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  • We Are Hibernian FC - Part Eighteen

    With war in Europe on the horizon, Hibernian enter into the new season full of hope and ambition following a few years of mediocrity. That ambition comes to the fore as Hibs reach the Scottish Cup Final but the Glasgow based footballing authorities stun everyone connected with Hibernian by making an outrageous decision.

    In the close season, prior to the 1913/14 campaign getting under way, Hibs spent what was at that time a small fortune on creating a new pavilion which had a player’s lounge, complete with snooker table, modern dressing rooms and a room for the Director’s, all of which were served with electricity. The pavilion had seating for 200 spectators and the total cost of this venture was £1,000.

    The new facilities were welcomed by one and all but of course the Hibernian support was curious as to whether money would also be spent on enlarging what was a very small playing pool of just nineteen. It was not to be and in fact Dan McMichael lost three of his more experienced men in Adam Bell, Alex Thorburn and Davy Anderson leaving him with just sixteen from which to choose. It has to be said that in the circumstances Dan McMichael worked wonders in achieving what he did with the club. Although the league title had not been won in the last ten years and the Scottish Cup had eluded Hibernian, decent finishing places in the league and a host of victories in the local cup competitions were achieved thanks to his astute management and devotion to the cause.

    It has occurred to me in writing this account of Hibernian through the ages that the more things change the more they stay the same. Back in 1913, almost one hundred years ago, Hibernian was criticised for lacking ambition and for allowing Celtic to gain the ascendancy by spending for success and drawing the crowds that such success attracts. Those kinds of observations are still being made by Hibernian fans today.

    The new season began with an away match at Third Lanark in the league and the greens scored first through Jimmy Williamson but then conceded a penalty which was converted and then a very late second to their hosts to make the final score 2-1. In the following midweek they faced St Bernards away in the Dunedin Cup and cruised to a 4-0 win before carrying that form into their very next match, a 1-0 home win against Aberdeen. August ended with a 1-1 draw at Starks Park against Raith Rovers but September started badly with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Celtic. An away win at Hamilton was more than cancelled out by successive home defeats to both Rangers and Partick Thistle and a third reversal in a row saw the greens losing 4-0 away to Falkirk in the final of the Dunedin Cup.

    The next six games, all in the league, brought four wins, one draw and one defeat before the first Edinburgh Derby of the season brought Hearts to Easter Road. The Maroons had enjoyed a great season so far and were second in the table just one point behind leaders Rangers whilst Hibs’ mixed form had them sitting in seventh equal with Falkirk. More than 21,000 fans watched as Andy Wilson gave Hearts a half time lead and then double it in the second period before Mattha Paterson pulled one back from the penalty spot. On the day, many thought Hibernian was deserving of a draw but a second goal eluded them and Hearts took the match 2-1.

    That loss to Hearts was the first of four league defeats in a row for Hibs with the rot stopping in early December with a fighting 3-3 draw away at St. Mirren. Having rediscovered their shooting boots the greens then won three league games in a row beating Hamilton 6-0, Ayr United 2-1 and Third Lanark 1-0 whilst squeezing in a benefit match for the very loyal Willie Smith against Rangers at home.

    Two new faces appeared in the dressing room around this time and both players were brought in by Dan McMichael against a background of the supporters wondering what on earth the manager was thinking. Jock Wood was nearing the end of his playing career and so cost very little when enticed away from Aberdeen whilst Bobby Wilson arrived from Kirkintilloch Rob Roy and was perceived by the support as a young lad with little or no experience and so unlikely, in their view, to have much affect on results. The last laugh went to Dan McMichael as Jock Wood found a renewed enthusiasm for the game and American born Bobby Wilson played as though he’d been in the first team for years. Once again, Dan McMichael proved his detailed knowledge of the game of football by identifying two players that most felt were not up to the mark and slotting them into his side, improving it in the process.

    On 1st January 1914, around 14,000 fans pitched up at Tynecastle to watch Hearts and Hibs contest the Wilson Cup Final. An evenly contested match ended in a 1-1 draw with Harry Wattie scoring for the Maroons and Sam Fleming for Hibs. Leaving the ground that day there is every chance the fans of each club would be debating what they had just watched but little did they realise that 1914 would be a year during which normal life would come to an abrupt end as thousands of men signed up to fight a war against Germany.

    The first six league matches of the year brought disastrous results with only one point earned in a 2-2 draw at Dens Park, Dundee. Although Dan McMichael had explained he was setting his eyes firmly on the Scottish Cup it was hard to see how the loss of so many games could be a help in any way. Additionally, heavy losses at home to Ayr United (0-5) and away to Clyde (0-4) ensured a very disgruntled Hibernian support.

    In early February the Scottish Cup got underway and Hibs started their attempts to win it by drawing 1-1 away to Morton in the second round, having received a bye in the first. Special trains were laid on and neutral observers reported that green clad supporters were in the majority in the near 10,000 crowd. A goal down with just ten minutes left it looked to be all over until young Bobby Wilson waltzed past three defenders and crashed home the goal that would ensure a replay the following midweek. A huge crowd in excess of 16,000 roared the greens to a 2-1 win with goals from Sam Fleming and Willie Smith carrying Hibs into a third round tie against Rangers at Easter Road. Prior to that match Hibs lost 3-1 at Tynecastle in the league, a match that left the greens in tenth and strengthened Hearts’ position in second.

    In the build up to the Rangers game, Hibs took themselves down the coast into East Lothian and combined training with games of golf and general team building whilst hot favourites Rangers decided to use the press to advise of their build up with one player quoted as saying ‘we’ll sort out that Irish lot, don’t you worry.’ Almost forty years into its life it seemed that Hibernian was still regarded by some as ‘that Irish lot’ but the player attributed with those remarks would be made to eat his words as in front of more than 35,000 fans Hibernian, a goal behind, scored through Jimmy Hendren and then in the second half Willie Smith. Needless to say the celebrations went on long into the night as a humbled Rangers outfit sneaked out of Edinburgh licking its wounds.

    A week after that fine win Hibs were thrashed 4-0 by Clyde at Shawfield and so it was a worried but large Hibs support that seven days later trekked through to Glasgow to watch their favourites take on Queens Park at Hampden in the quarter final. A stunning crowd in excess of 56,000, with around 35,000 of them wearing green, thanks to the Irish of Glasgow turning up in numbers to support Hibernian, watched on as the Easter Road side go in at half time a goal up thanks to Mattha Paterson. A second from Bobby Wilson looked to have taken the sting out of the hosts but a lapse in the Hibs defence allowed Alan Morton, who would later enjoy a glittering career with Rangers, pull one back. Any nervousness amongst the huge Hibs support soon disappeared when Bobby Wilson went on one of his amazing runs and ended it by crashing a shot into the next from sixteen yards. Hibernian won 3-1 and was now in the Scottish Cup semi final.

    As fate would have it the greens clashed with Queens Park in the league just a week later and this time the ‘Spiders’ got their revenge, winning 3-2. Back to back wins at home to St. Mirren and away to Aberdeen helped the league position slightly although a home defeat by Morton in that same competition took the shine off slightly.

    The four teams into the semi finals were Hibs, St. Mirren, Third Lanark and Celtic with the draw pairing Hibs against St. Mirren, a side they had beaten 5-3 just a week or two earlier. A neutral venue saw the game played at Tynecastle in front of around 30,000 fans and in the fifteenth minute the place erupted in a sea of green and white as Bobby Wilson fired home from all of 30 yards. A second, just before the interval from Jimmy Williamson ensured the majority of the crowd had plenty to sing about at half time but a St. Mirren goal in the second half led to the volume reducing somewhat as nails were bitten all around the stadium. Time was ticking away and the nerves were getting shredded until Bobby Wilson popped up again to score a third for Hibernian and carry them into the Scottish Cup Final. When the whistle blew to end the game hundreds of Hibs fans sprinted onto the park to carry their heroes off shoulder high. Could this be the year, they wondered? Time would tell but it would not be easy as their opponents would be a rampant Celtic side that led the league by ten points and had brushed aside Third Lanark in their own semi final.

    Excitement was at fever pitch but Hibs had other games to play before facing Celtic and the first of those resulted in a 3-1 home win over Leith Athletic in the East of Scotland Shield semi final. That win was followed up by a 3-2 defeat at Falkirk and a 1-1 draw at Ibrox before on 11 April 1914 they faced Celtic in the Scottish Cup Final at Ibrox Park. As before, Hibs prepared down the coast at Gullane where Dan McMichael spent many hours chatting with players, telling them that though Celtic might seem to have a strong side, Hibernian was a team and that was what mattered. Whilst Celtic had numerous internationalists in their ranks, Hibernian had numerous immensely talented and devoted players like goalkeeper Willie Allan, captain Mattha Paterson, right half Peter Kerr, wingers Bobby Wilson and Willie Smith and centre forward Jimmy Hendren.

    Thousands of Hibernian supporters crammed onto special trains and were in great evidence amongst the crowd of over 50,000 but the game was somewhat spoiled by a gale force wind that howled down the park and which neither side could master when it was at their backs. With the referee poised to blow for full time little Willie Smith broke clear of his marker and bore down on goal where he fired his shot past the diving keeper but could only look on in agony as the wind seemed to play a huge part in carrying the ball wide of the post and out for a goal kick. No goals of course meant a replay but there was a shock waiting in store for Hibernian.

    Traditionally, a Cup Final Replay would take place on the Wednesday following the original tie and that’s what Hibs and the rest of Scottish football in general anticipated. Imagine their shock when the football authorities ordered Hibs to play a league match at home to Dumbarton on the Wednesday before facing Celtic again the following evening in the replay. That was a totally outrageous decision by the authorities but Hibernian was not a club that would complain and so although there was a general attack on the authorities by the sporting press, no complaint or appeal from Hibernian meant that the games would have to be played and so it was that on Wednesday 15 April 1914 Hibs drew 1-1 with Dumbarton, fielding a number of reserves for obvious reasons.

    Twenty four hours later and in front of 40,000 fans at Ibrox, Hibs faced up to a Celtic side boosted by the appearance of their young centre forward and scoring sensation Jimmy McColl who took over the number nine jersey from the injured Owers. McColl would of course join Hibernian in the future and enjoy a long and illustrious career at Easter Road but for the moment he was a Celtic man and he scored two of the three first half goals that put his side on easy street against a leg weary Hibernian. A fourth for Celtic made the outcome inevitable although Willie Smith scored a consolation. It was true that Celtic had the best side in Scotland but for years afterwards the Hibernian support remained convinced that the decision of the football authorities to make Hibs play a league game just 24 hours before that replay was what caused their side to lose the Cup Final.

    Two days later Hibs were back in Glasgow to face Celtic at Parkhead in the league and they took to the field wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for Director John Pollock who had died that morning. A combination of cup final hangover and sorrow at the passing of an Hibernian man led to a jaded Hibernian display and a 3-0 win for the host club which was well on its way to be crowned Champions.

    The season couldn’t end quickly enough for the greens but there was still some seven games to play and the first of those resulted in Hearts winning the Wilson Cup by beating Hibs 1-0 at Easter Road. Two league games followed with a 4-3 defeat at Airdrie prior to a 2-0 home win over Motherwell, those results ensuring that Hibs would finish a disappointing thirteenth in a league of twenty clubs. Celtic took the title with Rangers second and Hearts third whilst St. Mirren finished bottom, just eight points behind Hibs. A good Hearts team heaped further pain on the greens by inflicting another 1-0 defeat over them at Easter Road to lift the East of Scotland Shield and a 3-2 win again at Easter Road in the Rosebery Cup Final.

    Certainly it had been a disappointing season in terms of league results but a run to the cup final had only been spoiled by the outrageous demands of the football authorities to make Hibs play a league match just twenty four hours before facing Celtic in a replay of the final. These were the matters on the minds of all connected with the club but all too soon much weightier issues would dominate the thoughts as Europe stood on the brink of war.

    Barely a month after the 1913/14 Scottish football season had ended Archduke Franz Ferdinand; heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated in the Bosnia and Herzegovina city of Sarajevo whilst visiting with his wife, who was also killed in the attack. The political motive of the assassins was to break Austria-Hungary’s control over those provinces of Bosnia, Herzegovina and Serbia so that they could combine to become Greater Serbia or Yugoslavia. Unsurprisingly, Austria-Hungary insisted upon an investigation into the deaths but the response was that the Serbian Government did not consider it necessary. Consequently, knowing that Germany would support such a move, a letter was issued to the Serbians insisting upon certain demands being met but the Serbians, knowing that they would get support from Russia, refused and mobilised their armed forces and before very much longer all the major European powers had ‘chosen sides’ and so began a conflict that history would label World War I.

    Whilst all of these monumental events were unfolding, life at Easter Road during the close season was a hive of activity as ground improvements were carried out as the club was in a good financial state and had decided to invest some of its funds in making life on the terracings a bit better for the fans. The idea of developing the east side of the ground, increasing overall capacity to almost 100,000 was abandoned and time would prove that to have been a very wise decision indeed.

    Thankful for the improvement to facilities the Hibs support still worried that the club was not investing in its playing staff and seemed content to go into the new season with just fifteen players on the books. All around them they watched as other clubs attracted players and paid fees to secure their services but Hibs stuck to their old ways and relied on Dan McMichael unearthing more gems like Bobby Wilson, a lad that had been plucked from junior football and that had become a firm favourite of the Hibs support.

    All of the cup final team of the previous season was retained with the exception of veteran Jock Wood who retired from the game whilst another veteran, Paddy Callaghan, started his sixteenth season with the club on the back of a statement from the Board saying that Paddy was welcome to remain with Hibernian for as long as he wished and as long as he felt able to play the game of football. Manager McMichael, although realising that Paddy still had good skills, was realistic enough to know that he would not always be able to expect Paddy to play ninety minutes in every game and so he set about looking for a fresh face or two, hoping they could be identified before the season started.

    Pre season training started in late July and on Monday 3 August Hibernian opened its doors to the supporters so that they could come and watch the players being put through their paces. It was a lovely warm summer’s day and chatting with the players, those fans present probably forgot, if only for an hour or so, their own troubles as many were unemployed and unable to find work in and around the Leith area, try as they might to do so. They would not know as they watched the players that day that their lives were about to be turned upside down as twenty four hours later, the British Government chose its side in the Austria-Hungary v Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict and declared war on Germany. Although hundreds of miles away from London and thousands of miles away from the looming conflict, there is little or no doubt that every man in attendance at Easter Road that day would find their life substantially changed, in the months and years that lay ahead. It must be said that the Government, in declaring war on Germany, seemed to do so because of a Treaty that the British Government had with Belgium that dated all the way back to 1839 and which called for intervention by the British should Belgium’s borders be breached. Those borders were indeed breached by Germany, hence the declaration of war, a declaration that took the British people somewhat by surprise and which would see tens of thousands of working class men lay down their lives in the bloodiest of conflicts.

    Eager to swell the size of its army the British Government began a propaganda campaign to entice the poor working class to join up and fight for their country. The working classes in Leith and the likes were offered betterment to their lives once the war was won and the Irish were promised the Home Rule that so many of them craved. Scots and Irish alike flocked to sign up as they not only had those promises but were given a nice warm uniform to wear, and would be paid a shilling a day (5p) whilst all along being assured by the Government that the war would be over by Christmas. In time those promises would be exposed for what they were – propaganda and deceit as life did not improve for Scots after the war and the Irish had to resort to rebellion to secure the promises made to them. Of course the ‘over by Christmas’ promise was also a lie insofar as it not being Christmas 1914 but Christmas 1918 before the fighting ceased. Millions of men were killed or gassed in that conflict and those that did come home safely were never quite the same again as they had such awful memories of the carnage they had witnessed as their friends died all around them.

    In Leith, most of the men joined the 7th Royal Scots (Leith’s Own) Battalion whilst those still living in Little Ireland joined the 9th Royal Scots (Dandy Ninth) Battalion. For so long shunned by the City Fathers of Edinburgh and for so long the sufferers of discrimination and higher unemployment rates than their Scottish born counterparts the ‘Irish’ of Leith and Little Ireland (bear in mind that although called Irish by those outside the areas, most were born in Scotland) flocked to join up and they couldn’t have been made more welcome by a military organisation that must surely have known that the kind of war these men were being sent to fight would mean huge casualty rates and so the higher the number recruited the better.

    Against that background and having decided that football should continue as it was morale boosting, Hibs opened their league campaign with a 1-0 defeat away at Clyde. As the football authorities had decided to suspend the Scottish Cup competition for the duration of the hostilities (no doubt thinking at the time that it would be just the ones season) the clubs would only really have the league and local cup competitions to try and win and they would have to do so with players who were no longer allowed to be full time footballers and who would have their playing wage capped at between £1 and £2 per week. Players would require to work in war related industries and so the life of footballers in 1914 was somewhat different to that which football players of today enjoy.
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