After being involved in some high scoring matches, Hibernian finish season 1965/66 in sixth position.
Foul weather in the Edinburgh area during season 1955/66 meant that Hibs would not play again until the end of January and many wished the bleak winter had claimed that away game to Motherwell when a miserable performance from the greens saw them trounced 4-0 which hardly bred confidence in the Hibs fans who now knew that their heroes would begin the latest quest for Scottish Cup glory by playing Third Lanark at Easter Road the following Saturday.
The form being displayed by Hibs had prompted Shankly to hit out in his programme notes as he suggested the 0-4 reversal at Fir Park happened because Hibs had turned in their worst performance since he took over. Calling upon his charges to shake off the lethargy and get back on the road by achieving a comprehensive home win over Third Lanark who had been relegated the previous season, Shankly must have been disappointed if not a little relieved to see the greens secure a narrow 4-3 win to take them through.
The Hibernian team of 1965/66
Standing left to right: Duncan, Davis, McNamee, Allan, Stanton and Cousin
Sitting left to right: Cormack, Stein, Scott, McGraw and Stevenson
Whilst Alan Cousin, Jim Scott, Jimmy O'Rourke and a penalty from Joe Davis gave the home fans entertainment, Hibs also contrived to lose three bad goals in front of that same nervous home support. Meanwhile over at Tynecastle Hearts were disposing of Clyde to set up an Edinburgh Derby in the next round which would take place in Gorgie just two weeks later. In the interim Hibs had the small matter of playing a League game at Ibrox and a first half knee injury to keeper Willie Wilson hardly helped as the visitors went down 2-0 to the League leaders.
Tynecastle cup clash
And so to Tynecastle, in the hope that maybe, just maybe this would be the year Hibs would end their Scottish Cup winning drought. Alas it was not to be as Hearts recorded a 2-1 victory despite a sterling effort from the greens in the dying stages to force a replay. John McNamee struck the solitary goal for the unfortunate Hibees.
Despite a poor first half showing in the next League game against Partick Thistle at Easter Road a much changed Hibs side with youngsters Thomson Allan, Colin Stein, Bobby Duncan and Colin Grant prominent, defeated a stuffy Jags outfit 2-0 with Peter Cormack and Stein the scorers. His third goal in senior football would be one to remember for Stein as he weaved in from the left, defenders strewn in his wake before thrashing a fine left foot shot past keeper George Niven! A flu bug had given the youngsters their chance, with Eric Stevenson and Jim Scott particularly badly affected and the kids certainly made the best of the opportunity.
Going into the next fixture, which brought St. Mirren to Easter Road on a cold March Wednesday evening, Hibs were sitting in 7th place some 14 points behind leaders Rangers whilst the Buddies were fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table, just two points off a relegation spot. As anticipated by Manager Shankly in his programme notes the visitors put up a real fight and some argued they were unlucky not to take a point from the clash but the truth is that Hibs spurned a number of good scoring opportunities so the 3-2 victory was merited. Colin Grant, Colin Stein and Peter Cormack claimed the goals for Hibs with Adamson and Robertson countering for the Buddies.
Earlier in the season Hamilton had been one team which Hibs struck 11 goals against but the return match at Douglas Park was an altogether tamer affair with a paltry attendance of just under 1,000 fans witnessing the visitors scrape home 2-1 after going a goal behind. Colin Grant and an own goal won the points and really the most significant factors were that it extended the unbeaten run to three games whilst Grant's strike, his second in senior football, was Hibs' 100th of the season.
The March weather was being kind and Hibs had Easter Road playable for the visit of Dundee on League business on 12th March. The Dark Blues were well known to Manager Bob Shankly who had been responsible for signing most of them but his 'inside knowledge' failed to pay off in the shape of a victory as Sammy Wilson, an addition to the squad after Shankly's departure, won the Taysiders a point. The Hibs goal came from ex-Dundee stalwart Alan Cousin, playing in a midfield role that day.
Struggling Stirling Albion were the next team to face a Hibs team which had dropped only one point in its previous four games and although they put up a decent show, particularly in a defensive sense, Peter Cormack settled things with the only goal of the game. On the International front 21 year old Pat Stanton was selected to play for the Scottish League against their English counterparts at St. James' Park Newcastle and turned in a fine performance, surprising no-one at Easter Road where it was common knowledge of just how good a young player he was.
Back in January the Hibs v Clyde game had fallen victim to the weather and was now finally about to be played, some 2 months later. The Shawfield outfit had been having a bit of an up and down season but and although in 11th place on the day of that game the 'Bully Wee' were a mere 5 points ahead of second bottom St. Johnstone in the fight to avoid joining Hamilton in the relegation positions. Hamilton remember had conceded 11 goals at Easter Road and with 26 games played they had amassed just 3 points and conceded 98 goals in the process and so it seems likely that it was not only Hibs that gave them a pasting!
The Glasgow side arrived straight off the back of an impressive 6-1 victory over title chasing Dunfermline and so it was imperative that Hibs stay tight at the back whilst creating chances for the forwards. Manager Shankly had the team prepared well as goals from Jimmy O'Rourke, Colin Stein and a Joe Davis penalty securing a 3-1 win with top scorer Joe Gilroy netting for the visitors.
Qualification for the following season's Inter Cities Fairs Cup was still a possibility at this time but a difficult run in to the end of the season awaited a Hibs team blighted by injuries and suspensions. On the visit to Dunfermline Hibs twice came back from a goal behind and looked good for a share of the spoils before a late and suspiciously offside looking winner from Bert Paton whom, along with Alex Ferguson had scored the others for the Pars. Yet another successful strike from the spot by Joe Baker and a stunning individual goal from Eric Stevenson were not quite enough on the day.
Dundee United were amongst the Clubs challenging Hibs for a place in Europe and did their chances of qualifying no harm whatsoever when they won a thrilling nine goal encounter against the greens at Tannadice. In a game littered with penalty kicks Hibs fought back from 3-1 down to level at 3-3 only to lose a fourth that looked well offside and a fifth from a twice taken penalty when keeper Thomson Allan saved the first attempt but was adjudged by Referee Webster to have moved. United's goals came from Gillespie (2), Dossing (2) and Mitchell (pen) whilst Hibs countered through Davis (2, 1 pen), Cormack and Stanton.
Successive odd goal defeats in the games against Dunfermline and Dundee United effectively put paid to all hopes of European qualification by the time Champions elect Celtic visited Easter Road on 16 April and in what proved to be the Club's only goal-less draw of the season a point was secured thanks to a good defensive display. Bearing in mind that Celtic had arrived having scored 101 goals in 31 games that wasn't a bad return and leading the way in the Parkhead scoring charts with an incredible 41 in all competitions was Joe McBride who would g on to play for Hibs in later years.
Just 11 days after that high scoring meeting at Tannadice, Dundee United visited Easter Road to fulfil the fixture scheduled for earlier that season but cancelled due to bad weather. Once again goals were flying in from all directions and once the dust had settled at 4.40pm there was to be a share of the points in a 3-3 draw. Colin Stein, Eric Stevenson and a Doug Smith own goal counted for Hibs whilst Doug Gillespie (2) and Jimmy Briggs struck for United. That goal from Briggs must have been particularly sore for Shankly to take as the United full back was his Son-in-Law!
Just four more fixtures remained before Hibs could shut up shop and settle back to watch the 1966 World Cup Finals. The first of those took the greens to Muirton Park, Perth with Shankly looking for his troops to do the double over St. Johnstone. That feat was duly achieved when goals from Colin Stein, Jim Scott and Eric Stevenson earned a 3-1 victory, a Richmond penalty giving the Saints their goal in the first minute of the game! The highlight of the game, however, was the performance of young Colin Stein who scored one and laid on the other two. After the game Shankly described Jim Scott's goal, after brilliant lead up play by Stein, as one of the best he had ever witnessed!
Turnbull brings the Dons to Easter Road
The final League match of the season saw Eddie Turnbull bring his blossoming Aberdeen side to Easter Road and leave again with both points in the bag thanks to a solitary strike by the veteran Harry Melrose. Despite this win the Dons finished only 8th, two points behind Hibernian.
It had been a mixed bag of a League season with mixed fortunes in terms of results. Home draws had cost dearly, as had odd goal defeats but performances such as those put up against Valencia augured well for the future. So too did the achievements of the reserves with a number such as Allan, Stein and Grant breaking into the first team whilst others such as Bobby Duncan would also have their day.
The final stats for League outings that season read as follows as Hibs finished 6th behind Champions Celtic, Rangers, Kilmarnock, Dunfermline and Dundee United whilst Morton and Hamilton dropped down to the Second Division
Top League goalscorers were Cormack (15), O'Rourke (10), Eric Stevenson (10) and Davis (8)
The month of May 1966 saw a double meeting take place with Hearts as the 1965 and 1966 East of Scotland Shield Finals were contested on the 4th at Easter Road and the 7th at Tynecastle. Hearts went into the first game as holders and retained that right in defeating Hibs 3-1 with Joe Davis getting the greens' goal from the spot. At Tynecastle the Gorgie side completed a double in winning 4-2 and this time it was Colin Stein and Jim Scott who found the target.
Hibernian are knocked out of the Scottish Cup by Hearts at Tynecastle.
The Club finish in sixth place in the League.
Both Edinburgh Clubs contest the 1965 and 1966 East of Scotland Shield Finals, with Hearts winning both encounters.
Written by John Campbell as part of the 'Another Generation' series