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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty Nine

    The struggle to improve things on the park at Easter Road continues as Willie McCartney has to fend off approaches by English clubs for his better players. A Derby double helps lift the spirits as does a Scottish Cup semi final appearance but all of this unfolded against a background of building tension in Europe. A bloody war had been fought just twenty odd years earlier and the world was on the brink of another.

    In preparation for season 1937/38 Hibs held two public trial matches with each of these attracting around 12,000 fans to Easter Road. Those that attended certainly liked the look of Milne who scored on both occasions, Dundee lad George Young, Tommy McIntyre and Willie Rice.

    The season started with a 1-1 draw against Queens Park at a rain soaked Hampden and then a crowd in excess of 30,000 was in place to watch the first home match ending in a 0-0 draw against reigning champions Rangers. Typically of Hibs they followed up that good result by going down 2-0 at home to Queens Park and then 4-0 away to Hamilton.

    It hadn’t been the start hoped for and a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock did little to encourage the fans that things were going to get any better although new signing Bobby Nutley looked promising.

    Going into the first Derby of the season it was on familiar grounds as Hibs were second bottom and Hearts eighth. Two fine goals from Harrison were not enough as Hearts scored three in what proved to be a dull match despite the scoring of five goals and things didn’t get any better next time out when Rangers won 2-0 at Ibrox. It’s interesting to note that when the clubs met at Easter Road the crowd exceeded 30,000 and yet this clash at Ibrox attracted only 12,000.

    When Clyde arrived at Easter Road on 18th September they must have fancied their chances of taking something from the game but they would be disappointed as hat tricks from Arthur Milne and Tommy Egan helped Hibs to a 6-3 win, their first of the season. Having been less than impressed by previous efforts Willie McCartney it is reported, brought several youngsters into the team to face Clyde and clearly his gamble worked much to the delight of the home crowd.

    Next time out they lost unluckily at Palmerston against Queen of the South but got back to winning ways a week later when doubles from Tommy McIntyre and Arthur Milne eased the way to a comfortable 4-1 win on a wet day in front of 9,000 fans.

    Gambling with youth is always tricky as consistency is not guaranteed so it was no surprise really when Hibs lost 5-0 at Pittodrie only to inflict a defeat by the same scoreline a week later on poor Arbroath. The Easter Road crowd was well entertained and surely must have enjoyed the hat trick scored by Arthur Milne. A week later goalkeeper Alex Gourlay saved a penalty at Cathkin but that was not enough to stop Hibs going down 1-0.

    There’s no doubt that Hibs’ recent high scoring exploits at Easter Road helped swell the crowd for the next game to over 16,000 and it is highly likely that the reputation of high flying Motherwell also had a bearing. In what was described as a stirring encounter it finished with honours even at one goal each.

    Of the four games played in November Hibs took five points from a possible eight but December was less fruitful with just one point from five outings and that came on Christmas Day at Easter Road in a 1-1 draw with Hamilton. The match report declares a crowd of 12,000 who were able to listen to the King’s speech at half time courtesy of the newly installed public address system. The match report also suggests that had Hibs taken several easy chances the points would have been secured but for once the usually reliable Arthur Milne was having an off day.

    Just one game remained in 1937 and that took Hibs to Rugby Park, Kilmarnock to face a home side that was struggling near the foot of the table, a fact reflected in the poor attendance of just 3,000. Hibs scored early through Tommy McIntyre and never looked like losing although Alex Gourlay did have to save a penalty to ensure his clean sheet. Two more goals by Arthur Milne ensured the points were heading back to Edinburgh.

    New Years Day 1938 saw a record attendance at Easter Road for the match between Hibs and Hearts. More than 38,000 were in the ground but there was crushing in some areas and fans spilled over the wall onto the track around the pitch. A small number had to be taken away to hospital whilst around 50 were treated after fainting in the crush. Reports clearly suggest that fans were entering the ground and then stopping at the top of the terracings and making it very difficult for others behind them to find a safe place from which to watch. Viewed from the stand it was obvious that there was plenty of room but reluctance by fans to move from their vantage point into clear areas contributed to the difficulties. At one point the police closed the gates with thousands still outside but it is hard to criticise that decision given all of the above.

    When the match did get underway we are told that it was a thrilling encounter featuring robust and clever play from both sides with knocks being given and taken without fuss. With the visitors being a more physical side it looked as though their strength would be crucial but the Hibs took the knocks and still pressed forward at every opportunity and on the stroke of half time they took the lead through Tommy McIntyre. Nine minutes into the second half Arthur Biggs equalised for Hearts and then with just eight minutes left Freddie Warren put the visitors ahead but Davidson equalised near the end and both sides earned the point their play deserved.

    Forty eight hours later Hibs were at freezing cold Gayfield Park facing mid table Arbroath and earning another point in a closely fought 3-3 draw but a week later they earned both points with a 2-0 home win over Queen of the South to put a smile back on the faces of their faithful supporters. Little did they know that a week later the club would suffer one of its biggest humiliations on the football field?

    January 22nd 1938 was a black day indeed for all connected with Hibernian Football Club. The Scottish Cup, that competition which would blight the history of the club, threw up a first round tie that brought Edinburgh City to Easter Road although the tie had originally given them City advantage but they had chosen to switch it with the prospect of sharing bigger gate receipts. The Second Division outfit scored first and were never behind at any stage in a game they won 3-2. A late penalty to Hibs offered a lifeline but Arthur Milne, who had been guilty throughout of missing chances, struck the crossbar with his kick and though he followed up the rebound to shoot home it was of course disallowed. It was a stunning defeat and the home fans were far from happy, calling for action to be taken to strengthen the side.

    This really was an up and down period for the club and over the next seven league games they picked up six points which kept them nearer to the foot of the table than the top and the only new signing following their embarrassing Cup exit was one Robert Walker who joined from ………… Edinburgh City. Walker had scored against Hibs and had shown up well during the game and that was apparently enough to persuade Willie McCartney to sign him.

    With four games remaining the season moved into April and in the first game that month Hibs travelled to Dundee and did well to collect the points in a 2-1 win which proved to be the first of three such scorelines in a row, Partick Thistle and St. Mirren the other ‘victims.’ On Monday 18 April 1938 title challenging Hearts brought their full first team squad to Easter Road to face Hibs in the final of the East of Scotland Shield. Even the prospect of watching a Derby seemed to hold little interest for the fans of both clubs as just 4,700 turned up and that was the lowest attendance for a meeting between these two old clubs for many years. Fans who stayed away, well Hibs fans at least, were the ones to lose out as Hibs led 1-0 at the break and then in four devastating second half minutes they scored three more to make the final score 4-0. It was a welcome win even though the season was almost at an end because it lifted the spirits considerably. Incidentally the win by Hibs meant that each side had now won the Shield twenty seven times.

    The next morning Hibs left on a pre organised tour of Ireland and Wales where they played three games in Ireland against Belfast Distillery, a Munster select and Waterford. Drawing one and winning two the greens scored a total of fourteen goals and conceded seven. In Wales they met Cardiff and lost 3-2 but if nothing else the club had identified a player it would like to sign and so it was that Timothy O’Keefe joined from Waterford for the princely sum of £400.

    Back home in Scotland Hibs played their final league match of the season when they faced Celtic at Parkhead. Given that Celtic were crowned league champions it was astonishing that the game attracted only 5,000 spectators. Those that did turn up witnessed the hosts scoring three goals in ten minutes to win the points on offer.

    The season was over and Hibs finished tenth thanks to a late burst of positive results. Of course the Scottish Cup exit would live long in the memory but even allowing for that it seemed clear that the appointment of Willie McCartney was beginning to have a positive effect.

    The close season of 1938 saw an AGM at which a trading loss was reported but absorbed and explained as relating to the poor cup run. Referring to it as a cup run was stretching it a bit, as it was more of a stagger and fall at the first fence! Defender Tommy Dunsmore left to sign for Luton and McCartney added to his squad by signing Jim Hart from Torquay, John Boyle from Celtic, Tom Scott from Musselburgh and Jim Fleming from Forth Wanderers.

    As the Hibernian support prepared itself for the new season there was much happening around them both locally and nationally. The State Picture House opened its doors in Leith for the first time although many of its intended patrons were worried that their jobs working at Leith Docks might be under threat because shipbuilding had been tailing off. Those that could afford it could travel to Glasgow to take in the Empire Exhibition whilst others might choose instead to treat their kids at the newly opened Harburn Hobbies in Leith Walk. Up in Princes Street Jenners was celebrating its 100th birthday whilst the Town Planners were discussing a proposal to build an exhibition hall on the site of the Waverley Market. Of course all of this was going on whilst Adolph Hitler was building up to armed conflict in Europe and the thought of another War was causing great concern to all of those that had either lived through the previous one or lost loved ones in the conflict. Time would prove that those worries were entirely justified.

    In a football sense Hibs held two public trial matches at Easter Road ahead of the season commencing and both drew good crowds. It must have been satisfying to see Arthur Milne and new boy Timothy O’Keefe amongst the goals and exciting too that Alex Gourlay now had competition for the goalkeepers’ jersey, as young Jimmy Kerr, who had been farmed out to Ormiston Primrose to gain experience was now called up to train with the first team squad.

    Perhaps most exciting of all for the Hibs fans was the fact that for the first time in their history the players would take to the field wearing green shirts with white sleeves. The new strips would be worn for the first time when Hibs took the field at Easter Road in their opening league match against Hamilton. More than 22,000 trekked down to the stadium and they were addressed before the game by Willie McCartney who used the PA system to declare a bright new future for the club just as the players ran onto the park. The cheering was deafening and the green and whites raced into a two goal lead but tired late in the game and conceded two soft goals that cost them a point.

    In the following midweek Hibs went to Tynecastle to compete for the Wilson Cup and lost the match 2-0 with the main point of interest in the newspapers the following day being the fact that the referee had felt the need to speak to the policemen on duty following a stone throwing incident. Both clubs made announcements to their fans that such conduct would not be tolerated although it is unclear which set of fans was responsible for the particular incident.

    It was disappointing to lose at Tynecastle but Hibs soon recovered in the games that mattered and collected two points from a difficult away game to Kilmarnock with Milne the scorer of the only goal of the game. The next three games brought three defeats as McCartney’s young team tried hard to raise its game against more experienced opponents and the manager made his intentions clear by resisting the urge to buy seasoned journeymen and plumped instead for promising youngsters even though results were not going as hoped for. A perfect example of McCartney’s philosophy came with the signing of a lad named John ‘Cubby’ Cuthbertson who would become a very good Hibernian player indeed.

    That run of defeats took Hibs up to the first league Derby of the season with the venue being Easter Road. More than 33,000 were in the ground and ahead of the match there was shock news for both sets of supporters. Firstly the Hibs fans were told that Alex Gourlay was injured and so Jimmy Kerr would be making his debut whilst Hearts fans were told that Harvey had been transferred and regular defender McClure was to be ‘rested.’ In one of the most one sided games in a long while Hibs thrashed their oldest rivals 4-0 with Tommy McIntyre getting a hat trick and Arthur Milne the other. That certainly improved the position in a league table topped by Clyde.

    That Derby win should have inspired Hibs to achieve the double over Kilmarnock but the shooting boots must have been left in the dressing room as the Ayrshire side won at Easter Road 1-0. A similar scoreline was recorded at Coatbridge against Albion Rovers only this time in Hibs’ favour. Leading 1-0, Hibs scored again just after the interval and the ball was taken to the centre spot so that Rovers could restart the game. Just at that point the referee noticed his linesman standing with his flag up and after consulting with him the goal was disallowed, apparently for offside. No Rovers player had felt that to be the case as they’d simply lined up to restart the game but the referee would not be swayed and so a single goal victory was the outcome.

    One of the strongest teams in the league at this time was Aberdeen and so a tough match was anticipated when they visited Easter Road on 24 September. A tough match it turned out to be but not for Hibs as they crushed the Dons 5-0 with an on fire Arthur Milne grabbing a hat trick in front of more than 16,000 fans.

    In the week leading up to the next match the people of Edinburgh and Leith joined the rest of the nation in listening to a radio broadcast made by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The British leader had been to Munich for talks with German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and had returned from Munich waving a sheet of paper which, he said guaranteed ‘peace in our time.’ Apparently talks had gone well and Herr Hitler had given assurances that he would not use force against other European nations. Time would, of course show him to have duped the British PM and by association the people of Britain.

    Back at Easter Road Willie McCartney was busy fending off advances from West Ham and Leeds United who wanted to buy Tommy McIntyre and Willie Finnegan. No sooner had those clubs been rebuffed than Manchester United made a joint bid for McIntyre and Sammy Kean but even the sum of £10,000 could not persuade Hibs to sell. McCartney had made it clear he was building a side, not dismantling it and he was fully supported in this by Harry Swan and the rest of the Board.

    As ever it was Rangers making the running in the league and as ever they still struggled to top the kind of attendances Hibs were attracting. By way of example when Rangers faced Hibs in late September 1938 there was only 15,000 in the ground and that included a reasonable travelling support. Even so, Rangers had a good side and they won 5-2 although the match report in the Scotsman suggests the score totally flattered the hosts.

    The next eight league games brought twelve points out of a possible sixteen including the two earned in a fantastic 6-1 home defeat of St. Mirren. That took the season to the end of November and with decent form being shown the green and whites moved confidently into December, starting the month with a visit to Parkhead to face second placed Celtic. With 25,000 inside the ground the game flowed from end to end with goals arriving at regular intervals. By half time the hosts were leading 4-2 and when Hibs lost McLean to injury early in the second half it looked bleak for the men from Easter Road but this young team had plenty of fighting spirit and amazingly got it back to 4-4. Three minutes from the end Celtic scored but the linesman waved his flag and then dropped it down again. The Hibs players insisted the referee speak to his linesman and a relatively lengthy debate ensued after which the referee allowed the goal to stand. For those of you that think such things are a modern development, remember this happened in 1938!

    Four more games were played in December (note the absence throughout of postponed matches and this was many years before anyone had even thought about undersoil heating) and those brought just two points out of a possible eight.

    On Boxing Day 1938 Hibs and Hearts reserves clashed at Easter Road and although the home side won 5-0 and that in itself makes it worth mentioning the real reason it is highlighted here is because the match attracted no fewer than 8,000 spectators. In years to come Hibs would struggle at times to attract half that number to first team games!

    For once the New Year Derby was not played on the first of the month but on the second as we moved into what would be a truly momentous year, 1939. A massive crowd of 45,061 packed into Tynecastle to watch third placed Hearts take on the young guns of eleventh placed Hibs. The match started at a frenetic pace and continued that way throughout although there were two stoppages due to spectators spilling over the retaining wall and onto the trackside behind one of the goals. With Jimmy Kerr playing out of his skin and Arthur Milne a constant thorn in the side of his marker Hibs were giving as good as they got and so when Milne scored the only goal of the game ten minutes from time it was no more than Hibs deserved. A Derby double was a rare feat indeed and enjoyed all the more because Hearts were still chasing the league title.

    Twenty four hours later Raith Rovers visited Easter Road and it looked as though Hibs were up to their old tricks again by having a nightmare after such a good win in their last game. Raith led from a first half goal until twenty minutes from the end when Tommy McIntyre equalised and then Bobby Nutley struck the winner five minutes from the end.

    On the following Saturday Pittodrie was like a quagmire when Hibs faced up to a good going Aberdeen. The strength sapping surface just didn’t agree with the Hibs men at all and the Dons got full revenge for their earlier 5-0 defeat by thumping Hibs 6-1. Just one league match remained before the Scottish Cup got underway and that brought leaders Rangers to Easter Road. In their 25 matches to date Rangers had scored 87 goals and so it was no surprise that the match drew an attendance in excess of 34,000. In a stirring 90 minutes both sides had chances to win but had to settle for a point each in a 1-1 draw.

    The first round of the Scottish Cup took Hibs to Station Park, Forfar where the home side played for over an hour with just ten men and found Hibs too hot to handle as the Easter Road side recorded a comfortable 3-0 win. Prior to playing in round two against Kilmarnock Hibs visited Hampden on league business, lost Fleming to injury early in the second half and went down 3-2 in front of 12,000 fans. No doubt the green and white’s were hoping they would be back at that stadium to contest the Cup Final but with a different outcome of course.

    To get back to Hampden Hibs’ next obstacle was Kilmarnock who visited Easter Road early in February 1939. Despite putting up strong resistance the visitors couldn’t hold Hibs at bay and the green and whites won 3-1 to progress to the quarter finals.

    Ahead of the cup tie Hibs had two home league matches to play but lost them both. Albion Rovers scraped a 1-0 and then Ayr United scored two penalties whilst Hibs were busy missing one and the Somerset Park side triumphed 3-2 in front of a somewhat disappointed home crowd.

    With those two home defeats still lurking in the back of the mind around 14,000 Hibs fans made their way to Easter Road to watch their favourites take on Alloa Athletic in the cup quarter final. Nobody really expected the visitors to win, although they said the same when Edinburgh City did it the previous season, but they took the lead early on and proved stuffily resistant to subsequent Hibs attacks although Tommy McIntyre finally equalised on the stroke of half time. A half time lecture from Willie McCartney had the desired effect and Hibs were 2-1 ahead within minutes of the restart and sealed it with a third in the latter stages of the game. Hard going but Hibs had reached the semi final.

    Three league matches took place ahead of the cup tie and those resulted in two draws and a defeat which did little to improve the league position or indeed boost the confidence for the cup tie.
    Tynecastle was the chosen neutral venue and more than 40,000 packed in to watch Hibs face a very experienced Clyde eleven. In a tense ninety minutes the story goes that Clyde was the better organised side but Hibs had the better scoring chances. Sadly the green and whites could find no way through and Clyde won the tie with a breakaway goal. It was of little consolation that the Glasgow side went on to lift the cup that season but if nothing else, encouragement was surely taken from the good run Hibs had in that competition.

    Just three days later Hibs were trounced 4-0 at Firhill by Partick Thistle in a league match but in fairness they had to play for over an hour with just ten men after Fleming dislocated a shoulder. Without a league win since January, Hibs kept that sequence going in a 0-0 draw with St. Mirren but finally ended it by defeating high flying Celtic at Easter Road when Tommy McIntyre scored the only goal of the game to the delight of the vast majority of the 16,000 fans present. A week later Hibs won again only this time it was in the final of the East of Scotland Shield when two goals from Bobby Nutley and one from Arthur Milne carried them to a 3-1 win over Hearts at Tynecastle.

    Only two league games remained, one being lost and the other won which meant Hibs finished thirteenth in a league of twenty that had Rangers once again as champions.
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