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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Twenty Two

    Hibs reach the Scottish Cup Final and Hearts are defeated on a regular basis as a truly magnificent squad is brought together by manager Alex Maley.

    When season 1921/22 got underway Alex Maley had 22 players in his squad but given that Hibs were running a reserve team as well as a senior one it was spreading things a little thin should injuries occur. Maley was known to have his eye on a few players and would sign some as the season progressed but it was not a happy start to the league campaign for the greens as Alex Maley took Hibs to Parkhead to face the side managed by his brother Willie and suffered a 3-1 defeat in front of around 15,000 fans.

    A week later Hibs played their first home match of the season and drew 1-1 with St Mirren and Harry Ritchie the scorer. Two away games and two defeats followed as first Falkirk 3-1 and Airdrie 2-1 got the better of the greens.

    The first league win of the season came on 7 September when Hibs defeated Queens Park 3-0 at Easter Road in front of a very noisy and partisan crowd. Three days later at the same venue some 22,000 watched on as Davy Anderson scored twice to give Hibs a 2-0 half time lead over Hearts and although Preston pulled one back for the maroons in the second half it was too little too late as Hibs won 2-1, much to the delight of their delirious supporters. That win put Hibs mid table and left Hearts near the foot, an unenviable position to be in with relegation a certainty for the bottom two clubs but it was early days yet and nobody at Tynecastle was pressing the panic button just yet. After that Derby win Hibs travelled to Love Street and drew 1-1 with St Mirren before coming a cropper at Fir Park when Motherwell trounced them 4-1. Just two days later Celtic were the visitors and they arrived in third spot in the league and undefeated into the bargain. Not for long however as Hibs, roared on by more than 18,000 supporters, scored through captain Mattha Paterson but were subdued when Patsy Gallagher equalised after dribbling his way through what seemed like the whole Hibernian team. With time running out fast it looked as though a draw was on the cards until John ‘Darkie’ Walker headed in a goal in the last minute to win the match 2-1 for Hibs.

    On 21 September 1921, Hibs supplied five players to take part in a match where a Hearts/Hibs select faced a Glasgow Select at Tynecastle where the proceeds would be put towards the Hearts War Memorial Fund. The Edinburgh men lost 2-1 but the real winner was the fund which was for the worthiest of causes and was fully supported by all connected with Hibernian.

    In their ninth game in the month of September alone, Hibs faced Falkirk at Easter Road and drew 1-1. October would be a quieter month for the greens with ‘only’ five league games to play and it would yield nine points thanks to four straight wins and a draw. If October was good then November was arguably better, or was it? Undefeated but only two wins out of four as both Dundee and Dumbarton held the greens to a draw.

    It is a source of some amazement that in these days of undersoil heating etc there are still occasions when matches are postponed due to the weather and yet here we were in the 1920’s when presumably the weather was no better in December and January than it is now and yet postponements were extremely rare! Perhaps we mollycoddle today’s footballers too much?

    December 1921 began with a defeat, ending an undefeated run that had lasted for eleven games. Third Lanark were the side to blame as they beat Hibs 2-1 at Cathkin Park. Like buses, it seems that you wait ages for one and then two arrive at the same time – Hibs lost their next game too by the only goal of the match to Albion Rovers at Easter Road. There might be a temptation to say ‘Albion Rovers? You’re joking’ but it’s worth pointing out that Rovers were in the top three in the league at that point!

    The Lord Provost of Edinburgh had proposed a football tournament with gate proceeds going to the Unemployment Fund for Rent Relief and Hibs took part, defeating the re-formed Leith Athletic 7-0 at Easter Road in the semi final. They would go on to win that the following May when they beat Hearts 1-0 in the final at Tynecastle but the saddest part of that whole thing was the need for such a fund in the first place. Many of the unemployed were men that had fought in the war and had been promised a better future for them and their families once Germany had been defeated. Of course that ‘better future’ never quite materialised for thousands of men that had risked life and limb and instead they were reduced to relying on charitable handouts to keep a roof over the heads of their families.

    A good 3-1 win at Hampden over Queens Park stopped that unwelcome if short run of defeats and then on Christmas Eve reigning champions and current league leaders Rangers came to Easter Road. A 0-0 draw was a pretty fair result although Hibs had to play for a large part of the game with just ten men after Captain Mattha Paterson was badly hurt in a challenge for the ball. Seven days later 1921 ended for Hibs with a 1-1 draw against Ayr United at Easter Road, earning the greens a point that ensured they would go into 1922 in a respectable sixth place in the league, some ten points behind leaders Rangers with Celtic, Partick Thistle, Falkirk and Raith Rovers being the other sides ahead of Hibs in the league race.

    On 2 January 1922 Hibs managed to do something they had not done since season 1899/00 when they completed a league double over Hearts. The match at Tynecastle drew a crowd in excess of 30,000 and despite being without five first team regulars the greens won 2-0 with goals from Jimmy Buchanan and Jimmy Dunn. Twenty four hours later at Dens Park, Dundee Hibs dominated the first half bit couldn’t score and then the hosts took control in the second but found Hibs keeper Willie Harper in fine form, as a result of which the game ended at 0-0.

    Next up was a visit to Easter Road by Motherwell when, on a very frosty pitch, Hibs never looked like conceding whilst scoring two goals of their own through Buchanan and Duncan. Two more league games preceded the beginning of the Scottish Cup campaign and Hibs managed only one point out of a possible four after losing 2-0 away to Clyde and drawing 0-0 with Raith Rovers at Starks Park.

    The first round of the cup had given Hibs a home tie against Armadale with the West Lothian outfit having an excellent opening half and going in at the interval level at 0-0 but four minutes into the second period Jimmy Dunn scored for the greens whilst Walker and Young took the tally to three, much to the relief of the Hibs fans in the 15,000 crowd.

    A 3-0 home league win over Kilmarnock offered a good start to February but it didn’t last as seven days later the greens travelled to Motherwell in the cup and crashed out 3-2 in front of more than 18,000 fans. It seems it was a rip roaring cup tie with end to end football throughout and so it must have added to the disappointment of the travelling support that their side took nothing from the game.

    In their next ten league outings Hibs amassed a total of only nine points out of the twenty available and that run went a long way to ensuring they would not be contending for the title.

    On Sunday 9th April 1922 the war memorial was unveiled at Haymarket and of course everyone connected with Heart of Midlothian was there as it was Hearts, in recognition of the fact that their entire first team squad had volunteered to fight, that had been the prime movers in having the memorial created. Hibernian had been involved in a number of fund raising events and so they too were fully represented with Directors, players and a large number of supporters as well as some of the major shareholders who had made the trip from Ireland for the ceremony. Hibernian laid its harp shaped wreath at the foot of a memorial that was created in recognition of those who gave their lives for King and Country, which of course included many Hibernian players and fans.

    A day later Hibs drew 0-0 with Raith Rovers at Easter Road in the semi final of the Dunedin Cup and they progressed on the basis that they had been awarded 14 corners as opposed to just the two for their opponents. That result took them into a final against Falkirk, played at neutral Tynecastle and ending in a 1-0 win for the greens, Paddy Halligan getting the goal in front of around 5,000 fans. A week later, at Easter Road, Hibs defeated Hearts 2-0 in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield before going on to beat St Bernards 3-2 in the final and then two days after that Hibs defeated Hearts 4-2 at Tynecastle in the final of the Wilson Cup.

    Away from these local competitions, Hibs concluded their league season with an easy 6-0 demolition of relegated Clydebank ensuring a seventh place finish in a league won by Celtic. The Parkhead side made a late run at the title and pipped Rangers by just one point with Raith Rovers, Falkirk, Dundee and Partick Thistle being the other clubs that finished ahead of Hibs. Neighbours Hearts had a very disappointing season ending it in 19th place, just four points above those sides relegated and their misery was not over with yet as Hibs beat them twice more in early May to give the greens a clean sweep and six wins out of six for the season.

    A long season for the greens ended on 13 May 1922 when Leith Athletic were defeated 3-0 in the final of the Rosebery Cup.

    Season 1922/23 got off to a promising start as Hibs won their first four league matches in defeating Falkirk, Partick Thistle, Third Lanark and Motherwell to secure the eight points on offer. During that run Hibs turned out on a Wednesday night at Easter Road to beat Leith Athletic 4-0 in the semi final of the East of Scotland Shield, thereby setting up a final against Hearts, also at Easter Road. In a thrilling match there was little between the teams and the game, played in front of around 22,000 fans ended in a 1-1 draw meaning that there would have to be a replay at some future point.

    Joint top of the table with Rangers, Hibs made the long journey north to Pittodrie at the start of September and suffered a 2-0 defeat after failing to play anywhere near their best whilst a week later at Easter Road the greens missed two penalties and ended up losing to St Mirren 3-0. Next up was a home tie against reigning champions Celtic where Jimmy Dunn scored the only goal of the game to keep the points in Edinburgh.

    Despite those dropped points against Aberdeen and St. Mirren, Hibs went into the first Derby of the season as league leaders whilst the Tynecastle side, with home advantage, were tenth. Around 30,000 fans enjoyed a good free flowing game which ended with honours even at two goals apiece. Hibs stayed top and were being hotly pursued by Airdrie and Rangers.

    A 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock meant that the greens had to visit Ibrox hoping they could take something from the game to retain their top place in the table but they lost 2-0 and relinquished that top spot to their hosts. Making his debut for Hibs that day was new signing from Partick Thistle, Jimmy McColl and though he didn’t score that day he would find the target many times for Hibernian in future.

    No-one realised it at the time but the signing of Jimmy McColl was the last piece in the jigsaw in creating a side that would contest two Scottish Cup Finals. In conversation with Lawrie Reilly I was told that almost from the word go in terms of being a Hibs fan his Dad had him reeling out the names of that side. To prove it, Lawrie proceeded to do just that in naming Harper, McGinnigle and Dornan, Kerr, Miller and Shaw, Ritchie, Dunn, McColl, Halligan and Walker.

    Although McColl might be termed a veteran he was as fit as a fiddle and was soon worrying opposition defences on a regular basis. His home debut came in a league match against Airdrie and although he didn’t score he had a hand in setting up the only and winning goal for Harry Ritchie. That first goal was delayed only seven days as McColl and Ritchie both found the net in a 2-0 home win over Raith Rovers but there was a shock for the greens on 28 October when Alloa beat them 2-1 at Recreation Park to record their first home win of the season. Had football coupons been on the go back then, that result would have been recognised as a real ‘coupon buster.’

    If that reversal against Alloa was a shock then a bigger one was to follow as seven days later Hibs crashed 5-0 against Falkirk at Brockville. In front of around 10,000 fans Hibs made and missed chances galore whilst it seemed that every time the Bairns attacked they scored. The next two league matches yielded only two points after draws with Dundee at home and Clyde away before a 3-1 win over Albion Rovers at Easter Road seemed to end a run of indifferent form.

    December 1922 started with a 1-1 draw at Somerset Park before two wins against Hamilton and Motherwell took the greens towards the busy holiday period where they would play five games over a two week period. That match against Hamilton went down in the history books because Hibs goalkeeper Willie Harper came out onto the pitch wearing a bright yellow jersey, something that was unheard of in those days with the colour favoured usually being grey or brown. Whether the jersey dazzled the Hamilton forwards or not we’ll probably never know!

    The first game of that busy holiday schedule ended in a surprise 1-0 home defeat to Morton which sent 11,000 or so fans home disappointed. A Christmas Day charity game clash with Hearts was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and so Hibs were next in action on the 30th when they went down 2-0 away to Kilmarnock meaning that the greens ended 1923 with a defeat but they made up for that on New Years Day 1923 by defeating Hearts 2-1 at Easter Road. A crowd of around 28,000 watched on as Hibs laboured in the first half and fell behind to a goal by Jock White put the visitors ahead but they barely had time to celebrate before Johnny Halligan and John Walker popped up with a winner to move Hibs up to fifth in the table with Hearts down in eighth.

    Just 24 hours later Hibs faced second placed Dundee on a treacherous Dens Park pitch and lost 1-0 to a deflected goal in front of a good holiday crowd of around 18,000. Press reports suggest that Hibs were really unlucky and that their play had deserved at least a point. The final festive period game was against St Mirren at Love Street with the Buddies leapfrogging Hibs in the table thanks to a 3-2 win.

    The Scottish Cup now got underway and in the first round Hibs were drawn away to Clackmannan but the greens persuaded the minnows to move the tie to Easter Road where 9,000 fans watched the home side comfortably winning 4-0. Prior to competing in round two Hibs disposed of Ayr United 3-0 at Easter Road in the league and were at home again the following week when Peebles Rovers arrived for that cup tie. With more than 14,000 in the ground the visitors played out of their skins whilst Hibs were way below par and as a result there were no goals and a replay was required. Interestingly, on the same day, Bo’ness United knocked Heart of Midlothian out of the Scottish Cup. Peebles agreed to stage the replay at Easter Road for a share of the gate and around 8,000 watched as Hibs got it right this time and won 3-0.

    That apparently tricky cup tie now over Hibs resumed their league campaign with a very creditable 0-0 draw at Parkhead and followed that up with a 2-0 home win over Third Lanark before facing up to Queens Park at home in the third round of the cup. Once a major force in the Scottish game, the ‘Spiders’ were now a second division side and offered little opposition as Hibs easily won the match 2-0 thanks to goals from Jimmy Dunn and Jimmy McColl. That set up a quarter final against Aberdeen at Easter Road but ahead of that Hibs had to play another couple of league games, losing away at Morton and beating Alloa at Easter Road. It’s worth pointing out here that the Queens Park match had drawn a crowd in excess of 22,000 to Easter Road and that every one of those supporters witnessed the coming together for the first time a truly great Hibernian side. The eleven players that day were Harper, McGinnigle, Dornan, Kerr, Miller, Shaw, Ritchie, Dunn McColl, Halligan and Walker.

    With both Hearts and St Bernards already out it was only Hibs that had a chance of bringing the cup back to Edinburgh and they did their chances of achieving that no harm at all when they convincingly beat Aberdeen 2-0 in front of 28,000 fans, many of whom were still making their way into the ground when Jimmy Dunn gave Hibs a first minute lead! A second, by Walker, six minutes from time ensured that Hibs were in the semi final and that would be against Third Lanark at neutral Tynecastle.

    A week after the Aberdeen game, Hibs sent a weakened side to face Hamilton in the league and lost 2-1. Effectively, Alex Maley had accepted the league title was out of reach and had set his mind on winning the Cup with Hibernian. As a result he rested some of his key players and the outcome at Douglas Park certainly reflected that fact.

    Just a few days later Aberdeen again provided the opposition, this time in a league match and the outcome was the same as Hibs won 2-0, meaning they would go into their semi final tie with a victory under their belts. Watching from the stand that day was a representative from Newcastle United and the player under scrutiny was Harry Ritchie of Hibernian but the scout went home empty handed as both the club and the player made it clear they were not interested.

    The four cup semi finalists were Hibs, Celtic, Motherwell and Third Lanark with the first and last named clashing on Saturday 10 March 1923 at Tynecastle in front of more than 30,000 fans. Bear in mind that Hibs had reached this stage of the competition without the loss of a goal and that run continued as little Jimmy Dunn challenged the Thirds goalkeeper for the ball after Hugh Shaw had delivered an excellent free kick, poked it into the net to put the greens into the final. Needless to say, Gorgie Road was a sea of green and white that Saturday afternoon.

    As the other semi final had gone in favour of Celtic, Hibernian knew the identity of their opponents but still had three league matches to fit in before the big day out at Hampden. Those league matches brought a win over Albion Rovers but defeats to both Clyde and Airdrie and there were those who argued that by putting out a weakened team in these matches it might preserve the legs of key players but it meant that Hibs would face Celtic on the back of two defeats.

    On 31 March 1923 thousands of Hibernian supporters headed for Glasgow, helping to swell the crowd to over 80,000 of which it was estimated 30,000 were there for Hibs. This would be an historic event if only for the fact that the team managers were brothers, Alex of Hibs and Willie of Celtic with both having a similar philosophy on how the game of football should be played. A thrilling match was the prospect as the teams took to the park to loud cheering from all sides of the ground but as is often the way in cup finals, nerves took hold and the game itself was not a great spectacle with both sides defending stoutly and forward play at a premium. After a disappointing first half things improved in the second and for the first fifteen minutes Hibs penned Celtic back but could not find a way through to goal. Slowly but surely the Parkhead club began to find its feet again and when a McFarlane free kick deceived Willie Harper in the Hibs goal, Cassidy nipped in to head the ball home for what proved to be the only goal of the game. It was a case of so near and yet so far for this young Hibs side whose supporters made the journey home in a somewhat deflated mood.

    A number of games remained to be played and some of those were league ties with the best result in those games coming in a 2-0 home win over eventual champions Rangers in front of around 18,000 fans. Interestingly, those fans, had they been travelling to the ground from Lochend, would have had a fairly circuitous journey but good news was provided to them when they heard that the council planned to create a new street that would join together Lochend Road and St. Clair Street.

    The final league game of the season saw Hibs go down 1-0 against Partick Thistle at Firhill and determined that the greens would finish the campaign in eighth place. As stated, Rangers won the title with Airdrie second and Celtic third whilst Alloa and Albion Rovers finished in the bottom two.
    For the local competitions Hibs had mixed results, winning only the East of Scotland Shield by beating old rivals Hearts 2-1 at Tynecastle.
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