Paddy Cannon is appointed Club Trainer, called on for his knowledge of conditioning for athletic performance.
The name of Paddy Cannon, alias Peter Cannon, will not be familiar to many today, but in his time he was a very popular figure in his native Scotland and even further afield. During the 89 years of his life, he created an enduring legacy by leaving his indelible imprint in the history books, both as a distance runner and as a football coach.
Cannon was of medium build, stood 5’8″ (173cm) and never weighed more than 147lbs (67kg) during his competitive days. But behind the moustache and unassuming demeanour lurked a ferocious competitor with a burning desire to win – whatever the sport. In addition to setting two professional world records on the running track, beating records for both three mile (in Glasgow on 5th May 1988, 14 minutes 191/2 seconds) and four mile (on 8th November 1888, 19 minutes 252/5 seconds) races, Cannon would play a major part in the development of Hibernian.
Promotion for Paddy
In 1896, Cannon took on a job as the groundsman of Hibernian. He enjoyed outdoor work and coming from a Catholic-Irish household, was a loyal Hibs supporter. It was something of a dream job for Cannon, and would be the beginning of an association that would last for almost half a century. Cannon's family also made the move to Edinburgh and into a tenement at 9 Lyne Street in the aptly named Canongate district, home of the large Irish community.
After experiencing turbulent times following the formation of Celtic, the committee of Hibernian worked tirelessly to build a bright future for the Club. Hibernian's fortunes took a turn for the better when the committee promoted Paddy Cannon to the post of trainer-groundsman in 1897, thereby enabling the club to draw on Cannon’s experience and knowledge of conditioning for athletic performance.
League and Cup success under Cannon's regime
Cannon put his charges, many of whom were young players, through a new training regimen destined to reap benefits in the longer term. His training methods were considered innovative and modern in that era and he was highly respected by the Hibernian players of the day. The young players blossomed under his tutelage, and with Club Secretary Dan McMichael holding the reins, Hibernian reached the final of the Scottish Cup in 1902. The week before the final, Cannon primed his charges for the big challenge with long walks to Portobello, dominoes at night and a “diet of thick potted-head sandwiches washed down with cups of milky cocoa.” It was his unique way of fostering good team spirits.
The plan worked perfectly with the Hibs team gelling together well to beat Celtic 1-0 in the final, which was contested at Celtic’s home ground of Parkhead Stadium. The following year Hibs won the Scottish League title for the first time in impressive style, amassing 37 points in 22 games to finish six points clear of Dundee. Arguably the period between 1901 and 1903 was the finest in Hibernian's history when they were concurrent holders of the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Championship.
Paddy Cannon (top left) was Club Trainer when Hibernian won the 1902 Scottish Cup and Division One title in 1903
Of course other clubs were quick to follow the example set by Hibs, “levelling the playing field” so to speak. Hibernian would never again reach those lofty heights during the remainder of Cannon’s tenure as their trainer but they performed consistently during this period, save for a bad patch during the First World War and were never once relegated.
Paddy remained loyal to Hibernian and worked as their groundsman until old age compelled him to give that up too. He was blessed with a long and healthy life and remained a loyal football and athletics enthusiast until his death in his ninetieth year at City Hospital, Edinburgh, on August 23rd, 1946. His wife Annie died three weeks after him. In the late 1920’s a journalist writing in praise of Paddy Cannon created what is actually a fitting epitaph to the man:
“He was a great athlete and a sound trainer, and the pity is that Scotland cannot raise more of Cannon’s kind.”
Paddy Cannon takes up a groundsman role at Hibernian in 1896.
The following year in 1897, Cannon is promoted to a Trainer at the Club.
The Club win the 1902 Scottish Cup and the 1903 Scottish Division One title under Cannon's guidance.
Paddy Cannon is associated with the Club for over 50 years.