McLeod arrived at Easter Road on 4th December 1974 just before the Scottish Premier League would come into being. He was touted as a direct replacement for the highly gifted Alex Cropley who left Hibs that same day.
If you score four goals in one game it gets you noticed. If you score four goals at Ibrox against Rangers it's the sort of thing from which legends are created! As a young St Mirren player that is just the achievement recorded in a Scottish League Cup tie by Ally McLeod, a player of incredible skill and natural ability who would go on to carve out a reputation as one of the greatest goal scorers who have graced the green and white jersey.
In almost any other era in the history of Hibernian, Ally would have likely been up there with the likes of Lawrie Reilly and Joe Baker. In the eyes of many fans Ally is rated that highly, and having scored 99 goals for Hibs over an eight year period, rightly so. Unfortunately however the fact that this man of such undoubted class served his time at Easter Road during one of the least productive periods in the club's history has somewhat clouded many people's judgement of just how good a player he was.
McLeod had joined the Buddies from junior side Renfrew in 1970 and a total of 53 goals in 80 appearances over three seasons including that 4 goal haul at Ibrox attracted the attention of English side Southampton. He only had one season at Southampton however making a measly three first team appearances and finding it hard to settle on the south coast of England. Prior to joining Hibs, the Saints had in fact farmed McLeod out on loan to Huddersfield Town where he scored once in 4 appearances.
McLeod arrived at Easter Road on 4th December 1974 just before the Scottish Premier League would come into being. He was touted as a direct replacement for the highly gifted Alex Cropley who left Hibs that same day. "Sodjer" like so many others was unwillingly pushed out of the Easter Road exit door after English giants Arsenal came calling with a £150000 transfer fee. £30000 was spent on McLeod whilst the remainder undoubtedly went towards balancing the books.
McLeod's Hibs career meanwhile did not get off to the best of starts. He spent a lengthy period on the injury list whilst his team mates struggled to steer clear of the relegation zone in the 1976/77 season. Hibs were at that time in a period of change with household names such as Pat Stanton and Jimmy O'Rourke having left. By the turn of the year it was evident someone capable of scoring goals was needed to get the club out of trouble. At the end of January, McLeod proved to be just that someone. He scored the winner against Hearts before going on to strike eight goals from twelve games to help lift the Hibees clear of the danger zone. Hibs also took seven out of eight points from city rivals Hearts that season which was a major factor in helping consign the Tynecastle club to relegation.
A sixteen-goal haul for McLeod the following season helped Hibs return to the European stage finishing just ahead of Celtic for the honour and Ally was in full flight. You were never quite sure what he was going to do next but you could always be certain that if there was a headline to be grabbed Ally would be first in line! As previously stated, he went on to score 99 times for Hibs which wasn't bad going for a player who rarely looked like he had broken sweat. In fairness, Ally was never a lazy player but more one who never saw any point in chasing lost causes!
That is something backed up by a man who played both with and against McLeod, as Pat Stanton remembers of Ally: "He was a very intelligent footballer. Ally had great skill, he might not have run around as many would have liked him to have done, he never saw the reason for it! But the skills he had were superb and he was probably one of the best finishers I've seen. I remember one game in particular, I think it was against Dundee, when he brought the ball down, controlled it and passed it into the net all in one movement. Sitting there looking at this I thought at the time he made it all look so easy, but the skill involved in that single movement and finish is immense. It was high class, and that is the way I remember Ally. He wasn't the quickest guy in the world," Pat remembers, "But he would always have that little bit of class that would wrong-foot you, he was a real good player, a Hibs legend for sure."
Even during one of the most troubled periods in the history of the club, McLeod gave Hibs fans that something extra-special. Hibs were trying everything to stem the looming tide of relegation, including bringing in George Best at the tail end of his career. It might not have saved Hibs from a brief period in the first division, but nobody could say life was boring around Easter Road while the likes of McLeod and Best were around!
It was often rumoured that McLeod and the legend that was George Best didn't see eye to eye, but a former team mate of both, Craig Paterson told us: "I never saw anything to suggest that was the case. George and Ally were both very relaxed characters and both were terrific footballers. Ally said at the time of George's signing that he was only coming to Hibs to look after his (Ally's) boots but it was purely tongue in cheek. They may have had the odd disagreement on the training field as you would expect between competitive team mates but on the pitch, they were both out there to win. From my point of view it was a pleasure to play alongside both of them."
Ally left Hibs in 1982 after 208 appearances in green and white and upon doing so signed for Stenhousemuir. He would make only three appearances for the Ochilview club and brief injury interrupted stays thereafter at Hamilton Accies, Queen of the South and a no games played spell at Dundee United would see the curtain close on his fine career in 1985. I always remember thinking it would have been nice had he managed to play just one game for Dundee United against Hibs and scored an own goal. He could then have claimed a century of goals for the Hibees! It would have been a lasting testament and not least a fitting end to his Hibernian career had he managed just one more goal in green and white.
Upon quitting the game, Ally moved into the Insurance business with the Pearl Group. Living in the central belt, he is still employed in that sector in a Managerial capacity. Ally still retains fond memories of his time at Easter Road and still keeps in touch with events around Easter Road as a member of the Hibernian former player's association.
Full name Ally McLeod
Date of birth 1st January 1951
Place of birth Glasgow, Scotland