Obituaries: Chris Shevlane, footballer who crossed Edinburgh divide with Hearts and Hibs

Chris Shevlane, footballer. Born: 6 May, 1942 in Edinburgh. Died: 13 March 2023, Glasgow, aged 80

Chris Shevlane was a well known footballer who enjoyed a successful decade-long career from the early 1960s onwards during which he represented both capital clubs Hearts and Hibs with distinction as well as brief spells with Celtic and, at the end of his career, Morton.

An early example of the attacking full-back, blessed with skill and pace going forward, he was also a doughty defender who seemed destined to become truly exceptional but for injury problems hindering fulfilment of his potential. When making his name with Hearts, several big English clubs including Liverpool and Chelsea tried to sign him but in those pre-Bosman days the club refused to sell.

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Despite injury difficulties he played over 250 games in the top league here and represented Scotland at under-23 level four times, twice as captain, while he also represented the Scottish League twice. He captained Hearts, played in Europe with both Hibs and Hearts and in the 1969 League Cup Final for Hibs, for whom he was the club’s Player of the Year in 1970.

Chris Shevlane with the Hibs' Player of the Year award he won in 1970.Chris Shevlane with the Hibs' Player of the Year award he won in 1970.
Chris Shevlane with the Hibs' Player of the Year award he won in 1970.

Once retired from football he entered the licensed trade, acquiring the eponymous Shevlane’s Bar in Springburn, Glasgow in 1980 where he was a hugely appreciated and highly regarded ‘mine host’.

Anthony Christopher Shevlane was born in Morrison Street, Edinburgh to parents Anthony and Barbara, originally from County Mayo, Ireland. Father Anthony worked as a labourer on canal barges and although there was not much money around, Chris was brought up in a warm and supportive household along with older brother Patrick as the family moved to the capital’s Spittal Street, below the Castle.

He initially attended St.Peter’s Primary School before going on to St Anthony’s Secondary and loved football from an early age. Games at school and in the Meadows provided a good foundation as his talent led to his signing for well known juvenile side, Edina Hearts. There his form caught the eye of Hearts manager Tommy Walker who signed him provisionally as a 17-year-old before farming him out to junior side, Loanhead Mayflower to further his development as he worked as an apprentice bookbinder.

In late 1960 Chris was called up to the senior squad, playing initially in the reserves before making his debut against St.Mirren in April 1963.

He made rapid progress as part of a fabled back three of ‘Cruickshank, Shevlane and Holt’, becoming a first-choice full-back who could play either side. His consistently impressive displays attracted the attention of national selectors and his being chosen later that year for Scotland under-23s against Wales and England, while he also featured for the Scottish League in a trial match against a Scotland XI at Ibrox. By mid-1964 Liverpool had increased their offer for Chris to £35,000 with Hearts still refusing to sell, while an end of season highlight was Chris’ selection as captain of Scotland under-23s against France in Nantes, the team recording a creditable 2-0 win. Another one was playing for the Maroons in the New York summer tournament against top foreign opposition.

Under his captaincy the following season Hearts were very disappointed to lose the league title on miniscule goal average while Chris’ representative career concluded with an appearance for the Scottish League against the League of Ireland and a final game for Scotland under-23s against Wales, with him captaining the team to a resounding 3-0 win.

Although a serious ankle injury in 1967 led to medical advice to give up playing and Hearts awarding him a free transfer, Chris persevered, doing a lot of swimming training to strengthen his ankle. Another medical opinion persuaded Jock Stein to sign him for Celtic, essentially as defensive cover for the newly crowned European champions. Although he only played four times he made the most important ‘match’ of his life, meeting future wife Colette Smith through the club. The couple wed in June 1970 in St Mungo’s Church in Townhead, Glasgow and enjoyed a long happy marriage during which they had Laura, Paul and Nicola.

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After a year at Celtic he joined Hibs where, despite his Tynecastle connection, he was popular with the fans who nicknamed him ‘The Shev’ and admired his energetic style of play. He contributed to their European Fairs Cup campaign in games against Malmo, Lokomotiv Leipzig and Hamburg among others and in 1969 helped Hibs reach the League Cup Final.

After 91 games, in 1971 he joined Morton for whom he played for two years before hanging up his boots and entering the licensed trade, initially learning the ropes at the Calypso Bar in Kelvingrove. Thereafter he took over the Terminus Bar in Springburn before buying the Victoria Bar also in Springburn and renaming it ‘Shevlane’s’, which remains a family concern.

He worked hard to make the business successful and built up a well run bar while not being tolerant ‘of any nonsense’.

Chris was first and foremost a family man and thrived on their company, extending unconditional support and love to all including his seven grandchildren on whom he doted. Other than family life and business, he enjoyed playing golf and was a member at Cawder Golf Club at Bishopbriggs near the family home. He also enjoyed table tennis and badminton and began following rugby when son Paul started playing.

In retirement he and wife Colette travelled worldwide on holidays and for Xmas 2021 organised a memorable get-together for the whole family at Turnberry Hotel. A very popular individual, he has been the subject of many touching tributes, one of which encapsulates him: “A gem of a human.” He is survived by his wife, children, brother and grandchildren.


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