HE SCORED the winner when Falkirk won the Scottish Cup in 1957 and is one of only a handful of survivors of that team. Yet, Doug Moran’s football memories stretch far beyond that glorious feat as he recalls a one-eyed goalkeeper, the immortal John White, a sinister 10-1 victory for Dunfermline and life under Alf Ramsey
‘Can you help me, son?” says Doug Moran as he rifles through the yellowing newspaper cuttings and dog-eared match programmes spread across the dining-room table. He is trying to find the letter which could confirm he is the answer to the question: “Who was the last Hibernian player to score the winning goal in the Scottish Cup final?”
Every once in a while down those long years this lovely old fellow has been asked if he can remember the exact date he signed for Falkirk, when he ceased being a loaned-out Hibee and officially became a Bairn. “I think I might have turned up in a few pub quizzes,” he laughs.
Now, anyone who addresses me as “son” will get my assistance. I’m only called it now by the game’s true veterans and Moran is 80. But right away, surveying the mound of memories, I decide we shouldn’t be concerned with this document, which hardly seems vital in the grand scheme of things. Not when Moran can be telling us more about the one-eyed goalie, the immortal John White, the sinister day when Dunfermline Athletic won 10-1, Musselburgh Grammar School’s fantastic fitba’ progeny, being a trusted and valued player for Alf Ramsey who wasn’t really predisposed to “Jocks” – and, of course, his famous Hampden goal to beat Kilmarnock in 1957.
“I’m not sure I really knew where Falkirk was when I signed for the club,” he says. “I joined halfway through the season and at that stage they were down the bottom of the league. I don’t think you’d have been able to get a 2s6d double on them escaping relegation and winning the cup.”
We’re talking in his cottage in the charming village of Inveresk, these days part of Musselburgh. Grandfather Moran, who has put on a tie for The Scotsman today, was born in the Honest Toun and and has lived here most of his days. His wife, Elizabeth, has served up the morning coffees and left us to it; these are yarns she must have heard a thousand times before.
“I thought he was a gentleman. Not a lot of people liked him but that was probably down to the way he spoke. Funnily enough, though, I didn’t think of him as a great tactician”Doug Moran on Alf Ramsey
Like the one about the midweek cup-final replay finishing so late that, in a stadium without lights, the gathering gloom denied many Bairns fans the sight of captain John Prentice lifting the trophy. So late that there were children with coats over their pyjamas among the delirious throng for the open-top bus procession through the town. So late that after the celebration supper at the local ice rink, Alex Parker, who couldn’t drive and didn’t own a car, negotiated the journey to Prestwick in a vehicle borrowed from a club director to fulfil 7am national service duties and couldn’t resist flashing his medal at his bully of a sergeant. We must cherish such stories because Moran is one of the few heroes of 1957 still with us.
An old-fashioned inside-left, Moran describes his attributes thus: “I could run about and score the odd goal.” As one of only three in Falkirk’s dark blue to bag a century of them, he is being exceptionally modest. But he managed a mere couple for Hibs, never quite succeeding in wresting a first-team shirt from the men in possession.
No wonder: we’re talking the Famous Five. He says: “You’re too young to have seen them – they were gods. I was completely overawed. Footballers now seem to be segregated [by age] but I went straight into that dressing room and had to sit next to the great Lawrie Reilly – ridiculous. They were friendly, although Gordon Smith didn’t mix much – he was a superstar. He had fancy foreign cars like Citroens which I’d never seen before. I’d never seen a white raincoat on a guy before and Gordon used to wear it to breeze into the ground 15 minutes before kick-off. Lawrie, who’d been there since 2pm like the rest, couldn’t understand how he got away with that. But Gordon was Gordon.
“Then one day [manager] Hugh Shaw said: ‘You can go out and play for Falkirk’. I always listened to him; he was a good man who looked after his players. Apart from the goalie Bert Slater – we were at school together – I didn’t know anyone at Brockville, but it was obvious they weren’t in a good position. Still, it was first-team football.”
You pass Musselburgh Grammar on the way to Moran’s house. Yes, Kenny Miller and Colin Nish would be pupils later, but Wikipedia neglects to mention that Moran, Slater and John White are among its notable FPs, all three graduating from the Bairns to England with, respectively, Ipswich Town, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. “Bert was a good goalie, although he was probably a bit wee to be a great one – hence the nickname Shorty. John was The Ghost, of course, skipping around the edges of games. His class never showed at Falkirk because the team always needed players to roll up their sleeves for a relegation scrap and that wasn’t really him. He was a very quiet lad and, to be honest, I didn’t think he’d turn into such a star. Shows what a poor judge I am!”
White didn’t arrive at Brockville until the year after the cup triumph, Falkirk offering Alloa Athletic the same money as Hibs but, so legend has it, clinching the transfer with a crate of malt whisky. For a provincial club, the Bairns’ dealings were occasionally bold. The £5000 they splashed on West Ham United’s Syd Puddefoot back in 1922 had been a world record. In the grim early days of 1957, new manager Reg Smith who had replaced Bob Shankly was given £9,000 for three new signings, and Moran joined the rescue operation.
He runs through the rest of the team: “Alex Parker and Ian Rae were strong full-backs and if you remember how tight Brockville was, that could mean wingers ending up the other side of the railings. We had another full-back, Jimmy McIntosh, who was even worse: if it didn’t move he just whacked it. What a great wee ground we had.
“Andy Irvine, the centre-half, came from Dundee along with George Merchant, our big centre-forward –every team had one of them. John Prentice came from Rangers, took the penalties and scored with them all. I always thought he was a gentleman with plenty of money. Derek Grierson was the brains of the team; he’d actually been to university. Tommy Murray and Eddie O’Hara were flying machines on the wings and great dribblers.”
Listening to these testimonies, we might wonder how Falkirk got in such a pickle that season. But the relegation threat was what Moran calls “an occupational hazard” of being a Bairn. “Folk thought we were at it. The normal win bonus of £4 could go up to £20 if we were in dire straits. They thought we deliberately played ourselves into these precarious positions but it just came naturally to us!” Maybe the team needed more guys like Alex Wright, last but not least in Moran’s roll-call, sleeves always hoisted high to symbolise trojan effort. “Alex had incredible spirit. Four or five down to Rangers, he’d still be urging us on.”
Moran missed Falkirk’s cup entrance in the fifth round, an inauspicious win at Berwick Rangers, but was an ever-present thereafter. Against Aberdeen at Brockville, Monifieth-based Merchant hitched a lift in the Dons team bus but after scoring twice wasn’t invited to share the long journey home. Falkirk were back at their trim home for the quarter-final against Clyde and a sardine-squash near-20,000 crowd saw Moran score a peach he vividly remembers: “Old heavy ball, corner of the box and I got a beautiful connection lush off the foot and it fair flew into the net.”
Underdogs in both ties, Falkirk again weren’t fancied against Raith Rovers in the semis. Fifty-eight years on, Moran is still claiming the equaliser, credited as an own goal, in the first game at Tynecastle, but there were no quibbles about his strike in the replay. The Bairns were in the final, and the first televised one to boot.
This was a one-off for the relatively new cathode-ray medium requiring 100,000 tickets to be sold – a figure reached when bus tycoon Walter Alexander, the Brockville chairman, bought £10,000 worth. The first game was a dreary spectacle which kinder reports blamed on the Hampden Swirl. The replay, which went to extra time, was deadlocked at 1-1 until the 100th minute when, according to the most excitable account, Moran chested down a Killie clearance, ran a “half-length of Hampden” and thumped the ball into the net for “a wonderful goal, the most wonderful in Falkirk’s history – a miracle”.
“Ach, it was okay,” he says with the benefit of hindsight and one more view of the Pathe newsreel footage. “It wasn’t the best goal I ever scored but it was definitely the most important.” So what was the best? He points to his scrapbook’s record of a 4-3 Falkirk victory at Parkhead, the report from a certain Lawrie Reilly confirming that this 25-yard winner at the death was better than any of the last-minute goals for which the Hibs great was famed. “If that one was good enough for Lawrie then it’s good enough for me.”
Back in 1957 there was certainly no time to dwell on the cup-winning strike with relegation still a real threat. Forty-eight hours after glory it was back to grimness for Falkirk: three games in four days to save themselves. They won the first (but were fined for resting players) and lost the second before beating Partick Thistle to avoid the trapdoor.
Two years later they did go down, although Moran has always been suspicious of the circumstances surrounding their demise. “Before the final day of the season there was talk in our dressing room of bribes if the results were to go a certain way and I’m sure this must have gone at other places, too. For Dunfermline to stay up they had to win by an absolute barrowload. What happened? They scored ten!” Imagine what communication between Brockville and East End Park was like back then. Falkirk wouldn’t have really known about their rivals’ goal orgy against Partick Thistle, or that a decent victory over Raith would still have saved them. In the event a John White penalty hit the bar and bounced over and the faithful groaned their last in the old First Division.
Then Tommy Younger came in as a novel-for-the-time player/manager – “the worst swap in the history of football”, according to Moran. “Bert Slater went to Liverpool and we got Tommy, a really likeable bloke who I knew from Hibs, but he was a clueless bugger as a manager and not really interested in playing – he liked his food and drink too much.” Younger was either very fussy about ’keepers or couldn’t pick one. “We had so many on the books we could have fielded a team of goalies.” Bairns myth has it that among them was a custodian who only had one eye. “There were a few who played like that.”
After Falkirk were dumped out of the Scottish Cup at Cowdenbeath, Moran had words with Younger. “All I said was he should have been playing and maybe I swore a bit.” This was enough to have him banned. “I had to train on my own for the rest of the season.” His scrapbook follows the row, the papers taking up his case and accusing Falkirk of victimisation before there’s a photo of the “rebel” digging out the Basildon Bond to write a letter of apology. “That was ridiculous. A club couldn’t do that to a player now.” Moran, who’d submitted a transfer request, was asked to help the Bairns achieve promotion and then he’d be allowed to go. “I think I scored 30 goals the next season and no wonder.” They were his ticket out.
“Earlier in my career I never considered England. There was no need because Hibs had such a big reputation. But when not just Bert and John went there, but also Alex Parker and Eddie O’Hara [both to Everton], I didn’t want to be left behind.” Similar to Falkirk, he wasn’t exactly sure of Ipswich’s whereabouts. The Suffolk club were top-flight debutants in ’61-’62, having been in the Third Division (South) a few years before. Moran, at £12,300, was Alf Ramsey’s only addition to the team and, astonishingly, they won the championship.
He remembers his first impressions of Portman Road, in the back of football’s beyond: “There were three nice stands but the dressing rooms were these two wooden huts, full of holes and very draughty. They made me pine for Brockville.” And future World Cup-winner Ramsey? “I thought he was a gentleman. Not a lot of people liked him but that was probably down to the way he spoke. Funnily enough, though, I didn’t think of him as a great tactician.
“In those days football management seemed quite straightforward. The boss would assess what he had and play to the team’s strengths.” Team spirit was a big thing for Ipswich, the players’ bicycles parked outside Joe’s Cafe in the town where it was egg and chips all round being an evocative image of that unlikely triumph.
Ramsey’s England were the “wingless wonders”, a system prototyped by Ipswich, but Moran suggests this might have been more down to accident than design. “Jimmy Leadbetter, who came from Edinburgh, was outside-left but he couldn’t run so Alf let him stay on halfway and link the play from there, which he did brilliantly.” Frail, seeming older than 33, and with spindly legs which earned him the nickname “Sticks”, Leadbetter was what one account termed “a most unlikely-looking professional footballer”. But he crafted a lot of goals for the strikers, Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips. “These two were obsessed with outscoring each other and they’d knock you out of the road to get a goal,” says Moran. Nevertheless our man contributed 13 which prompted the very Ramseyesque tribute: “Yes, he was Scottish, but I owed him so much.”
With the help of a third Scot, Billy Baxter from Broxburn Athletic, Ipswich overcame Bobby Charlton’s Manchester United and John White’s Spurs who’d won the double the season before to set up another nailbiting last-day showdown for Moran. This one went better, with the half-time scoreboard at Portman Road flashing up progress reports on title rivals Burnley, and he remembers his eccentric pal Leadbetter interrupting delivery of a corner to applaud news of their stumble.
All in all, not bad for a Hibs cast-off. Moran eventually came back to Scotland to become a Bairn again. He’ll be at Hampden today to see if history can repeat. “You never know,” he says, closing his scrapbook. “No one gave us a chance of winning the cup. If it happens again it would be lovely.”