Freddie Glidden, who was the last surviving member of the Hearts Scottish Cup winning team of 1956, has passed away, aged 91. But the man who captained the side that defeated Celtic 3-1 on 21 April, in front of a crowd of 132,840, contributed too much to Hearts to ever be forgotten.
A member of the Hearts Hall of Fame, along with his manager Tommy Walker, pictured below right, and several of his team-mates from that notable era, Glidden described the Scottish Cup triumph as the sweetest of his career, despite also claiming two League Cup winners’ medals – in 1954 and 1958 – and the 1957-58 League Championship.
He was also a member of the first team to represent Hearts in Europe.
But he still combined all those on-field heroics with a “real” job, working for the West Lothian Water Board at the time, and would often sign up for a Friday nightshift to ensure he was free to play on Saturdays or would work until lunchtime on the day of a game before meeting up with his team-mates. Speaking ahead of the 2012 Scottish Cup final, he conceded he couldn’t remember if he had worked through the night ahead of that 1956 trip to Hampden but said he may well have done. That was just the way it was.
It did not stop him producing the goods on a day that would earn its own chapter in the club’s annuls and spawn the kind of memories that were able to prompt smiles and anecdotes as he perused a personal scrapbook more than half a century later.
Recalling the relief he felt at the final whistle as clearly as the crowds of Hearts and even Hibs fans who lined the streets as the team took an open-topped bus trip back through the city on their return to the capital, he flicked through photos, newspaper cuttings and telegrams, and among the medals and various other mementoes was evidence of the “66 pound, three and fourpence” payment he received from the club for ending the Scottish Cup five-decade-long drought. It was a hefty jump from the usual £2 win bonus.
But pride of place was the shirt he wore the day he climbed those Hampden steps to lift the trophy.
A tall, strong, intelligent defender, who had a real presence and could play at right-half or centre-half, he was a gentleman on and off the pitch but he was also a fiercely determined, hard-working competitor, who is said to have attacked every ball in a fearless manner. That won him adulation from the terraces, and the respect of colleagues.
It also prompted a light-hearted exchange back in 2012 when his wife Rosa claimed she had been too scared to wash that cup final shirt. It was a notion pooh-poohed by Glidden who said he had “never come off a football pitch with my strip that clean!”
A man who played a pivotal role in the Tynecastle club’s history and some of their most memorable honours, he humbly claimed that his role had been a simple one.
In a team blessed with players such as Willie Bauld, Alfie Conn and Jimmy Wardhaugh, he said that the men behind them “just went out to stop the other team, win the headers and the tackles and then get the ball to them. They did the rest. They could score goals anywhere. I was actually very fortunate to play with the players in that team. I was the captain but we were really a team.”
Glidden had been born at Newmains in Lanarkshire on 7 September 1927, but he was brought up in Stoneyburn, West Lothian. That is where he first came to Hearts’ notice, playing in the juvenile grade for local side, Murrayfield Rovers. Freddie was provisionally signed by Hearts in July 1945, but spells with West Calder Home Guard XI, Whitburn Juniors and then Newtongrange Star followed, before he was called up to the Hearts’ squad by manager Davie McLean in May 1948. He had to wait until 1951, though, for his first-team breakthrough.
It was worth the wait as he went on to make 270 appearances and score three goals for the Gorgie club, before he moved on and saw out his career at Dumbarton from 1959-1962 before ending his working life as a sub-postmaster. But it was throughout that spell at Hearts that he collected the medals and memories he would treasure. The most precious of all being that Scottish Cup final victory that ended a 50-year wait.
“At the time when the final whistle went we all just seemed to relax,” he said as he recounted that day. “I think we all just thought ‘thank goodness’, but after that you see the supporters and it lets you see how much it means to the Edinburgh folk.
“It was lovely going up to get the cup and lifting it up but it could have been any of our boys, I was just the one who was at the front. To be honest, I think I was only made captain because I was the centre-half! We had great players in our team at that time. It was an amazing feeling but at the time you are so hyped up for that one game, and having won it you don’t really think of it as history, it’s only when you look back on it.”
Having passed away on New Year’s Day, family, friends and fans will mourn a wonderful man but all will look back fondly on a life well lived and a footballing contribution that will always be remembered.