THERE was an agreeable unanimity about the merit of Hibs’ memorable win in the Scottish League Cup final, their first success in the final of a national competition on the present Hampden Park.
It was clinched by Jock Stein’s honest handshake for each Hibs player as he left the field and his gruff summing-up later. “Hibs were the better team. That’s it.”
Eddie Turnbull came in with his truculent demand that Hibs’ status and worthiness should be acclaimed and one was not sure whether he wanted them declared best in Hampden or Scotland, or maybe the whole world. He had good cause to be excited and proud.
All around the corridors of Hampden there was that feeling of well-being which comes after a meal when the food is excellent, the wine exotic and the brandy exquisite. Some were saying “Why cannot we have football like that all the time?” Others declared: “If we could have more football like that there would be no problems in the game.”
The more discerning had their say. “Why don’t other teams go out and play the ball like they did, go looking for goals.”
As the referee passed he was heard to tell his linesman: “I wish they were all as easy as that one.” In that overheard remark was the final acclaim for a great match.
Then came the memory men to wonder when last Hibs had won a national final at Hampden. Old Jimmy McColl, who seems to have been a hundred years with Hibs, recalled that he played in Scottish Cup finals at Hampden after the First World War for Hibs but never in a winning side.
Willie Ormond and Bobby Johnstone of the “Famous Five” remembered their regrets in the early ’50s when they won three League championships but never a Hampden final. Ormond was saying: “In our days we took bigger crowds to Hampden but none of them made as much noise as those supporters today!”
“They were great,” said Turnbull, and as he put his arms around his old team-mates he told them: “You’ll have a great night tonight.” Ormond answered in anticipation: “I’m glad I told the wife I’ll not be home till Monday.” There was much to celebrate, much to ingrain in the memory.
Tom Hart, the managing director, moved around with remarkable composure and restraint. His must have been the ultimate in satisfaction. He had supported the club like a fanatic in the great days of the “Famous Five” and suffered in the bad days since. He had taken over the club and reorganised it. Seldom can such satisfaction have befallen a supporter.
As we have come to expect, Eddie Turnbull was shifting credit away from himself. He would take no praise for the manoeuvre which brought the first goal. He said: “We have some set pieces with the dead ball, but each man is told to use his own initiative in these situations and, if they see something on, to go for it. It was just a case of two men thinking as one.”
Be that as it may, he cannot squirm out of taking a bow for the half-time change which swung the match Hibs’ way. The first half had been a period for the coaches. It was engrossingly tactical with men cancelling out men and although the play was entertaining it was kept away from the goalkeepers.
Edwards was playing in the midfield where his skills were smothered. In the second half Turnbull sent him to play wide on the right. There he found space and time to use the ball intelligently. It was from that side that the two Hibs goals – scored by Stanton and O’Rourke –were forced.
Some said Pat Stanton was the man of the match, but they were being charmed by his second-half excellence into overlooking a vital aspect of the first half. Celtic, had they settled to a game quicker, could have won the cup.
In the end, the merits of Hibs as a team brought the cup to Easter Road. Nowhere did this show more than in defence. Hibs’ organisation there far surpassed that of Celtic. Right across the back through Brownlie, Black, that happy competitor Blackley and the under-rated but staunch Schaedler there was good covering.
Celtic never matched this. When Edwards took the kick which made the first goal Stanton was being covered loosely and on the wrong side. When Stanton raced out to the right wing inviting the pass which led to the second goal no Celtic defender went with him. Hibs’ defence never allowed such freedom in their territory.
That they did not was due mainly to John Brownlie. When others were mispassing, being pushed around and losing all the 50-50 balls he was countering Jimmy Johnstone, charging into attack, covering elsewhere in defence and in general showing beyond question that he is as exciting, as effective and inspiring a defender as is to be found in all Britain.
What must be remembered was that he was great when Hibs needed him to be great. Others began to play to their best form after the goals had been scored. For me, John Brownlie was the man of the day.
When Eddie Turnbull had settled after the tensions of the last 13 minutes when Celtic strove to force a replay he said: “I’m very happy for these players. They have worked hard and they needed this cup to show them there was reward in work. Now they can look at it, and feel it and know it’s theirs. They won it by their own efforts. It will be a great thing for them.
“They can start from here. They have no tie in the European [Cup Winners] Cup till March and they will be striving to be at the top of the League by that date. There is much more to them, and this cup will bring it out.”
One was surprised at how much space Stanton was allowed as he aimed at the centre of the Celtic defence with those powerful, loping runs of his. But one should not make too much of that, for it was Celtic’s commendable concentration on attack which detracted from their defending. Nobody should want them to shed that quality.
Celtic had their glorious player in Kenny Dalglish, the very epitome of the old fetch and carry inside-forward. He was an extraordinary player, so skilful, so adventurous, so creative and shorn of anything underhand.
His goal was a gem from the way he headed the ball, as it came to him right into his running path to the goal, to the balance and composure as he reached the vital shooting area. Then there was the precision of the shot. It was a goal to soften defeat for the Celtic supporters.