Edinburgh’s Greatest 100 people: Sporting heroes

Leigh Griffiths and John Robertson have been  heroes for Hibs and Hearts
Leigh Griffiths and John Robertson have been heroes for Hibs and Hearts
Share this article
Have your say

THEY’VE punched and kicked their way to the top of their game but now these sporting stars are facing their toughest contest yet.

Footballers, boxers, not to mention cyclist Chris Hoy, are amongst the high-profile nominations that will divide opinion in the hunt for Edinburgh’s 100 Greatest. While club rivalries run deep, fans are united in their belief that many of the Capital’s footballing greats should be amongst the chosen legends. Older Hearts fans might talk in awe of club legends like Dave Mackay and Tommy Walker, but Steve Kilgour believes one of the Jambos’ modern heroes deserves a place in our top 100.

Ken Buchanan. Picture: Greg Macvean

Ken Buchanan. Picture: Greg Macvean

The secretary of the Federation of Hearts Supporters’ Clubs suggested John Robertson. “He ticks all the right boxes as he was Hearts’ greatest-ever player,” Kilgour said. “If we had another John Robertson now, he’d be worth tens of millions. These guys come once in a lifetime to a club the size of Hearts, maybe not even that. He would certainly be deserving of that accolade.”
Alongside Hibs’ legends such as the Famous Five and Pat Stanton, Walter Leitch, bar manager at Hibs’ supporters’ club, said former Scottish PFA Player of the Year Derek Riordan and current loan star Leigh Griffiths deserve to be recognised as amongst the greats.

He said: “Leigh Griffiths is a great player and the supporters love him. I’m just sorry he’s not our player and would love us to sign him.

“Derek Riordan is another recent great. He had a great eye for scoring goals and should be on the list.”

Another footballer to be put forward is the “greatest ever Ranger”, John Greig. He was born in Edinburgh and grew up supporting Hearts as a child, making him a contender in the eyes of Lothian True Blue secretary, John Murphy.

John Greig

John Greig

Greig was raised on Clearborn Crescent, Prestonfield, in the shadow of Arthur’s seat, where he practised his kicking in the hallway of the tenement and played in the back green with his brother Tam.

At the age of nine he played his first competitive match for Prestonfield Primary after his talents were spotted in the playground by one of the teachers. It led to his first taste of competitive success when the school team went on to win the Edinburgh Primary Schools’ Cup. Hearts failed to sign him and Greig went on to spend his entire career in Glasgow with Rangers as a player, manager and director. In his autobiography he fondly writes that for all he is seen as a Rangers legend, he still sees himself as a “wee lad from Edinburgh who kicked a 
tennis ball about the streets and dreamed of one day playing football for a living.”

Mr Murphy said Greig should be embraced by the city given he was twice voted Scottish Player of the Year. “He’s obviously a Rangers legend but he’s certainly someone for Edinburgh to be proud of,” he said. “My best memory of seeing him play was when he won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Barcelona in 1972 beating Dynamo Kiev 3-2 in the final.

Recently-appointed Scotland boss Gordon Strachan finds himself on the list because of his Muirhouse roots where his parents still live. Born in 1957, Gordon was brought up in the new council flats in Muirhouse Grove, in the shadow of Oxcars Court. Most assumed he would be heading for Easter Road but he signed for Dundee and enjoyed a career that went as far south as Southampton.

Gordon Strachan. Picture: Jane Barlow

Gordon Strachan. Picture: Jane Barlow

Sports fan John, 60, thinks he deserves a spot and also put forward boxing legend and former world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan. After suffering at the hands of bullies, Ken pestered his dad for boxing lessons and ended up at Sparta club in McDonald Road when he was eight, winning his first youth title within weeks, weighing in at just 3st 2lb.

Buchanan, below lefr, combined boxing and training to be a carpenter with a joinery firm in Dalry Road, earning himself the nickname the Fighting 

He beat Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico in September 1970 to become WBA lightweight champion. He defeated Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles in February 1971 for the WBC title and in 1973, he beat future world lightweight champion Jim Watt in Glasgow to regain the British lightweight title.

“Some of his more memorable bouts were with Jim Watt. He was from Glasgow and Buchanan was obviously Edinburgh so there was always a wee bit of rivalry which added to the entertainment.”


We want to know who you think deserves to be recognised as one of Edinburgh’s greatest.

Your nominations can be as modern or as historic as you like – and we’re giving out prizes to our favourite suggestions.

One of the many ways you might find inspiration is by reading about the Scottish Enlightenment when great minds like Adam Smith and

David Hume put Edinburgh at the centre of the intellectual world.

Scots who Enlightened the World by Andrew Ferguson, which has just been published by Polwarth Publishing, tells the story of that exciting period in an accessible and entertaining way. We have five paperbacks, worth £25 each, and a special hardback edition to give away.

To win a copy, your suggestion does not necessarily have to be original, but you must make a compelling case for why your hero deserves special recognition. The book winners will be chosen from all nominations received by Friday, April 26.

You can send us your nominations by e-mailing greatest@edinburghnews.com, posting on our Facebook page, tell us on Twitter by using the hashtag #edgreats or write to us at Edinburgh’s Greatest, Edinburgh Evening News, 108 Holyrood Road, EH8 8AS.