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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty Five

    Willie Robb arrives from Rangers, Willie McCartney brings his Hearts side to Easter Road, the stand gets new seats, s seven game unbeaten run lies in tatters for Hearts, Hibs reach the Scottish Cup semi final and Jimmy Dunn becomes a Wembley Wizard

    It was with renewed enthusiasm that the followers of Hibernian gave greetings to season 1926/27. After all, things had surely to improve had they not? As if to burst that bubble as early as possible, manager Bobby Templeton took it into his head to solve his goalkeeping problem by allowing Hibs stalwart Hugh Shaw leave for Ibrox and taking the Govan outfit’s Willie Robb in exchange. It was not a popular move amongst the ranks of those faithful to Hibs but even so, none of them could deny that the greens now had a goalkeeper of great quality on their books.

    Another new face was that of Jackie Bradley who joined from St. Roch’s and both he and Willie Robb were in the side for the first league match of the season which brought St. Johnstone to Easter Road. Within six minutes the Hibs were ahead through Jimmy McColl but after that the Saints ran riot and blasted five goals past the new Hibs custodian who must have wondered at the wisdom of leaving Ibrox to join Hibernian. In fairness St Johnstone had been busy during the close season and had tempted four players north from the English leagues during the summer and two of those were Scottish caps.

    Having lost two players to injury in that defeat by St Johnstone, Hibs were next at Tannadice and with a bit of a makeshift line up managed to win 2-0 with goals by Walker and Dunn. During the following week the same starting eleven beat Leith Athletic 3-1 in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield with Walker again on target and new boy Bradley opening his account with a double. Next up was a visit by Aberdeen with the Dons scoring the winner in a 3-2 victory after Johnny Halligan had been carried off following a quite vicious tackle by Dons defender Hutton. Newspaper reports at the time suggest that Hutton should have been sent off but the referee did not seem to think that and the Hibs fans in the 16,000 crowd apparently roared their disapproval at the man in the middle. Even all those years ago, referees knew it when fans disapproved!

    A week later Hibs deservedly lost at Airdrie 3-0 and that was the scoreline again in the following midweek as Hearts won at Easter Road in a benefit match played for long serving Hibernian Harry Ritchie. Reports indicate that both sides included a number of reserves and that the 6,000 crowd reserved their biggest cheer for Ritchie when the Hibs man came close with a rasping drive from all of 30 yards.

    Their best performance of the season to date came when a strong St. Mirren side visited Easter Road early in September. Leading by a Geordie Murray goal the Hibs came close on a number of occasions to increasing their lead but it was the Scottish Cup holding Buddies that equalised before the greens took the points in the most controversial of circumstances. A through ball reached Clark in the Saints box but as he and the keeper fought for possession both players fell to the ground and the ball rolled slowly towards the empty net. The Saints goalkeeper crawled after it and scooped it up with Hibs claiming it had crossed the line and the Saints keeper insisting it hadn’t. The referee consulted his linesman and ruled ‘no goal’ at which point he was surrounded by Hibs players but he would not change his mind. Minutes later he awarded Hibs a penalty after deciding that a Saints defender had handled in the box but the Buddies players surrounded him in protest. Meanwhile, Harry Ritchie placed the ball on the spot and with the Saints keeper missing as he joined the protest the Hibs man shot the ball into the empty net, much to the amusement of the 16,000 crowd. The referee ordered a retake with the keeper in place and Ritchie duly repeated his earlier feat, winning the game in the process.

    Any thoughts that Hibs were now set into winning ways disappeared a week later when they crashed 4-2 away to Dunfermline after being 2-0 up inside the first quarter of an hour. Injuries to three players severely hampered the visitors and they were powerless to prevent the Pars taking the points.

    Ahead of their next league fixture which would bring reigning champions Celtic, Hibs faced Hearts at home in the final of the East of Scotland Shield where around 13,000 fans watched the Gorgie side thrash their hosts 5-1 with Hibs reserve forward Haggerty getting the only goal for the greens. Certainly Hibs were weakened by injuries but Hearts too fielded a few reserves and as is the case with all Derby defeats it was very painful to watch. Unfortunately, it seems that Willie Robb in the Hibs goal did not cover himself in glory but in his defence he could point to a less than sparkling performance from his team mates. The Hearts manager that day was Willie McCartney who would, in future years, have a major role to play in the history of Hibernian Football Club.

    So it was that Celtic arrived at Easter Road on Saturday 25 September 1926 and within a minute of the game starting they were a goal up through Jimmy McGrory. Harry Ritchie equalised from a disputed penalty and then McLean restored the lead for the visitors but a dogged Hibs once again pulled level thanks to a superb strike by Jackie Bradley. As the game approached its finale, Ritchie saw a lobbed shot come back off the bar whereupon the young reserve forward Haggerty slotted home the winning goal to the delight of the Hibs fans in the crowd of 20,000.

    Having rewarded Harry Ritchie with a benefit match, Hibs extended the same to Jimmy Dunn but slipped up in having Rangers provide the opposition. The Glasgow club was not in any way popular with the Hibernian support and sadly for Jimmy Dunn only a few hundred spectators turned out to watch a 2-2 draw. Just to compound his misery, Dunn missed a penalty on the night as did Haggerty.

    Over the next four games the greens had mixed results including a 5-1 thrashing away to Partick Thistle, a 1-1 draw with Motherwell and wins over both Hamilton and Clyde. At this stage, with eleven games played Hibs were in twelfth spot in the table with a meagre eleven points. A point ahead was Hearts as the sides clashed at Tynecastle on the last Saturday in October in front of 25,500 fans. In a thrilling encounter Jock White scored two first half goals for the hosts but these came either side of a Harry Ritchie penalty. In the second half the greens competed well and merited their equaliser when Jimmy McColl struck a ball on the volley from around 25 yards and beat the Hearts keeper Gilfillan all ends up.

    A good point at Tynecastle was all Hibs earned from away fixtures for a few games as they fell to Dundee, Falkirk and Morton but thankfully home form was better with a 2-2 draw against Rangers, a 2-0 win over Queens Park, a cracking 5-1 win over Kilmarnock in which all five Hibs forwards scored a goal and a convincing 3-0 win over Cowdenbeath before their run of away defeats came to an end on Christmas Day 1926 in a hard fought 0-0 draw with St. Johnstone.

    New Years Day 1927 brought Hearts to Easter Road on the back of a poor run of form that had seen Hibs move above them in the league table, albeit by just one point. A huge crowd exceeding 27,000 in number roared on as both sides served up an exciting ninety minutes with Hearts scoring first through Henderson after just five minutes but the greens fought back and Harry Ritchie pulled them level in the 20th minute after which the home side held the balance of play. It was however Hearts that scored next just after the half hour when Jock White, a frequent scorer against the greens, beat Robb with a low drive from just outside the box. For large parts of the second half Hibs were the team in possession but Hearts were defending well and looked to be on the road to victory until a corner eight minutes from time, swung in by Bradley, was headed home by Johnny Halligan with the Hearts keeper badly caught out. Honours even in a 2-2 with neither side really feeling they deserved more from the game.

    Forty eight hours later, having made the long journey north to Aberdeen, Hibs began the new year with a fine away win in thrashing the Dons 5-2 in front of around 15,000 fans with few I would imagine having followed the team north. Two goals by Jimmy McColl and single strikes from Bradley, Dunn and Halligan secured two well deserved points against a Dons side that started the day in fourth place in the league.

    A win over Airdrie in the next match had Hibs fans thinking that the greens might launch themselves up the league table but that thought was soon dispelled when they lost 3-0 to St. Mirren in Paisley. Worse was to follow as a week later in the first round of the Scottish Cup as Hibs played all the football and yet still managed to lose 3-0 at Central Park to Cowdenbeath.

    January 1927 ended with a 2-2 home draw against Dunfermline but February opened very brightly for Hibs with a fantastic 3-2 win against Celtic at Parkhead against all the odds. Willie Robb was injured so could not play and just days earlier Hibs had sold their second goalkeeper to Dunfermline and so manager Bobby Templeton had to play in goals! Add to that the fact that centre back Willie Miller was also out and had to be replaced by the inexperienced Billy Dick then the result was all the more remarkable. Press reports of the day suggest that Celtic forward Jimmy McGrory was subdued throughout by Dick of Hibs whilst at the other end Jimmy Dunn was at his mercurial best in bewildering the Celtic defenders. Dunn, Bradley and Halligan kept the Celtic fans quiet as the team that was first to wear the green deservedly took both points in front of a disappointing attendance of just over 12,000.

    That away win was out of the ordinary for the Hibs as they lost their next two at Motherwell and Clyde but at least their home form seemed to be standing up as they defeated Partick Thistle, Dundee United and Hamilton with the last of those games won without the services of Jimmy Dunn who was in Belfast playing for Scotland against Ireland. All good things come to an end however and that good home form that had seen Hibs undefeated at Easter Road since the previous August ended when Dundee recorded a win with a single goal whilst the greens, with Ritchie away representing the Scottish League against their English counterparts in Leicester, also missed the guile of the injured Jimmy Dunn.

    Another defeat followed, this time away to Rangers but Hibs were back in Glasgow for their next match when they recorded a fine 4-3 win at Hampden. Unfortunately their visit to the national stadium was not on cup duty but in a league match with Queens Park providing the opposition. Around 8,000 fans watched on as Hibs surged into a 4-1 half time lead and then hang on in the second to secure the points. Willie Robb was beaten three times but played very well whilst at the other end Jack Harkness kept goal for Queens and his was a name that in time would become synonymous with Scottish football.

    Only four league games remained and Hibs just four points, meaning that they had ended the season in eighth place with Rangers the champions and Motherwell the runners up. Interestingly, Hibs’ Scottish Cup conquerors Cowdenbeath finished seventh, perhaps proof that the club that would one day become known as the Blue Brazil were a much greater force in the game than recent years might suggest.

    The local competitions gave Hibs a chance of some silverware but in the Dunedin Cup they went out after drawing with Falkirk but having accrued only three corners to four by the Bairns. The Wilson Cup was won by defeating Hearts 2-1 at Easter Road thanks to goals by Jimmy Dunn and Jackie Bradley whilst the Gorgie club got its revenge in the final of the Rosebery Cup by beating Hibs 1-0 at Tynecastle. With the season now over Hibs said goodbye to another of its long time stars as John ‘Darkie’ Walker was granted a free transfer so as to allow him to move south where he joined Swindon Town.

    The usual maintenance work was carried out to the stadium in the close season of 1927 with many areas getting a fresh coat of paint and the grandstand having some of its seats replaced with others ‘of a superior quality.’ As to the footballing side of things Bobby Templeton signed several players from the junior ranks and for the first time Hibs would field a team in the reserve league. Amongst the new signings was Hector Wilkinson who would go on to play many times for the greens.

    The league season opened badly as Hibs lost 3-0 at Parkhead although the hosts were matched for an hour and only scored their three goals in the remaining 30 minutes. Some 14,000 fans watched on as Hibs faced Cowdenbeath in their first home match of the season and the Fifers were comprehensively outplayed by ‘the clever Hibs forwards’ who could and should have scored more on the day. Score more is exactly what they did in their next match when they beat St. Bernards 7-1 at Easter Road in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield and after losing 2-1 away at Motherwell in the league they then faced Hearts at Tynecastle in the Shield final. With new signing Keenan replacing the injured Robb in goals, Hibs fought out a good 2-2 draw in front of around 10,000 fans before beating the Gorgie side 2-1 in the replay. Hearts led that match until the 87th minute when Harry Ritchie equalised before Jackie Bradley struck the winner with almost the last kick of the match.

    In between those two Shield matches Hibs played three league matches but gained only two points in the process. A 3-2 home defeat by Airdrie and a 4-2 reversal at Pittodrie were followed by a 3-0 home win over new boys Bo’ness in front of 17,000 fans. Leading after just four minutes Hibs did not score again until the 86th and 88th minutes although reports suggest they were worthy winners.

    Around this time Hibs played a benefit match for seven season regular Johnny Halligan and despite the fact that only a few hundred had turned up for Jimmy Dunn when Rangers were named as opponents it was the Ibrox club again this time around and they won the match 3-2 in front of around 1,000 fans. A week later it was Jimmy McColl who received a benefit match and this time it was a Hibs and Hearts Select against a West of Scotland Select with the Capital outfit losing 3-2. Around 2,000 fans turned out on this occasion and it is reported that the Hibs/Hearts select was a 6/5 mix and that the ‘home’ goals were scored by Dunn of Hibs and Rogers of Hearts.

    Although still early in the season Hibs were too close to the bottom of the league for comfort and so winning league matches became all the more important. The next three games brought one win and two defeats which was not really the kind of return Bobby Templeton had hoped for but on 15 October 1927 there was a smile on his face again as he watched his side defeat Hearts 2-1 at Easter Road. Going into the game Hearts were fourth and Hibs fifteenth and so the Gorgie outfit were favourites to lift the points, especially as they arrived on the back of a seven game run without defeat. A goal either side of the interval from Jimmy McColl and Eddie Gilfeather was only responded too with a first half penalty from Shaw and so Hearts’ run came to an end much to the delight of the Hibs support in the mammoth 30,000 crowd.

    That Derby victory boosted the confidence of the men in green and white who won their next three league matches, scoring eleven goals along the way but in their next eight outings they picked up only eight points from a possible sixteen meaning that they went into the New Year Derby on 2 January 1928 in ninth place whilst Hearts were fourth, but only four points ahead. A bumper holiday crowd of over 34,000 was in place when Jimmy McColl put Hibs ahead in the fifth minute but McMillan equalised before the break and then the same player put the hosts ahead shortly after the restart. Hibs were not about to take that lying down however and they stormed back into the game, equalising just seven minutes later when Jackie Bradley held off two defenders before hitting a low shot into the net. Newspaper reports of the time suggest the result was fair as neither side deserved to lose.

    Twenty four hours later Hibs drew 0-0 with Aberdeen at Easter Road and then drew 2-2 with Motherwell in their next game before two thousand fans turned out in Bo’ness to watch their struggling side beat Hibs 2-1 on a pitch described in reports as a quagmire.

    The Scottish Cup draw sent Hibs to Cathkin Park to face Second Division Third Lanark in the second round where the rain poured down from start to finish but Hibs secured a 2-0 win in the mudbath. One point from their next two league games was poor preparation for facing Falkirk in round three of the Cup but it didn’t deter 18,000 turning out at Easter Road to watch an entertaining match that had everything but goals. The following midweek 15,000 watched Hibs win 1-0 thanks to an extra time goal by Jimmy McColl. Two league defeats followed before Hibs travelled to East End Park to face Dunfermline in the Cup quarter final. Although rooted to the bottom of the First Division the Pars had shown much better form in the Cup but on the day Jimmy Dunn teased and tormented them as he helped Hibs to a 4-0 win and a place in the semi final.

    Two bad away performances ended in defeat before league leaders Rangers arrived at Easter Road on 17th March. By coincidence it would be Rangers that Hibs faced in the Scottish Cup semi final a week later but Bobby Templeton took great pains to remind his men that league points were just as vital and they obviously paid heed because they won a thrilling match 2-1 in front of around 19,000 fans. Newspaper reports indicate that Rangers took the lead in the first minute in the most controversial of circumstances. A cross from the left looped over Harper and hit the bar before bouncing down whereupon a Hibs defender kicked it clear. The referee awarded a goal and seemed to surprise not only a very angry Hibs side but a somewhat bemused and, no doubt, grateful Rangers. Having failed to change the referee’s mind Hibs decided to push on and win the game anyway. Jimmy Dunn scored both Hibs goals and was superb throughout, despite being kicked up and down the park by the Rangers defence who were seemingly given free rein to do so by a very tolerant referee.

    A week later at Tynecastle in front of 44,000 fans Rangers took their revenge by handing Hibs a 3-0 defeat. Playing with their reserve centre half at centre forward Rangers scored early when Willie Robb uncharacteristically failed to hold a cross and Archibald had the easiest of tasks in tapping the ball into the net. Further goals by McPhail and Morton sealed it for the Glasgow side but once again the referee came under the spotlight for failing to take any action regarding the frequently brutal challenges put in on Jimmy Dunn and Harry Ritchie. The whistler seemed happy enough to let Rangers players kick out although it should be said that even allowing for his poor performance the better team did win on the day.

    With the Cup run over, Hibs had just five league games remaining and took six points out of a possible twelve with the highlight being a 6-2 home win over Queens Park. At the season end, Hibs occupied twelfth place in a table topped by Rangers but on a brighter note they had reached the semi final of the Scottish Cup.

    On 31st March of that year the mercurial Jimmy Dunn played for Scotland against England at Wembley in a match that the hosts were red hot favourites to win. Jimmy was the only Hibs man to make the starting line up although both Willie Robb and Harry Ritchie had made the original squad. Of the starting eleven only three were home based Scots and two of the team were making their international debut whilst another was winning only his second cap. England had a phenomenal array of talent at their disposal and the feeling north of the border in the days leading up to the game was that the Scots might well suffer a mauling.

    Adding to the concern of the Scotland fans was the fact that the goalkeeper, Jack Harkness was still an amateur with Queens Park and that centre forward Hughie Gallagher of Newcastle was returning from a two month absence caused by injury. Surely no Scotland team had ever been as ill prepared to face the ‘Auld Enemy’ as this one? Amazingly, given the poverty many working class football fans were enduring a staggering 10,000 made the journey south to cheer on the men in dark blue.

    Wembley, only five years old at that time, housed 80,682 for this match that would go down in history as one of the greatest ever played by a visiting Scottish team. When the game kicked off the noise in the stadium was deafening as England roared into the attack and hit the post in the first minute but astonishingly, just two minutes later Scotland scored when little Alec Jackson scored to hush the English fans. By the end of the ninety minutes Jackson had scored another two and Alex James got a double whilst the hosts found the target only once. Scotland had not only won they had annihilated their opponents 5-1 and so the ‘Wembley Wizards’ were born. Every single man had played out of his skin, including wee Jimmy Dunn who seemed to cover every blade of grass with a trail of English defenders in his wake.

    It was inevitable that Jimmy Dunn would attract interest from other clubs. Indeed Hibs had chased a few away and Jimmy himself had in the past rejected approaches, preferring to stay with Hibs but following on from his majestic performance at Wembley Everton tabled a bid of £5,000 which was a fortune in those days and was accepted by Hibs who wanted the player to increase his earning capacity having given many years of loyal service to the club.

    Only the local competitions remained for Hibs and they took an early exit from the Dunedin Cup after losing 1-0 at home to Raith Rovers. The Wilson Cup Final ended in a 3-0 defeat by Hearts at Tynecastle whilst the last game of the season brought only 500 fans to Easter Road to watch the greens rather ingloriously defeated 3-1 by Leith Athletic.
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