Big Jim Black was one of the unsung heroes of the great Turnbull’s Tornadoes side who entertained supporters from across the country during the early seventies.
Although sometimes underestimated by the fans, his team mates and manager were well aware of his importance to the team.
In five seasons with the club, he made an impressive 234 appearances under four managers whilst displaying a quiet consistency and winning three memorable finals against Celtic as well as featuring in several never to be forgotten games.
The big no-nonsense centre half was the perfect foil from the classy John Blackley in the heart of the defence, and amazingly for a central defender was never booked.(although he was sent off once) In fact, team-mate Jim Herriot used to joke that the only reason that he didn’t win a Scotland cap was that he was ‘not dirty enough’.
Jim was born and brought up in Airdrie and signed for his local team in 1962, playing 144 league games in the famous red and white jersey.
Jim came to the attention of Hibs’ manager Bob Shankly with a superb performance during a cup tie at Broomfield Park in February 1968 where he never gave the Hibs forward line an opening, which was some feat considering that it consisted of Colin Stein, Pat Quinn, Peter Cormack, Peter Marinello and Eric Stevenson.
Jim’s display that day stuck in Shankly’s mind and he later parted with a reported £30,000 for his services. Jim made his debut in a friendly against Newcastle United, where he more than held his own against the giant Welsh international centre forward Wynn who was renowned for his prowess in the air.
Despite constant Hibs’ pressure, the game ended 0-0, the first no score draw at Easter Road for nearly three and a half years. In his first few games, Jim partnered youngster Ian Wilkinson, then John Madsen before Shankly gave the teenage John Blackley his chance in the first team and the pair formed a partnership which would serve the club for the next five glorious years, Shankly however resigned and trainer Tom McNiven took over as caretaker, winning his three games in charge including a famous 2-1 win over Jock Stein’s Celtic, before Willie McFarlane accepted the manager’s job.
McFarlane stuck with the Blackley / Black partnership for his first game in charge, a 2-0 win over Hearts at Tynecastle, a result which sent Hibs to the top of the table, and the pair developed their understanding for the remainder of that season.
A few weeks later, Hibs travelled to Ibrox where two goals from teenage winger Peter Marinello and one from Joe McBride secured a relatively easy 3-1 win; a result which actually featured on the front pages on the newspapers. In November McFarlane returned to Stirling Albion and bought left back Erich Schaedler, then in the final game of the season he gave John Brownlie his debut as Hibs finished third and qualified for Europe.
The following campaign was memorable for a run in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, and Jim played his part in victories over Malmo and Vitoria Guimaraes before Bill Shankly’s Liverpool arrived at Easter Road. On the eve of the match, Willie McFarlane was sacked and replaced by Dave Ewing to the amazement of the supporters, and although Liverpool proved too strong, the Hibernian back four that night consisted of John Brownlie, Erich Schaedler Jim Black and John Blackley, a defence which would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Dave Ewing led the club for only a few months before being replaced by Eddie Turnbull who quickly concluded that there was no need to alter the back four although he decided that a new goalkeeper was a priority and brought in former Scotland international Jim Herriot.
The defence proved to be rock solid throughout a Scottish Cup run which saw Hibs reach the semi-final without conceding a goal, winning each game 2-0 against Partick Thistle, Airdrie and Aberdeen. A 1-1 draw with Rangers at Hampden in the semi-final ended that run, but another 2-0 win in the replay, in a game that many consider to be the club’s finest performance against one of the Old Firm in Glasgow, meant a final appearance against Jock Stein’s Celtic.
After going in at half time only 2-1 down, Celtic, and in particular Dixie Deans ran riot in the second half to take the trophy, but after the game, Eddie Turnbull told anyone who cared to listen that his team would soon be back at Hampden and when they did they would win. The fans didn’t have long to wait as the pair met again in the final of the Drybrough Cup a few months later.
The trophy was competed for by the top four scoring teams in the first and second divisions, and after beating Montrose, Hibs easily disposed of Rangers by three goals to nil at Easter Road in a game best remembered for off field crowd trouble.
The final took place at Hampden in front of 49,462 spectators. Eddie Turnbull was as good as his word, and Hibs took a 3-0 lead before once again crowd trouble led to the game being held up which distracted the Hibs’ players. After the break, Celtic fought back to equalise, but goals from Jimmy O’Rourke and Arthur Duncan meant that the cup was destined for the Easter Road trophy cabinet.
Hibs continued their impressive form in the League Cup, reaching the final after once again disposing of Rangers at Hampden in the semi-final, this time to a superb John Brownlie effort. The players also produced some sparkling form in European Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Sporting Lisbon 6-1 at Easter Road then FC Besa 7-1 a few weeks later.
The League Cup Final was played on 9 December 1972, and the 2-1 score-line flattered a Celtic side that included Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain, David Hay, Billy McNeil, Lou Macari and Jimmy Johnstone.
Three weeks later Jim played his part in ‘The greatest game in history’ and helped keep a clean sheet whilst his team-mates scored seven without reply at Tynecastle to overtake Celtic at the top of the table. A few days later however, a serious injury to John Brownlie in a 1-0 win against East Fife meant that the great ‘Turnbull’s Tornadoes’ would never play together again. Hibs eventually finished the season in third place and lost out to Hajduk Split in the quarter final of the Cup Winners’ Cup despite having been 4-1 up at one stage.
The following season started with another Drybrough Cup win against Celtic at Hampden, but this would be the last winners’ medal Jim would collect. Hibs did start the season brightly however, winning an incredible 13 games from their first 15 including a 2-0 win over Iceland team Keflavic in the newly formed UEFA Cup.
That night, in front of 13,625 fans, Jim broke the deadlock with a header from a corner, his only goal for the club in his Hibs career, although amazingly, he had contributed to the Hibs’ score-sheet with an own goal whilst playing for Airdrie several years before.
In the next round, despite helping to keep two clean sheets against Leeds United, arguably one of the best club sides in Europe at the time, Hibs lost on penalties. Jim’s last appearance came in a 3-3 draw with Dumbarton at Boghead on 6 April 1974, and players such as Roy Barry and Derek Spalding were given the task of replacing him, but never established themselves as he had done.
That summer Jim returned to Airdrie, where he helped the Diamonds to reach the Scottish Cup Final against Celtic who unfortunately once again proved to be too strong and ran out convincing winners by three goals to nil.
In his second spell with Airdrie, Jim played 148 games and actually scored three goals before moving to Stenhousemuir in 1979 where he remained for three season, playing 96 times.
He then had a short spell as manager but decided that trying to achieve success on a limited budget was a thankless task and found work driving an excavator in the building trade although he later admitted that occasionally whilst working his mind wandered back to a certain day at Tynecastle.
Jim visited Easter Road in 2013 along with several former team-mates for Alex Cropley’s book launch.