Everything makes sense to Pat Stanton about Sean Connery’s ability to effortlessly portray a spy surviving the most outrageous scrapes behind enemy lines when he ponders the best-loved 007 having had a stint with Bonnyrigg Rose as a teenager. The junior club also helped set Stanton on his way to becoming a suave, unforgettable presence in Hibernian colours in the early 1960s.
“I think what helped him [Connery] in his career was playing some of these tough teams for Bonnyrigg,” said the Easter Road titan – who will be a guest of Rose at Tynecastle on Saturday as they take on his beloved team and, for the first season in his lifetime, Scottish Cup holders. “Men who could look after themselves. You go to Ormiston and get a result, you’ve done well.”
Bonnyrigg was boot camp for the young Stanton in so many senses of the word. Yet even outside of the pitch battles, there was a touch of espionage-style danger lurking when trips to Ormiston Primrose were negotiated. “If you went too near the touchline there was a guy holding an umbrella,” the 72-year-old said. “These were the guys you had to stay away from. They were committed.”
As were the players. It is little wonder that, after signing on from Salvesen Boys Club, Stanton wasn’t exactly enthralled by Hibs manager Walter Galbraith’s suggestion he should go to Rose for a season to bridge the gap between juvenile and senior football and “toughen up a wee bit”. “I didn’t want to do it as a 17 or 18 year-old, but it turned out to be some of the best advice I ever received,” he said.
“It was hard at the time. But some players who opted to stay at Easter Road, guys who signed at the same time as me, only got a game every three or four weeks. You’ll not improve like that. I was at Bonnyrigg playing every week, going to places like Ormiston and Linlithgow and fighting for my life. There were some wild men. But terrific players. When I came back into Easter Road at the end of the season I had passed by the young players that stayed. Not because I was better but simply because I had been playing every week.”
Stanton’s life could have been altered beyond all recognition in the juniors. After a game at Arniston, Hearts manager Tommy Walker approached him with a contract offer. “My family are all big Hibs supporters and I remember wondering how I was going to tell my dad,” he recalls. “He just looked at me and said stuff that a supporter would say, like: ‘but the Hibs have a nicer strip than the Hearts’.
“Eventually, my mother said we had forgotten about something: bus fares. She had worked out it was cheaper on the bus from Niddrie to Easter Road than it was from Niddrie to Tynecastle. My dad looked at me and said: ‘are you not going to listen to common sense?’ I signed for the Hibs and never regretted it.”
A lifelong passion that can still provide new thrills, the latest and one of the greatest came at Hampden in May, when he watched a first Scottish Cup win for Hibs in 114 years with his grandson Quinn only yards from where he had stood with his dad Michael to witness the 1958 final loss. His extended family were then all on Leith Links the next day for the bus parade. “It was terrific,” said Stanton.
Yet, even if that medal eluded him in 13 years at Easter Road and he had to go to Celtic in 1976 to achieve a double, he has in his possession something more precious than any badge.
After his first training session on the Easter Road pitch as a 13-year-old, manager Hugh Shaw handed him a 10 bob note to pay for his bus travel to and from the ground.
“Years later when my dad passed away, my mother was handing out the wee bits and pieces – old programmes, Hibs photos and cuttings. Then, in a wee plastic holder, was a 10 bob note,” said Stanton. “I said ‘what’s that?’ and she said ‘did you not remember that?’ I couldn’t believe it was the same 10 bob note. There must have been many nights she could have done with that, because I had five brothers, but no, that is what it meant to her. I still have that. It is one of my prize possessions.”
l Pat Stanton was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.