I have a football result I want to to tell you about. It’s Cowdenbeath 12, St Johnstone 0 and of course if you were reading it, not in your morning paper but off the viddy-printer which used to chug out the scores on Grandstand, then “twelve” would have been written in brackets for the avoidance of doubt and to squash any suspicion that David Coleman might have been at the BBC canteen sherry before coming on air.
But I can’t pretend the result is “just in” because it happened way back in season 1927-28. I only mention it now to make Cowdenbeath feel better about themselves. When a team take a helluva beating, as happened to the Blue Brazil at Tynecastle on Saturday with Hearts scoring 10 (ten) without reply, you’ve got to feel sorry for them.
The trouncing of St Johnstone is Cowdenbeath’s biggest-ever win but 28 February, 2015 now goes into the official records as equalling their heaviest-ever defeat. The club’s Wikipedia page has been amended accordingly and football books for the loo compiling “fun facts” for the Christmas market will have to take account of it.
It’s not quite Hearts’ biggest-ever win – nothing like, in fact. But for Jambos of a certain age, some smugness is unavoidable. When I was at school, and small boys would squabble in the playground over the merits and achievements of their favourites, Hearts fans would be regularly challenged: “Who the hell are Anchor?”
Way back in 1880 Hearts had won a game 21-0, but because it had happened so long ago, in a forgotten competition called the Edinburgh Cup and against a forgotten team, the cynics declared it invalid. These of course were Hibernian fans whose own team’s record score – 15-1 against Peebles Rovers – had come in the Scottish Cup and as recently as 1961.
I checked the newspaper files on this whomping victory. Well below the stories of the day, including “The War in South Africa” and “Mr Gladstone’s Irish Land Policy”, The Scotsman offered up a single-line report, with the tie “resulting in an easy victory for the Hearts by 21 goals to nothing”.
The match was played at Powderhall, Hearts’ home before Tynecastle, and given the lack of information on the game with even the excellent London Hearts website reduced to repeating “Unknown” 21 times in the goalscorers’ column, it seems apt that the space now houses a giant refuse incinerator.
But when you hit double figures in 2015 it’s on the back pages, in the sports pull-outs, even on some front pages. There were photographs of every goal and instant additional factoids such as Genero Zeefuik’s hat-trick being the ninth-fastest in senior football. Meanwhile, you can just imagine the high anxiety in the Sportscene studios as the tally reached five, six, seven: “Please tell me we remembered to send cameras over to Tynecastle today...”
There was nowhere to hide for Cowdenbeath fans all day Sunday or yesterday – and I don’t suppose they’re feeling any better today. Hiding is always difficult if you’re as conspicuously mutton-chopped, fob-watched and pipe-sooking as the club’s chairman, Donald Findlay, and the ace criminal lawyer will know that, regarding the humiliation, some grim humour will be required of him the next time he makes an after-dinner speech. Meanwhile, Jambos have a new record to crow about.
Maybe Rangers fans fancied their team would set a new standard for league victories when they were despatched to the bottom tier to find their way back. This hasn’t happened yet and doesn’t look like it will any time soon. But Hearts’ performance on Saturday was the perfect riposte to those who’ve sniffed about the odd lucky win by the Gorgie boys and insisted that Hibs have played the Championship’s most attractive football.
Most of Scotland’s double-figure thumpings have come in the Scottish Cup with senior teams showing no mercy to those from the lower leagues, and a lot of them happened before 1900 and the human voice being transmitted wirelessly for the first time, so the victims were spared a 19th-century version of Sportsound’s open-all-mics and every goal being greeted by deranged shrieking. One exception in the leagues was East Fife hammering Edinburgh City 13-2 in the old Second Division in 1937-38. Celtic couldn’t quite hit ten against Aberdeen in 2010 though 9-0 was still a Premier record and the scoreline was greeted with astonishment. But when Hamilton Accies beat Morton 10-2 on the final day of last season’s Championship the reaction, in Dundee at least, was deep suspicion.
The Den Parkers eventually won their game that afternoon to clinch outright promotion, thus avoiding being undone by what their chairman called a “pub score”, reminiscent of the madness of South American football. Or north-east of Scotland football, of course. In 1885, as every schoolboy knows, Arbroath beat Bon Accord 36-0. At the same time, back down the road, Dundee Harp were banging 35 goals past Aberdeen Rovers. The referee actually noted 37 but the Harp secretary, possibly feeling sorry for the opposition, suggested the official had miscounted, thereby denying his team a world record.
Spare a thought, then, for the Blue Brazil, who now know how the real Brazil must have felt after Germany fired seven past them in their own World Cup. I was at Murrayfield when I heard Saturday’s result and for a moment assumed the game had been in Fife, because usually the West End Polis don’t like having to deal with two crowds on the same day. It was raining and all I could think about was a thoroughly sodden Central Park and long, hopeless queues at the snack-bar while the solitary kettle which has become quite notorious this season was slowly refilled.
At least those who suffered at Ten-castle would have been dry, with access to a hot drink. It’s not much but it’s something.