Obituary: Bobby Kinloch, Hibernian footballer

Bobby Kinloch, third from right. Picture: Neil Hanna
Bobby Kinloch, third from right. Picture: Neil Hanna
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BORN: 1935 in Glasgow. Died: 27 August, 2014, in Edinburgh, aged 79

Some footballers are remembered for their longevity on the pitch, others for the quality of their skills, still others for their fierceness or other distinguishing characteristic.

Very few players are remembered mainly for the occurrence of an instant, just one piece of action that eclipses everything else in their entire career – Gordon Banks’ magnificent save from Pele in the 1970 World Cup, David Narey’s “toe poke” goal against Brazil in 1982, Steve Chalmers sticking out a foot and scoring the winner for Celtic in the 1967 European Cup Final.

Bobby Kinloch was one of those men, a good footballer turned into a legend for supporters of his club, Hibernian FC, by one single goal. It wasn’t even a goal of supreme quality, just a penalty struck adroitly past the goalkeeper.

When you know that the penalty was against the mighty Barcelona FC, that it was scored late on at Easter Road in 1961 to give Hibs a 3-2 win over the Catalan titans, that it secured an implausible 7-6 aggregate win for Hibs in front of at least 47,000 spectators, then you realise why Kinloch’s goal has achieved almost mythic status in Scottish football, and why he will never be forgotten at Easter Road.

Born in Govan, Kinloch’s family moved to Forres in Morayshire when he was still a young boy.

Growing up not far from the air base at Kinloss, which was a training base for fliers during the Second World War, Kinloch joined the RAF on leaving school. His footballing talents having been spotted in his teens, Kinloch played for the RAF and for Forres Mechanics, the local Highland League side nicknamed “the Can Cans”.

While serving in Malaya with the RAF during the Malayan Energency, Kinloch was selected for the Malayan Combined Services Team and then went on to play for Malaya internationally – the rules on national qualifications were a bit vague in those days. This brief foray into the international scene gave Kinloch a story that he loved to tell – that he had scored six goals for Malaya in a match but still lost 7-6.

At the relatively advanced age of 24, and having been spotted by manager Hugh Shaw, Kinloch came straight out of the services and signed for Hibs, a career move he shared with his playing contemporary Eddie Turnbull of Famous Five fame, who left the Royal Navy and joined Hibs straight away.

After playing in the reserves – reserve football was taken much more seriously then – Kinloch broke into the first team in 1960. He went on to play 34 times for Hibs, often forming a useful forward partnership with the great English internationalist Joe Baker.

Kinloch was an old-fashioned attacking inside forward – though he could also play at wing-half – who was blessed with pace and skill, and also had an eye for goal and a powerful shot. He made his debut for Hibs against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in the opening game of the 1960/61 season, and he went on to score 17 times that season, including a hat-trick against St Mirren in October 1960.

In all, he scored 22 goals for Hibs during his three years at Easter Road, but none more famous or lucrative for the club than his winner against Barcelona. It is worth dwelling on.

By December 1960, Hibs were in the quarter-finals of that season’s Fairs Cup, properly known as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and the forerunner of today’s Europa League, by virtue of a walkover against Lausanne of Switzerland.

Hibs had famously been the first British team to enter the European Cup, and had reached the semi-final of Europe’s premier competition in that first season in 1955-56, but there was still considerable surprise when on 27 December, 1960, Hibs went to the majestic Nou Camp and drew 4-4 with Barcelona, then, as now, one of Europe’s great clubs. Indeed, Hibs were 4-2 up with 18 minutes to go before Barcelona equalised.

The return leg on 22 February, 1961, was poised at 2-2 with 85 minutes gone, and a replay beckoned when Johnny McLeod was felled in the visitors’ penalty area and German referee Johannes Malka pointed to the spot.

Thus arrived Kinloch’s moment of glory. Sammy Baird was Hibs’ normal penalty taker but he had suffered diarrheoa – a fact only revealed after Baird died in 2010 – and declined to take the kick.

Kinloch stepped forward, but as the Barcelona players chased the referee in disgraceful scenes, he and the other Hibs players returned to the centre circle where Kinloch coolly sat on the ball.

When order was restored by the police fully 11 or 12 minutes later, Kinloch walked forward and hit the ball past the right hand of goalkeeper Medrano for a famous, if not the most famous, victory in Hibs’ history.

They were beaten in the semi-final on a replay, but it’s worth recording that their 5-5 aggregate draw with AS Roma – Kinloch scored a fine goal against them – would have seen them to the final if the “away goals count double” rule had applied then.

Nothing in Kinloch’s subsequent career rivalled that famous night against Barcelona. A loss of form the following season saw him play just 11 times for the First XI, scoring five goals, before he was transferred to Morton in September 1962.

After joining Berwick Rangers in 1964, Kinloch emigrated to Canada.. He joined the police in Ontario and told the story of coming home after a police shootout one night and being told by his wife to get a different job.

Returning to Scotland for the 1967-68 season, Kinloch played 12 times for Raith Rovers and three times for Dunfermline Athletic, in the season they won the Scottish Cup, though he was not in the Cup-winning side.

After retiring from football, Kinloch had a successful business career, latterly running the IT department of a major bank.

He helped organise, and was a frequent attender at Hibernian Former Players’ Association events, and lived to see his grandsons Sam and Max Todd play for Hibs at under-20 level, with Max making his first team debut during pre-season friendly matches.

Bobby Kinloch is survived by wife Margaret, son Mark, daughters Gillian, Nicky and Karen and grandchildren Sam, Max, Scott, Helena, Alex, Katie, Stephanie, Adam, Anthony, Sebastian, Phillip, Becky and Margaret.