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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty Six

    Star players allowed to leave, Rangers kicking us off the park, a mixed bag of results against Hearts, fans disgruntled at the lack of investment in players and the humiliation of relegation.

    As the 1928/29 campaign loomed the Hibs support was somewhat disillusioned at the loss of Jimmy Dunn but in reality it was naÔve to expect that Hibs could keep him. Further misery came when Willie Dornan and Willie Miller, both long time fans favourites were given free transfers and there was even more doom and gloom early in the new season when Harry Ritchie was also transferred to Everton for an undisclosed fee.

    Hibs fans anticipated that the funds realised from the sale of Dunn and Ritchie would mean some new faces arriving at Easter Road but there was no early evidence of that as the greens opened the campaign with a fighting 2-2 draw at home to St. Johnstone and then Leith Athletic was disposed of in the East of Scotland Shield at the third attempt in a 5-0 win at Easter Road. In between those games Killie had won 1-0 at Rugby Park but Aberdeen was thumped 4-1 at Easter Road when Johnny Halligan got a double and Jimmy McColl and Jackie Bradley got one apiece. A surprise 3-2 win over Hearts in the Shield Final seemed to indicate that Hibs were surviving quite well without having to spend money on new players but that train of thought would soon come to an end as the greens struggled to find any sort of consistency.

    Meanwhile, Geordie Murray was granted a benefit match in recognition of his six years of sterling service but only 1000 fans turned up to watch Hearts win a dull game 1-0. Around this time Hibs signed Harry Brown from junior football, not exactly what the Hibs fans had in mind but he got off to a great start by scoring after just six minutes in his debut which just happened to be in a league match against Hearts at Tynecastle. A week later he got two in a 6-1 mauling of Third Lanark at Easter Road and then a further week on he gave Hibs the lead at home against table topping Rangers. The Hibs fans in the 18,000 crowd were delighted but their joy soon turned to anger as Rangers got up to their old trick of hacking at their opponents. A penalty award to Rangers was hotly disputed but it mattered not as Willie Robb brilliantly saved the shot from McPhail. With players from both sides needing treatment off the field the game was unable to flow but the greens reached the interval with their lead intact. Seventeen minutes into the second half a free kick by Archibald took a wicked deflection and sailed past the stranded Robb to give the visitors an equaliser. Minutes later Rangers defender Muirhead made a dreadful challenge on Geordie Murray who was carried off with his leg broken just above the ankle and then soon after Willie McGinnigle suffered a badly twisted knee and had to leave the field meaning that Hibs now had just nine men. Defending desperately they were holding Rangers at bay but ten minutes from the end a shot that rolled along the Hibs goal line, hit the post and came back into play was adjudged by the referee to have crossed the line and so Rangers won 2-1.

    In the seven matches following, taking Hibs up to the end of December 1928 the greens managed just six points out of a possible fourteen with the final of those seven games resulting in a 4-0 thrashing away to St. Johnstone. Granted, Hibs had a man sent off and another carried off injured but they were already 3-0 down by that time having turned in a very poor performance.

    The 1929 New Years Day Derby brought second placed Hearts to Easter Road as firm favourites but Hibs defied the odds and won by a single goal from Jimmy McColl with match reports later stating that the only real surprise was that the greens only won by that goal as they could have scored more. Twenty four hours later Hibs were at Cathkin taking on Third Lanark and going down 2-1 despite having the lionís share of possession.

    Typically of this Jekyll and Hyde Hibs outfit they next defeated high flying Aberdeen at Pittodrie but followed that up with a 2-1 home defeat by Cowdenbeath and then a week later they tumbled out of the Cup, again at Easter Road when St. Johnstone won a tight game 2-1. There were 13,000 at that Cup game and estimates made on the day suggested that around 3,000 were wearing the blue and white of St. Johnstone which was a pretty decent turn out from Perth.

    The lack of investment following the sale of Dunn and Ritchie was beginning to tell on Hibs as injuries depleted their already small squad of players and led to a poor run of form through both January and for the most part February. One bright note was a 2-1 win over Celtic but if January and February were bad then March and April were abysmal. Hibs played six games after that Celtic win and earned just one point which was a sad state of affairs indeed as it took the greens into the bottom half of the table.

    The highs and lows of supporting Hibernian were demonstrated most ably by the outcome of their next three matches. On 13 April they faced Celtic again and because Parkhead was unavailable doe to construction works the game was played at Easter Road and Hibs thumped them 4-1 in front of just 7,000 fans. On the following Monday evening they hosted Falkirk at Easter Road in the semi final of the Dunedin Cup and again won 4-1 but were watched by fewer than 1,000 fans. On the same night Hearts defeated Raith Rovers 4-0, meaning that the Edinburgh clubs met in the final on the Saturday at Tynecastle. Manager Bobby Templeton, for reasons known best to himself, decided to field six reserve players in his starting eleven whilst Hearts were at full strength. It was to be a very costly decision by the Hibs boss as the greens were blown away by the men from Gorgie with Barney Battles getting five goals in an 8-2 win. Derby matches mean everything to supporters of the Edinburgh clubs and it is safe to say that Templeton was not a popular man after that fiasco.

    In their two remaining league games Hibs scored four goals but conceded seven and won no points meaning a fourteenth place finish in a league won by Rangers. To add insult to injury the greens played Hearts in the final of both the Wilson Cup and the Rosebery Cup and lost 5-1 each time in front of a very happy Tynecastle crowd.

    After a close season in which some work was carried out at Easter Road, Hibs faced the new campaign without any significant additions to the playing staff. Bobby Templeton held two public trial matches in which two teams of Hibs players faced each other and seemed happy with what he had witnessed. A grumbling Hibs support was still upset that no monies from player sales had been invested in new players and although no-one knew it at the time this would be a predictably disappointing season for the club.

    Things started brightly enough as 14,000 made their way down Easter Road to watch Hibs beat Airdrie 3-1 but a week later at rain soaked Ibrox the greens went down easily in a 3-0 defeat. Successive losses at home to Hamilton and away to Ayr United followed before Hibs were involved in an eight goal thriller at Tynecastle in the final of the East of Scotland Shield. With 8,000 watching on Hibs were 2-0 up after half an hour and were never behind in the game but had to settle for a 4-4 draw.

    In their next match a remarkable 15,000 turned up at Easter Road to watch a 1-1 draw with Cowdenbeath whilst a week later the greens went down 2-0 at Hampden to Queens Park. On the Monday evening following, Hibs and Hearts drew 1-1 in the replayed final of the East of Scotland Shield but rather than play yet again it was agreed that Hearts would win the trophy on a corner count of nine to five.

    Three points from their next five matches saw Hibs go into the Edinburgh Derby on 26 October in joint second bottom position in the league whilst Hearts were comfortably placed in fifth. The visitors were missing two of their regular players as Harkness and Johnston were representing Scotland against Wales at Cardiff. The 28,000 crowd witnessed a good close game with Andy Miller putting the visitors ahead but Tranent born Frank Dobson equalised just before half time. The match finished at 1-1 and the general view was that a draw was a fair result on the day.

    Around this time Hibs were further weakened when stalwart defender Willie McGinnigle left to join Irish club Coleraine and yet again no move was made to replace him. During November and December the greens played nine league games but earned only seven points out of a possible eighteen and so were still joint second bottom when they visited Tynecastle on 1 January 1930. Only 15,000 fans turned out on a very cold and frosty day to witness Murray firing the hosts ahead but a Preston equaliser midway through the second half earned Hibs an unexpected point in their fight to climb away from the relegation dogfight. Sadly that point and battling performance meant little as in their next two matches Hibs lost 1-0 to Dundee and 3-2 to Hamilton.

    When Willie Robb got injured the Hibs support feared the worse because the big goalkeeper had been playing well despite the poor results but Bobby Templeton pulled off a master stroke by bringing in George Blyth from junior football as the new man played a big part in Hibs going on an unbeaten run of four games, including a good 3-1 away win at Ayr in the second round of the Scottish Cup. Unfortunately for Hibs they then drew Hearts in the third round and although the game was at Easter Road those in the 28,000 crowd wearing green and white would be disappointed when a Bob Sclater equaliser to Andy Millerís opener for Hearts meant nothing because Barney Battles got a double to take the Gorgie side through on a 3-1 scoreline.

    Undaunted by their Scottish Cup exit, Hibs discovered a bit of league form and took four points from their next three matches the highlight of which was a 6-3 home win over Queens Park. High flying Celtic put Hibsí dire position into context when they came to Easter Road, had a man sent off early for disputing a penalty award which Hibs then missed, but still managed to win the game 2-0 with only ten men.

    Seven league games remained for the greens to accrue enough points to stave off relegation but the first of those seven brought a 4-3 defeat in Perth with St Johnstone scoring the decisive goal in the very last minute of what had been an even and entertaining match. Six points from the remaining six games were just enough and Hibs finished fourth bottom but thankfully retained their Division One status.

    In the local competitions Raith Rovers were thumped 6-0 at Easter Road with Harry Brown getting a hat trick and then after drawing 0-0 in the final against Hearts the greens were awarded the trophy on a corner count of five to one. Around 4,000 turned up for the Wilson Cup Final which Hibs won 1-0 at Tynecastle thanks to a Tommy Lauder goal.

    Prior to season 1930/31 commencing the Hibs support was looking for the club to spend some money as flirting with relegation in the campaign just ended was not something anyone wanted the greens to have to go through again. Money was indeed spent although worryingly it was not on players but rather on improving spectating facilities for those fans that chose to watch from the terraces. That was all well and good and no doubt appreciated by the fans but there was genuine concern when the only player movement of any consequence was when goalkeeper Willie Robb left to join Aldershot. It was a young and largely inexperienced squad that Bobby Templeton had at his disposal and pretty soon the results began to reflect that fact.

    The first league match was in Paisley and St. Mirren won a tight game 1-0 with a goal late in the first half. A home draw with Motherwell gave the Hibs fans a first look at this seasonís outfit in which young Willie Clelland, signed from junior football, made an appearance and did well in front of 16,000 fans. With Johnny Halligan and Jimmy McColl sitting this game out it meant the last of the Scottish Cup Final team of six years earlier had now gone. Another 2-2 draw followed as Leith Athletic held the greens in the East of Scotland Shield semi final but Hibs would win the replay 3-0.

    On 23 August 1930 Hibs travelled to Parkhead minus goalkeeper Geordie Blyth who had been injured in the Leith Athletic match. This meant that Bobby Templeton had no choice but to play a recently signed youngster described in the Scotsman match report as Willie Dudgeon late of Tynecastle Rangers! In a bizarre twist young Dudgeon was praised for his performance and the blame for the heavy defeat was laid squarely at the feet of his more experienced team mates. Itís an interesting point that when Celtic started up in 1888 and essentially poached almost the entire Hibernian team they got huge support from the Irish Catholics in and around Glasgow and yet in the match just described there were only 9,000 fans present.

    August 1930 ended with a dismal home performance in which Leith Athletic put aside their recent Shield defeat and took both the points on offer by winning 1-0. Reports indicate a fantastic crowd of 25,000 watched on as Hibs pummelled the Leith goal and ended up losing to a breakaway effort after just eleven minutes.

    The first league victory of the season came with a 3-1 win at Somerset Park where Ayr proved useful opponents but Hibs for once had their shooting boots on. Unfortunately the next few games did not go at all according to plan with a 3-0 home defeat by Partick Thistle being swiftly followed by a 5-4 home defeat by Hearts in the Shield Final and just three days later a 4-1 thumping at Tynecastle in a league match. Needless to say the Hibs support was now extremely unsettled and a meeting was held to determine what influence might be brought to bear on the Board to loosen the purse strings. One of the principal movers within that supporter group was Harry Swan who highlighted the fact that with the club, even after all these years, being firmly in the control of absent Irish based owners there was no scope for improvement and expansion of the football club. After a series of meetings the supporter group achieved its aim to a degree and ex manager Alex Maley was appointed onto the Board.

    Meanwhile, Bobby Templeton was back raiding junior outfits again and his latest capture was Willie Watson, known to one and all as Ginger due to his shock of red hair. A big and uncompromising defender he would go on to play many times for Hibernian.

    Results on the park continued to be mainly poor and so Alex Maley persuaded the Board to put the money up to sign Irish international Joe Miller from Middlesbrough and he made his debut at Pittodrie where Hibs dominated for 30 minutes without scoring and then lost Johnny Halligan to injury. The Dons took full advantage and Hibs collapsed in going down 7-0 and just to rub salt in the wounds, Miller broke several bones in his hand during the debacle.

    Given that result it is hardly surprising to learn that a mere 2,000 turned up to watch Hibsí next home match but those that stayed away missed out as the greens defeated mid table Killie 3-2. Ironically, due to injuries a very young and inexperienced side was fielded but they did Hibernian proud.

    Although it seemed that Bobby Templeton was trying really hard to bring in new faces he was having problems getting the players he wanted and so meantime Hibs had ups and downs with their results towards the end of 1930. A 5-2 home win over Falkirk offered some optimism but in their last game of the year the greens crashed 6-0 at Fir Park against high flying Motherwell.

    Given that thumping it was with a degree of trepidation that the Hibs fans made their way to Easter Road for the Derby match on 1st January 1931. A healthy turnout of 28,000 enjoyed a cracking match that ended 2-2 after Brown and Taylor had the home side ahead only for Japp and Chalmers to level it out after 90 minutes. Taking into account Hibsí poor form that was an excellent result against a strong Hearts side and from a Hibs perspective there was a great deal of consolation taken from the way Ginger Watson dealt with the very experienced Barney Battles. The Hearts man had in the past had his fair share of Derby goals but on this occasion he was rarely seen.

    Two days later Hibs drew 0-0 with Celtic to earn a much needed point before losing 1-0 to Dundee and drawing 1-1 with Leith Athletic ahead of their opening tie in the Scottish Cup. The first round draw had been kind to the greens in giving them a home tie against St Cuthbertís Wanderers but Hibs made heavy weather of it and needed two late goals to secure the match with a 3-1 scoreline.

    Two good points were then secured in beating Ayr United at home before a second round tie in the Cup took Hibs to Douglas Park to face Hamilton. With rain and sleet falling throughout the match was keenly contested and no-one could complain when it ended level in a 2-2 draw but in the following midweek there was a winner as Hibs thrashed the Academical 5-2 with Jimmy McColl scoring four of the Hibs goals.

    A win and a defeat in the next two league games preceded a third round Cup tie against an excellent Motherwell side that proved too strong and in front of 33,300 won the Easter Road clash 3-0. At least with the Cup out of the way Hibs could concentrate on league survival but their next three games yielded just one point and included an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at East Fife with the Methil men, already relegated but outplaying Hibs who had Geordie Blyth in goals to thank for it not being a much bigger score.

    With seven games left Hibs were locked in a relegation battle with Ayr United, Leith Athletic and Morton to decide which club would join East Fife in the Second Division. Those seven games yielded only five points but that was not enough as it left the greens on 25 points and in second bottom spot. The club would be relegated and many in the game said it was almost inevitable as Hibs had failed to properly invest in its playing staff and had relied on too small a pool and a largely inexperienced pool at that.
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