Easter Road stalwart John Baxter dies, aged 78

John Baxter: 307 Hibs matches
John Baxter: 307 Hibs matches
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JOHN Baxter, who played more than 300 games for Hibernian including an unfortunate role in the ill-fated 1958 Scottish Cup final, has died at the age of 78.

The powerful wing-half – nicknamed “Chinny” – joined the club from Benburb in 1955 and made his debut in September 1957 in a 1-0 win away to Aberdeen. The Hibs XI that day featured three of the Famous Five forward line, and Eddie Turnbull scored the winning goal.

Baxter held down his place and became a regular in the side, scoring his first senior goal against Airdrie in his fourth appearance, and helping Hibs to the Scottish Cup final against Clyde. In an agonising near miss for Hibs, they lost 1-0, with John Coyle’s shot deflecting off Baxter for Clyde’s winning goal.

Talking to The Scotsman in 2008 about the Hampden final, Clyde goalkeeper Tommy McCulloch recalled: “It was a very tight game and Johnny Coyle’s goal was another instance of Hibs’ bad luck. Johnny hit the shot on the turn and, as Lawrie Leslie moved to make the save, it deflected off big John Baxter and into the other corner. Lawrie had no chance.”

Baxter’s dependable form also brought him international recognition in the shape of a Scotland Under-23 cap against Wales in December 1958 at Tynecastle.

His unwavering dedication left a lasting impression on a young Pat Stanton too. Writing in his Dream Team book, former Hibs captain Stanton said: “When I first joined up at Easter Road I used to really admire John.

“He was a great example to young players. He was always smartly turned out on and off the field and trained conscientiously like the real professional he was.”

“He wasn’t a bad player either. He got up and down the park with great energy and had a rocket shot in his left foot.”

Baxter remained an Easter Road regular for Hibs for eight more seasons, playing his 307th and final Hibs game in a 1-0 home win over Stirling Albion in March 1966 before he moved on to Falkirk, then Clydebank, before bowing out of senior football in 1968. He scored 32 goals in his time at Hibs.