McArthur Scottish Cup clean sheets still not enough

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ALTHOUGH he is most ­commonly associated with ­Hibernian, Jim McArthur has at least tasted some Scottish Cup glory, when looking on from the Hampden terraces as ­Dunfermline, his boyhood ­favourites, ­lifted the trophy by beating Hearts in 1968.

It is when he joined Hibs in 1972 that his problems in the tournament began, although he can at least claim to be the only Hibs goalkeeper to have kept two clean-sheets in Scottish Cup finals. These performances ­followed directly after one another, and then, when the 1979 final went to a second replay for only the fourth time in the ­competition’s history, he was beaten three times, though only twice by a Rangers opponent.

Famously, and perhaps summing up over a century of struggle for Hibs in the Scottish Cup, the Easter Road side lost the final after Arthur Duncan put through his own goal in extra time to net what proved to be the winner for Rangers.

McArthur explained: “It’s good to be the only Hibs keeper with two clean sheets in the final, but I would rather have the cup. I would rather have won the first game 1-0.”

They might have done so, had Colin Campbell reacted a little more cutely when rounding Peter McCloy in the first game, after knocking the ball over the goalkeeper’s head.

After then colliding with the keeper, McArthur reckons the striker would have been within his rights to have gone down. However, after stumbling slightly, Campbell recovered his footing though sadly, with the ball ­trundling towards the goal-line, the chance was lost.

“It was fair enough, he wanted to score, he wanted to be the first man since 1902 to score the winning goal in a Scottish Cup final for Hibs,” said McArthur. “Even from where I was standing I thought it was a penalty, though Peter [McCloy] might disagree.”

More frustration was to ­follow two games later when McArthur could only look on in horror as Duncan connected with a cross to bullet the ball past his own keeper. “Derek Johnstone had scored two already, and was standing behind Arthur, so he had to do something,” recalls McArthur. “A diving header into the top corner probably wasn’t what we had in mind, though. Still, he is the only Hibs player to have scored a winner in the Scottish Cup final since 1902.”

McArthur does not recall the tournament having such overbearingly negative connotations for the club back then, even though a considerable length of time had passed since the last cup win. “It wasn’t a big thing then at all,” he says. “It was very strange. It was just a cup, and there was not much made of it. I think it is because Hibs were doing quite well, and had won a League Cup and Drybrough Cups, and were a good side.

Obviously we were not Turnbull’s Tornadoes, but we were a decent side. Nobody really pointed it out. Now with texting, websites, and an obsession with statistics, people get a lot more worked up about it.”

By the time of the third game (which was played 12 days after the first replay) the thrill had gone, slightly. “In the first game, there was no extra time, and then the second game there was extra time,” recalls McArthur. “People might laugh, but you were almost weary of it. It was like, ‘here we go again’. I prefer it now, when it is all down to what happens on the day. Even if it is penalties.”

McArthur wishes there could have been penalties to decide the second replay, as he had his eye in after saving Alex Miller’s effort from the spot in extra time. “Usually you get a high, and after that I remember thinking, ‘we might go on and win this’. It gives everyone a lift. But then came Arthur’s misfortune.”

Hibs then had to face Rangers in a rearranged league fixture, to complete a season of highs and lows – they defeated Hearts in the quarter-finals but were beaten 6-1 by Partick Thistle in the run-up to the final. Adding insult to injury for the fans, having had three chances to beat Rangers in the Scottish Cup final, Hibs of course triumphed over the Ibrox side in the league three days after the cup defeat.