JOE Harper would love to see Leigh Griffiths match his Hampden heroics for Hibs – but finish on the winning side.
Harper, incredibly, scored three goals for Hibs in the final of the League Cup in 1974 and yet ended up on the losing side as Dixie Deans emulated his feat in a 6-3 win for Celtic.
And to this day Harper remains the only Scottish player to have scored a hat-trick in a major final and still finish on the losing side.
Harper, who had been signed for a second time in his career by Eddie Turnbull, said: “It’s the one record I would rather not be the holder of. It was a bit of a crazy day, with goals flying in all over the place.
“Scoring a hat-trick but losing was very hard to take.”
Deans was actually one of Harper’s best friends in football and, he revealed, he blew the Celtic star’s win bonus on champagne as Dixie settled a pre-match wager.
“We even made a bet before the game that the winner would have to take the loser out for a meal that night,” said Harper, “but every time we scored Celtic just raced up to the other end of the pitch and did the same.
“Dixie was very lucky on one occasion though. Jimmy Johnstone tried to score from about six yards but his effort went well off target. The ball then hit Dixie on the head and bounced into our net!
“Dixie wasn’t worrying too much afterwards when he made a point of letting me look at his winner’s medal.
“I got a wee bit of revenge when we went for the promised meal.
“I kept ordering bottles of champagne and spent most of Dixie’s win bonus.”
Fans of both clubs would no doubt relish witnessing another goal feast when Hibs and Celtic clash again in tomorrow’s Scottish Cup final, but Harper admitted that is unlikely because the rule in place for that year’s competition, which ensured that players could only be given offside in an area marked 18 yards out from the opposing goal-line, was subsequently scrapped.
Harper, who was signed by Turnbull for Aberdeen before 33 goals in just 34 games persuaded Everton to splash out £180,000 for his signature, said “There were goals galore in the League Cup that season because of that rule, but the SFA did away with it soon afterwards which came as a bit of a shock. They probably didn’t enjoy seeing fans and players having so much fun!”
Harper spent two seasons at Easter Road where, unfortunately, he never became a fans’ favourite, before returning to Aberdeen where he is revered as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, and reckons Griffiths is capable of scoring a Hampden hat-trick too.
But he would be happy if he scores just once – as long as it is the winner for Hibs. He said: “I still have great affection for Hibs and definitely want them to win the final.
“I hate all the talk every season about how long it is since Hibs won the cup because I know how much it hurts their fans. They have a fighting chance of finally putting that right with Griffiths in their team.
“I would be delighted if he took away my Hampden hat-trick record, but only if Hibs take the cup back to Easter Road as well.”