THERE was an agreeable unanimity about the merit of Hibs' memorable win in the Scottish League Cup final, their first success in the final of a national competition on the present Hampden Park.
It was clinched by Jock Stein's honest handshake for each Hibs player as he left the field and his gruff summing-up later: "Hibs were the better team. That's it."
Eddie Turnbull came in with the truculent demand that Hibs' status and worthiness should be acclaimed, and one was not sure whether he wanted them declared best in Hampden, or Scotland, or maybe the whole world. He had good cause to be excited and proud.
All around the corridors of Hampden there was that feeling of well-being. Some were saying: "Why cannot we have football like that all the time." Others declared: "If we could have more football like that there would be no problems in the game."
Willie Ormond and Bobby Johnstone of the "Famous Five" watched on and remembered their regrets in the early Fifties when they won three League championships but never a Hampden final.
Ormond was saying: "In our days we took bigger crowds to Hampden, but none of them made as much noise as those supporters today!"
Turnbull was shifting credit away from himself. He would take no praise for the manoeuvre which brought the first goal for Pat Stanton.
He said: "We have some set-pieces with the dead ball, but each man is told to use his own initiative in these situations, and if they see something to go for it. It was just a case of two men thinking as one."
Be that as it may, he cannot squirm out of taking a bow for the half-time change which swung the match Hibs' way.
The first half had been a period for the coaches. It was engrossingly tactical with men cancelling out men and, although the play was entertaining, it was being kept away from the goalkeepers.
Edwards was playing in the midfield where his skills were smothered. In the second half, Turnbull sent him to play wide on the right. There he found space and time to use the ball intelligently. It was from that side that the two Hibs goals were forced. Some said Stanton was the man of the match but they were being charmed by his second-half excellence into overlooking a vital aspect of the first half. Celtic, had they settled to a game quick, could have won the cup.
In the end, however, the merits of Hibs as a team brought the cup to Easter Road. Nowhere did this allow more than in defence – Hibs' organisation there surpassed that of Celtic. Right across the back, through Brownlie, Black, Blackley and Schaedler, there was good covering.
Celtic never matched this. When Edwards took the free-kick which made the first goal, Stanton was being covered loosely and on the wrong side before thumping home his effort. When Stanton invited the pass which led to him firing in a cross for O'Rourke to head home a superb second goal, no Celtic defender went with him. Hibs' defence never allowed such freedom. That they did not was due mainly to John Brownlie. When others were mispassing, being pushed around and losing all the 50-50 balls he was countering Jimmy Johnstone, charging into attack and in general showing that he was as exciting and effective defender as was to be found in all of Britain.
Celtic had their glorious player in Kenny Dalglish. He was an extraordinary player so skilful, so adventurous, so creative and shorn of anything underhand.
His goal was a gem from the way he headed the ball, as it came to him, right into his running path, to the goal, to the balance and composure as he reached the vital shooting area. Then there was the precision of the shot. It was a goal to soften defeat for the Celtic supporters.
Hibs: Herriott, Brownlie, Schaedler, Stanton, Black, Blackley, Edwards, O'Rourke, Gordon, Cropley, Duncan.
Celtic: Williams, McGrain, Brogan, McCluskey, McNeill, Hay, Johnstone, Connelly, Dalglish, Hood, Macari.