24 hours later when Morton defeated them 4-1 at Cappielow. Just three days later they were in action again and involved in another 4-1 scoreline only this time in beating a good Falkirk side at Easter Road a scoreline they repeated a week later at the same venue against Kilmarnock.

    Of the remaining two games in January Hibs picked up a point in a 0-0 draw at Fir Park against Motherwell before gaining two more in a somewhat easy win over Third Lanark at Easter Road where Gordon Smith was once again prominent in a 4-0 win. At this point, Tommy Bogan was transferred out of the club with Celtic winning the race to sign him which was ironic in that the two clubs were due to meet on the first Saturday in February. That meeting took place at Parkhead; Bogan played but finished on the losing side as Hibs took the points with a 1-0 scoreline. The win kept Hibs in third place behind Aberdeen but they had a game in hand and were only one point adrift. Rangers led by a mile and would go on to the lift the title, so dominant were they at the time.

    Soon another player would leave the club as Willie McCartney allowed goalkeeper Mitchell Downie who had proved an able deputy to Jimmy Kerr when required, to join Kilmarnock. On 9th February 1946 Hibs played their last ever Southern League match at Easter Road and defeated Partick Thistle 3-1 with Jock Weir getting two and Willie Peat the other.

    The green and whites had just two league matches left to play and in winning 3-0 at St. Mirren with Jock Weir getting a hat trick and 4-2 against Queens Park they clinched second spot in the league although they were a full eight points behind champions Rangers.

    In the Southern League Cup Hibs shared a section with Partick Thistle, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock but failed to qualify in picking up only eight points from the twelve available. As always seems to be the way when Hibs are concerned their 1-0 defeat at Rugby Park came courtesy of a goal from ex Hibee Sean Devlin and an inspired goalkeeping performance from Mitchell Downie.

    Around this time football clubs received a financial boost when the Government announced that from 15 May onwards the Entertainment Tax levied would be set at the lower rate. The Government hoped that this concession would allow clubs to reduce admission prices from 1s 6d (7.5p) to 1s 3d (6.5p) but Willie McCartney’s view was that this was unlikely because players’ wage demands would soak up any savings made!

    In recognition of the end of hostilities the Scottish football authorities decided to hold a competition where clubs would play for the Victory Cup and in the first round Hibs met Dundee at Easter Road where a Gordon Smith hat trick ensured progression to a second round tie against Hearts after the Dens Park club could only win the second leg 2-0.

    As May got underway Willie McCartney ventured into the transfer market in securing the signature of Queens Park amateur Johnny Aitkenhead who would be a good servant to Hibs in the years ahead. It’s not clear whether the new man was part of the squad but Hibs sent a team out to Germany to face a British Army on the Rhine eleven and won the match 3-0 in front of a wildly enthusiastic crowd.
    Back in Edinburgh Hibs and Hearts met on two consecutive Saturday’s with the first producing a 3-1 win for Hibs in round two of the Victory Cup whilst the second saw Hearts win 3-2 at Tynecastle in the final of the East of Scotland Shield. Aitkenhead played in the first match which drew a fantastic crowd of 40,000 with the Hearts followers delighted to see Tommy Walker, newly back from India, playing in attack.

    Now into the quarter final of the Victory Cup Hibs headed west to face Partick Thistle with the Jags opting to play the tie at Ibrox. With 25,000 in the ground the game was very even throughout and finished at 1-1 meaning a replay a week later in a game that attracted 30,000 and amongst their number was British Prime Minister Clement Attlee. It’s not clear which side the PM was supporting but he can’t have failed to be impressed with Hibs winning the match 2-0 to set up a semi final clash with Clyde.

    Tynecastle was the venue for the semi final and once again a cracking crowd of 30,000 turned out to watch an excellent cup tie. Hibs went ahead through a disputed penalty with Gordon Smith scoring from the spot and then Arthur Milne doubled the lead but the ‘Bully Wee’ fought back and made it 2-1 as they began to control the match. Thankfully Jimmy Kerr was in fine form and denied Clyde an equaliser which allowed Hibs to look forward to facing Rangers in the final.

    On 15th June 1946 the season finally drew to a close as Hibs faced Rangers at Hampden in front of 90,000 fans. Whichever side won the trophy would have it to keep as this was a one off tournament and try though they did the Hibs found Rangers just too strong on the day and went down 3-1 with the Hibs goal scored by Johnny Aitkenhead.
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