THE PLAYERS

 

Players to wear the green and white of the Hibees.

Here is a growing collection of players and internationalists to feature for Hibernian throughout the years.

Position Right Back

Nicknamed the Duke, John Grant was a stylish right-back, who served Hibernian with complete dedication for 15 years – earning two Scotland caps in the process.

 

John Grant Profile

 

National team Scotland
International debut 18th October 1958 (versus Wales)

 

With the number-two jersey on his back, Grant was a splendidly capable competitor, who carried out his on-field duties with a touch of elegance; hence his regal nickname.

Composed, cultured and reliable, Grant arrived at Easter Road from local juvenile side Merchiston Thistle as a buccaneering inside right in October 1949.

Like his father, Grant had been an ardent Hibernian supporter as a boy and he spurned the advances of Hearts, Hull City, Rangers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City in order to move to Easter Road.

But although he showed early promise that hinted at a long-term future in Hibernian’s first team, he had to wait patiently while serving as an understudy to The Famous Five.

For almost four years, the fair haired lad from Colinton, who was always immaculately dressed, never rose above the rank of reserve.

During that time, the callow newcomer completed both his national service and a joiner’s apprenticeship while also playing for the club’s ‘B’ team.

Nevertheless manager Hugh Shaw considered Grant as a one for the future and eventually handed him his long-awaited breakthrough, albeit at wing-half.

Thus, at the age of 23, Grant made his belated first-team entrance in a 2-1 win against St Mirren at Easter Road in December 1954 and never looked back.

In his debut season at senior level, Grant acquitted himself well in an inconsistent Hibernian team – winning six and losing seven during his opening 15 outings.

The following season, Grant, who had garnered the reputation as an excellent all-round utility player, was summoned to step into the side to occupy the vacant number-six shirt.

His elevation back into the team led to his first-taste of intercontinental football – the European Cup semi-final showdown against Reims in Paris in April 1956.

Assigned to nullify the attacking threat of the incomparable Raymond Kopa, Grant performed manfully and coped well with the pressure of playing in front of a raucous 36,000 crowd.

But he and his team-mates were powerless to prevent Reims from winning the first leg 2-0 in the French capital.

In the return leg at Easter Road, Grant was selected to feature in front of a crowd of 49, 941 – a record attendance for a floodlit match.

But even with the huge backing, Hibernian, although dominant throughout, went down 1-0 on the night and lost 3-0 on aggregate.

Nevertheless the experience of being pitchforked into the white hot atmosphere of a European Cup semi-final certainly aided Grant’s overall education and gave him a valuable insight into what was required to make it at the highest level.

 

John Grant 1

 

Following that result, Hibernian were clearly a team in the throes of transition – the all-conquering and feted Flag-winning team were a distant memory.

Boss Shaw was trying to recreate the glory days by promoting a steady stream of talented youngsters, including the mercurial centre-forward Joe Baker.

Hibernian rejected a £1,750 bid from Raith Rovers for Grant and Shaw then converted him into a right-back – succeeding the previously immovable Willie MacFarlane in December 1956. It proved to be an absolute masterstroke.

Although not prone to over-elaboration, Grant was immensely skilful and comfortable bringing the ball forward down the right flank before dispatching crosses into the box.

The constructive Grant game consisted of skill and vision combined with a reassuringly solid presence.

A composed, intelligent reader of play, Grant was rarely ever caught out by an opposing winger and his burgeoning reputation as a classy right-back grew.

During the 1957/58 season, Grant was a virtual ever present in Hibernian’s first team – scoring his inaugural goal, a penalty against East Fife – and helped the club reach the 1958 Scottish Cup Final.

The right-half in front of him was indestructible captain Eddie Turnbull while his full-back partner was the iron-willed and committed Joe McClelland.

As part of this new Hibernian line-up, Grant flourished and his performances against Rangers in both games of the replayed Scottish Cup semi-final were phenomenal.

Unfortunately Hibernian’s subsequent off-key performance at Hampden led to Clyde winning the Final 1-0, but the emergence of Grant as a top-class defender was a genuine positive.

After the season, many experts predicted the neat full-back was a natural for Scotland and, after impressing on his Scottish League debut against the Irish League in September 1958, he was called up for the national team.

Scotland boss Matt Busby – the one-time guest wing-half who had helped Hibernian to win the Summer Cup in 1941 – handed both Grant and Denis Law their debuts in a 3-0 win over Wales at Ninian Park at the 1958/59 British Home Championship.

The following month, Grant retained his Scotland place and he featured in a 2-2 draw against Northern Ireland at Hampden, but sadly he would never get another chance at international level.

 


 

Full name John Grant
Date of birth 16th June 1931
Place of birth Edinburgh, Scotland

If you can add to any historical article, perhaps with special memories, a favourite story or the results of your original research, the Hibernian Historical Trust would love to hear from you.
You can kindly contribute by contacting us HERE.