Life of Lawrie Reilly a far cry from modern-day story at Hibs
IF Lawrie Reilly had been prompted to indulge himself when at Hampden yesterday to help launch an initiative all about football memories, the Hibernian grandee could no doubt have gone to work on an inexhaustible supply of the wondrous sort.
The spearhead of the Easter Road side’s triple-title-winning Famous Five forward line didn’t have to dig far back into the recesses of his pin-sharp mind, though, for a rancid recollection of another famous five.
Lawrie, who will turn 84 this weekend, now pains in “the Hibs” who provided him with so much pleasure in those immediate post-war years. And a memory he would surely like to bury deeper than those from the womb was provided on 19 May this year. Yet, his devilish wit shines through when he recollects a day when he was one supporter his club did right by.
“I was there, but I had a good supporter by my side in my wife. I think we were the only two supporting the Hibs,” he said. “We travelled through with Hibs having laid on a big private car with a chauffeur. Driving through we passed this bus full of Hearts supporters. They were all thinking that the war must have been going on because they were giving the V for victory signs. I enjoyed the trip through better than the trip back.”
“You can still be hit hard by anything in football,” he says of his wounding at the 5-1 thumping Pat Fenlon’s side took, because, for Lawrie, football meant everything. His circle of friends and his life experiences mushroomed because his 185 goals in 253 league games for the Leith club from 1946 till his injury-enforced retirement aged 29 some 12 years later proved the platform to score 22 times in 38 games for his country. He is cute to skim round the question of the country’s current international travails, Lawrie feigning limited knowledge over the issue of Steven Fletcher’s return to the Scotland fold after a near two-year refusal to be selected.
“He refused to play?” he enquired, unconvincingly. “I can’t understand anyone not wanting to play for their country. If I had first choice I would probably pick Scotland to edge out Hibs. But I’d love to play for the two of them. I was just sorry I had to pack up due to injuries. I’d have loved to have played for another ten years.”
Lawrie lay in wait for the inevitable question about how his era compared with the modern one, and whether there were any of those players around now who would have fitted in to the national team of the 1950s. “There are maybe ten of them would have got a game in my era,” he joked. “I’m glad that one didn’t get wasted. If I couldn’t get a game as a striker I could have got a game at left wing. I enjoyed playing whatever the position. I enjoyed all the forward positions.
“Fletcher wouldn’t have got a game at centre-forward in my era. . . he says modestly,” joked Reilly. “The laddie’s done quite well, we could do with 11 Fletchers. We [didn’t have problems with managers] because we were picked by committee. As far as we were concerned the manager was Geordie Young, the captain of the team. He looked after us. I don’t think there are many George Youngs about nowadays. I wouldn’t have backed him to outdo Willie Woodburn though. Willie stayed in Edinburgh beside me and we travelled to all the games together. Big Ben, as we called him, was great company. We’d play golf but I always beat him, that was the only reason I played him. It’s just a pity he didn’t play for the Hibs.”
Lawrie doesn’t sound as if he derives much enjoyment from the current set-up at his old club. He was circumspect on the issue of the rebuilding job required to be undertaken by Pat Fenlon, who has the Easter Road club operating at the top end of the table this season despite two defeats in their past three games.
“He [Fenlon] has got to get a chance,” he said. “You can’t expect someone to come in and turn them into world beaters. But they’ve not been in too good a form of late. Going through managers isn’t good. When I played at Easter Road I played under two managers. Willie McCartney signed me then Hugh Shaw came after. There’s nothing you can do about the way the club [has gone now] so you just have to suffer in silence.”
Lawrie was too wily when it was put to him that Hibs have suffered as they have paid their way while rivals Hearts humped them in the cup final three months ago after a season when they struggled to meet their wage commitments promptly. “Is the foreign guy trying to pay them in pesetas?” he said with a grin. “We always got paid on the dot but it was quite easy to carry the money home.” Banking memories of the gold-plated variety was more important.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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