A former pupil at Tynecastle School who played for the famous Hutchison Vale juvenile side, Edinburgh born Willie McFarlane joined Hibs from Tranent Juniors at the start of the 1949/50 season.
A forthright defender with a powerful shot, he made his first team debut at right back in Hibernian's 1-0 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in a friendly on Monday the 21st of September 1953, and his competitive debut the following Saturday in a 4-1 home victory over Hamilton. Recently demobilised from the Royal Artillery, it did not take McFarlane long to secure a regular first team place at Easter Road and he made 28 appearances in his first season, 19 of them in the league.
McFarlane's best season came during the 1955/56 campaign when he missed only two league games as Hibs finished fourth in the table. The season saw the inauguration of the European Cup and although McFarlane did not take part in the historic opening game against Rot Weiss Essen in Germany, he did feature in all five of the remaining games in the competition as Hibs progressed to the semi finals only to lose to French side Reims.
Now finding first team games hard to come by McFarlane made only 13 appearances over the next few seasons and following a dispute with club over a benefit payment, he refused to resign and was transferred to Raith Rovers for around £1,500 in September 1958. He remained with the Kirkcaldy club for three seasons before ending his playing career with Morton.
After serving his managerial apprenticeship in the East of Scotland League with Gala Fairydean, Coldstream and Hawick Royal Albert, McFarlane was appointed manager of Stirling Albion in 1967 where one of his first signings was a rugged young defender named Erich Schaedler who would go on to attain legendary status at Easter Road.
With the resignation of the disillusioned Hibs manager Bob Shankly only eight games into the 1969/70 season, somewhat predictably, former players Eddie Turnbull and Willie Ormond were both touted for the vacant position. Instead, stating a "preference for an energetic bright young man with modern ideas", Hibs appointed Willie McFarlane as their sixth manager since the war. His managerial career at Easter Road got off the best possible start with a 2-0 victory over rivals Hearts at Tynecastle which took Hibs to the top of the table, the club eventually finishing the season in third place behind Rangers and champions Celtic who were winning their fifth consecutive title.
Matters came to a head for the Hibs manager in December the following season. With the team in sixth place in the league, less than 24 hours before Hibernian's Fairs Cup game against Liverpool at Easter Road, McFarlane was sensationally sacked by Chairman Tom Hart for refusing to drop two players for the game against the English side. Despite uproar in the press, all condemning the actions of Hart, McFarlane left with his dignity intact, stating "The chairman has every right to sack me, but no right to interfere in team selection".
McFarlane, who was replaced in the Easter Road hot seat by assistant manager Dave Ewing, then turned his back on football to look after his business interests.
A founding member of the Hibernian Former Players Association, Willie McFarlane passed away in March 2010, just short of his 80th birthday.